Week Two Update – Defense

Overall, it appears the defense is playing pretty well.  We are tempering our enthusiasm based on last year’s results but they seem to be playing at a quicker tempo, etc.  It is also apparent they are starting to build the depth needed to compete at the FCS level but it will be an ongoing process.  This year’s freshman class is by far the best defense group they have brought in since the transition to FCS and should solidify a host of positions in the next couple years.

Tackling in fall camp appears to be much better thus far.  Making a few one-on-one tackle’s at key times can change the outlook of an entire game.  Last year they missed way too many of those type’s of tackles and it resulted in a historically bad year for the defense.  The players need to execute better this season.

The defensive line is one of those positions that is starting to build some quality depth. Starters Seth Stanchik and Spencer Cummings are the anchors and are going to relied on to play the majority of the snaps.  NG is where there is a mass of humanity in starter Ben Henson, freshman Mike Edwards, and freshman Marcus Cheatom, who could get his redshirt pulled but needs to show more.  We like what they have at NG.  The defensive end positions are where quality depth needs to be developed through game reps.  Senior EJ Welch will be in the rotation and we are expecting a big jump from him as he has been playing well thus far.   After that we are watching to see who emerges out of the group of Kyle Woodsmall, Alec Carrothers, and Humberto Espinoza, who didn’t play much early but now is out there consistently.

Still watching the corner battle opposite Daryl Brown.  Chris Hall looks to be the starter but Chris Brown has also had a nice camp and will play.  Unfortunately, freshman Dan Konowalski had some sort of academic issue and does not appear to be eligible to play this fall.  We will see if anything changes when school starts.

Will Ratelle has solidified his spot in the ILB rotation behind Garrison Goodman.  Early on he was listed behind senior Brian Otto but Ratelle has had a nice camp so far and we see him moving up the chart.

The battle at OLB is with the backups.  Seniors Dom Bennett and Cordero Finley have a stranglehold on the starting spots.  Sophomore Dayo Idowu seems a lock for the one backup spot but the other is up in the air.  Junior Garrett Reineke and junior Alex Hickel – both local boys – are right there midway through camp.  Hickel is currently Bennett’s backup on the strongside while Reineke is behind Idowu on the weakside.  Freshman Taj Rich is another we are watching to see if he is able to play his way onto the field this season other than special teams.  To get on special teams the player must be in the Top 3 of his position.

Highly regarded freshman safety Cole Reyes is having thumb surgery in the near future.  We don’t know exactly what happened but Reyes had an outside chance of getting his shirt pulled based on what we saw from his high school film and his natural fluidity in the back row.  This injury should render him to a redshirt year this fall.

Even though there is 11 safeties on the roster, don’t be totally surprised if true freshman Cam Kuksa gets a look at playing right away – like vs. Valpo.  He has had a nice camp and could easily pass up a few of the veterans to nab one of the backup safety spots.  Kuksa is very athletic and loves to hit.  He is a physical threat to WRs over the middle.

We are starting to think Chavon Mackey may have been a safety playing corner this whole time.  He has looked alright so far this fall camp at his new position but needs to bring consistency if he is going to play safety.  Baylee Carr should be the other starter vs Valpo.

Keep an eye on safety William James this fall.  He may not log a ton of defensive reps but he will undoubtedly be on most special teams.  The Swedish transfer loves to lay the lumber and should provide some entertainment on UND kickoffs.

As far as first-year eligible players go (redshirt freshman) here are following guys we feel will see the field consistently this fall (either on defense or on special teams):

– Brian Labat (ILB) Mostly special teams if gets in Top 3

– Taj Rich (OLB) Mostly special teams if gets in Top 3 at OLB

– Mike Edwards (NG) Nose guard reps

– Devin Coyle (S) Mostly special teams (currently 3rd on depth chart at S)

– Alec Carrothers (DL) Defensive end reps

*****We have decided to move our Q&A to early next week to have it closer to gameday and also more information will be out by then.  Let us know in comment section if there is any interest in having another one and we will hammer down an exact time and date!

12 Responses

  1. UNDColorado

    Great summary guys. I was curious about a couple position battles and this helped me make sense of it a bit better.

    I am liking what I see and hear about Ratelle. Is he the next Hendrickson?

    1. Norberg is a physical monster for a freshman. I’m guessing he redshirts though given the depth they have unless he climbs the depth chart late in fall camp or injuries force them to pull his shirt.

      1. geaux_sioux

        Norberg isn’t built like a FR for sure. How has he looked? How is his quickness, agility, instincts, nose for the ball, coverage, and overall tackling ability? Per usual I’m not expecting a Keiper type breakdown just a feel of things.

        1. He has good football instincts, no doubt. Will take a while to adjust to full-time LB instead of playing fullback like high school but he has the size and speed to be a multi-year starter. You sure don’t have to worry if he is going to put in time in the weight room! He will be a Dan Hendrickson type of player.

  2. Teeder11

    I caught the re-run of UND’s last home game against SUU on Midco. I was particularly impressed with the D’s second-half performance. It seemed like things finally “clicked” and they were simply dominating against a team that had an NFL-destined QB at the helm, effective running game, big veteran receivers and that beat Eastern Washington the week prior.

    I don’t know what happened the next week against UNC (except for the 12th man on the field), but did anyone else get the impression that the defense was finally slowly coming back to its old form in that SUU game?

    1. geaux_sioux

      The defense had one hell of a second half in Greeley. That second half followed a pathetic and flat first half.

  3. geaux_sioux

    I’m very intrigued by the entire group of FR LBs. How do they all look? Beard and Schmitz seem be have very big frames. Also how to Wharton and O’Brian look?

    1. Don’t know much about Schmitz but have seen Beard and he looks alright. Good size and can easily get up to 230 and still be athletic.

  4. Hambone

    I’m more curious about the secondary than anything it seems. From what I’ve seen of Chris Hall he shouldn’t be good enough even get much playing time, so unless he has really made strides I don’t see where he should be in the mix for starting. I had thought that Rumeal Harris would likely start opposite D Brown, but you don’t mention him. How is he looking? A couple other player I would like to hear more about: Ivery at CB and Javen Butler and Ryan Cain at safety. Do they fit into the mix?

    1. Hall has not been too bad, doesn’t make a ton of big plays but is always around. Harris has not shown much this fall and we don’t know if he will beat out Hall or Brown.

      Butler and Coyle are running as the 3rd safeties from what we heard. To us, that means Kuksa is probably 2nd already but we are not sure. He has been getting alot of reps, more than a 4th stringer gets.

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