The White Team, led by Defensive Coordinator Josh Kotelnicki and alumni captain Bill Reviere came out of Saturday’s spring game with a 24-14 victory over the Green Team Offensive Coordinator Luke Schleusner and alumni captain Erik Gunderson in front of an Alerus crowd of approximately 2,000 in attendance.
After watching the spring game and getting a chance to discuss our thoughts with each other, we came up with some observations on how we saw things on both sides of the ball. Today, we will look at how the Offenses performed. In Part 2, we will review the Defenses.
It should also be noted that spring ball is not over, so development overall was probably a little behind, especially from a mental aspect on both sides of the ball. This week will be another chance for everyone to get better prior to the finish of spring practices.
Here are our thoughts on the position groups on offense heading into the final week of spring practices. Please take everything at face value, these are just our amateur opinions:
1. QB – Ryan Bartels has really come along over the past week and the battle for the #1 spot with Joe Mollberg remains at a dead heat. As we have said before, this will not be settled until late into fall camp. Both QBs are showing traits beyond their years and do not look like typical redshirt freshman, although they will no doubt make freshman mistakes. The Bartels TD pass to Jameer Jackson in the corner on a fade route was absolutely perfect placement on the back shoulder, where only the WR had a chance to catch it. That throw is nearly indefensible, regardless of coverage. Mollberg still looks very polished on his footwork and pocket presence, but still needs to follow through and complete the throws downfield more consistently. He has the size and speed to play the position but will need time to develop the mental side of the game.
Grafton native Jake Hanson is probably still a long ways off from being ‘ready’ to play in a game, but he definitely is making strides and is ahead of where we thought he would be. He will provide valuable depth and hopefully be ready if needed within the next 2 years.
2. RB – Adam Shaugabay, Jer Garman and Kodee Varner all showed flashes of what they can do on Saturday. They all bring different styles of running to the offense. Shaugabay is more of a physical guy, but he also showed that he can drop his hips, cut and make a guy miss downfield. He has improved immensely in the past two years. Garman showed his explosiveness on his long run on an inside zone play where he saw a hole and burst through it to get to the next level. Varner also showed some combo skills of speed and a little power as well.
We thought the overall pass protection from the RBs was pretty good. Right now, with Jake Miller not in the equation, we put Shaugabay in the lead with Varner and Garman tied for the backup spot.
3. OL – Overall, the running game was pretty impressive for both teams. The final stats showed a 5.6 yds/carry average, which is great. On a couple drives, the ‘big uglies’ really imposed their will on the defensive front and sustained some drives by moving the chains on the ground. However, there were still too many breakdowns in the pass protection that resulted in sacks, turnovers and defensive points on the board. This has to get better. We understand there was a mix of younger guys down the depth chart on each side, but the mental and physical breakdowns were critical in the pass protection. Last season, the experienced senior QBs had a certain feel in the pocket when they sensed pressure and reacted accordingly. You probably won’t see that as much early on with the freshman QBs, so the protection up front becomes even more important.
Overall, we think the quality of depth here has improved, but it still needs to get better, specifically at a couple of the positions. Getting Darren Deneui back healthy will make a huge difference and will get some of the guys who are playing out of position back to their comfort zone. Lots of positives here, but big improvement still needed. Joe Kleason will need time to adjust to the LT position but once he gets acclimated he should be good. We still look for freshman Sean Meehan to crack the lineup at RG, splitting time with senior Jake Hoerchner.
4. WR – Depth. While we have droned on about the top-end talent in this group, the spring game showed what kind of depth they have waiting in the wings to get on the field. Guys like Casey Young, Romon Bridges and Anthony Fletcher were all making plays on Saturday. Casey Young showed a little of everything and was a pleasant surprise. Blair Townsend also looked better physically and is primed to be an intermediate threat in the underneath passing game. Romon Bridges can be a legit threat on the inside if called upon. Anthony Fletcher showed flashes but still needs to polish up on some things – and it will come – he is a big, physical type of receiver that needs time to develop his game. Physically, JJ Robertson looks older than a freshman but he just needs to become more comfortable and familiar with the offense. We just can’t get over the depth and talent of this group overall.
Oh yeah – Kenny Golladay. Too big for the corners on the outside, too fast for the linebackers and safeties inside. He is a total mismatch just waiting to happen. It’s safe to say that the offense will try isolate him on a regular basis. He should NEVER EVER be overthrown by the UND QBs, which happened a couple of times on Saturday by Mollberg specifically. Just give him the chance to catch the ball and you have done your job.
Greg Hardin dropped a long pass on a post route. We’re going to be hard on him this year - that cannot continue to happen in 2013. Hardin has the potential to be an NFL late-round draft pick and needs to show consistency in order to make that happen. Most importantly, he cannot let his team down with drops.
This WR position group is possibly the best we have ever seen at UND, for both depth and talent. That is not hyperbole or a stretch; only the truth as we see it.
FINAL OFFENSE THOUGHTS: Our biggest concern as spring ball wraps up is the state of the offensive line pass protection and establishing the running game as a staple of the offense. It is going to be imperative that the running game gets going better early in 2013. They will not be allowed much time for a learning curve as they begin the season with SDSU, Montana, and Montana State (after the Valpo opener). UND will be starting a redshirt freshman QB in 2013 and whoever it is will NEED a somewhat serviceable running game to take the heat off of them when trying to move the chains and score some points. Throwing the ball 35-40 times a game should be the exception and not the norm next season. If it happens once or twice because of necessity, so be it. We don’t think it can happen 11 times, however. Controlling to clock and time of possession will be crucial. This will also depend on the defense, which we will review in our next blog post.