The UND Football Team has only gotten in one scrimmage so far this spring. Normally, they have at least two, if not three, scrimmages in the books by now. Poor weather has been the reason why and with all the youth on their roster we hope it does not severely affect the development of those young players.
Here are some updated thoughts on the overall state of the team and position battles, etc based on a couple practices we have seen and what we have also heard and read:
- First and foremost on UND football fans mind’s – the QB battle. This appears to be about as even of a QB battle as we can remember at UND. Two freshman, Joe Mollberg and Ryan Bartels are both in the mix for the starting job at this point. The 3rd freshman QB – Jake Hanson – is also doing better than expected in the time with the reps he has gotten this spring. From everything we have seen, heard, and read, there is no clear-cut favorite, but based solely on our own observations, we believe Mollberg may have a slight edge at this point. Both are taking the majority of the snaps and have made numerous big-time throws while also making their fair share of rookie mistakes. Mollberg appears to have the better throwing mechanics and footwork and physically looks the part, while Bartels has combatted that by showing good touch on his long balls and seems to have a good understanding of the offense and playbook. It is truly a battle that won’t be settled until a couple of weeks into fall camp, in our opinion. However, this spring will be a tone-setter moving forward for whomever comes out ahead.
- At running back, Kodee Varner and Adam Shaugabay have really been doing well. At times we feel like they need to work on their pass protection, but that is probably to be expected at their age and experience level. Unfortunately, PJ Sparks has been hampered by injury all spring. Zach Adler seems to be moving along as the leader to be the starter at tight end/H-back and we think he has the potential to be a long term contributor. He definitely has the size and athletic ability.
- The offensive line appears to be progressing fairly slowly. Part of that is due to tackle Darren Deneui being out due to injury and freshman transfer Dustin Adams also being out due to an injury. Joe Kleason has been moved to left tackle and will be relied up heavily this fall to anchor the young OL. Shea Walker is playing well at center, showing a nice ability to pull from that position – now he just needs to clean up his snaps from the shotgun. After those two, the other three spots are getting a mix of guys all taking their shot at showing they can get it done. Brandon Anderson should be the starter at left guard. Jake Hoerchner and Sean Meehan are battling it out at right guard with neither really sticking out. Overall, the OL needs to improve off of last season, especially in the run game. This is a position group to watch through fall camp. Depth needs to be of more quality as well, and we think it will be by Valparaiso week.
- We are going to say it right now: As long as the QB’s can get the ball to them, Greg Hardin and Kenny Golladay will be the best receiving in FCS football from a complementary talent standpoint. We realize blanket statements like that are subjective but if they are not “the best” they will be one of the best. Both of them look even faster/quicker than last fall. Strength Coach Nate Baukol’s winter workouts did wonders for these two, as well as many others. The winter testing results are proof of that. RJ McGill, Jameer Jackson and Blair Townsend will also make this corps one of the deepest in all of FCS .
- The cornerback position is also one that needs to have some players step up and earn their own spot. Between incumbent Daryl Brown, Chris Hall, Tyrhe Ivery, Rumeal Harris, Dan Konowalski, and Chris Brown, UND needs two guys to show they want to be starting corners in the Big Sky. Konowalski is a young guy we think has made good strides already this spring and has made some plays on the ball that have been noticed. He still has a long way to go, but he is progressing nicely. We believe Daryl Brown will be one them for sure with the other side being up for grabs. We also hope Rumeal Harris builds off last year and feel he can be a regular in the rotation. The position has been way too inconsistent over the past couple years. The numbers are their to create competition and hopefully it produces a couple solid corners. Just a little improvement in pass coverage at this position would go a long way for the 2013 UND Defense.
- At linebacker, Will Ratelle and Ben Peters have had good springs and a couple of other surprises have joined them. Taj Rich has made some strides and is starting to look comfortable while walk-on Alex Nelson looks to be a surprise candidate to play some at ‘Stud’ OLB next year. We’ve also noticed Brandon Larson on a number of occasions at ILB. Unfortunately, Brian Labat has an injury and looks to probably be out for the remainder of spring.
- On the defensive line, Seth Stanchik has been a leader and made a lot of plays from his defensive end spot. Mike Edwards was having a good spring until an injury sidelined him for the rest of spring ball. In his absence, Ben Henson has taken advantage of the extra reps and done a great job at noseguard. Overall, however, this position needs to be tougher and stronger at the point of attack moving forward.