The first thing everyone needs to remember is that this team looks nothing like it will heading into the first game of the 2014 season. From a personnel standpoint, there are JUCO transfers and high school signees that will have an impact on the depth chart as well as 3-4 other additions that have nobody knows about yet. We would expect there to be a handful of freshman that will not redshirt and will play immediately because of a shortfall of depth and talent at certain positions.
From a coaching standpoint, the new principles, philosophies and game planning will also have come a long way after having the 15 spring ball practices and 30 some fall practices. The players will have had much more time to get comfortable with their coaches and the offense and defense and it will have a huge difference in terms of the final product on the field.
- The defense, as expected, was ahead of the offense on Saturday. Overall, it appears the defense is moving and running around with more confidence and playing faster. Defensive Coordinator Eric Schmidt has the front 7 doing a lot of movements, stunts and blitzing. This is more than likely a precursor of what we can expect to see for the 2014 season and beyond from the defense and 1st year coordinator. Not a shocker given the calling card of past Bubba Schweigert defenses.
- Dayo Idowu continues to be a noticeable playmaker at OLB. His athleticism is tough for offensive lineman to match up with. He still will have problems holding up physically against any teams who want to pound the ball, so we are hoping he can put on 10 pounds of weight or so this summer without losing any speed and quickness.
- We also noticed Javen Butler this spring at his new OLB position. Saturday, on an outside zone running play, he did a nice job of shedding the TE on the line of scrimmage, moving his feet laterally, taking out the fullback and making the play on the running back. Once he becomes more confident and comfortable mentally, he could make an impact on the ‘2-deep’ next fall.
- As we stated during the 2013 recruiting cycle, Cole Reyes has the potential to be a special player. He is the best overall high school safety prospect we have evaluated on film that UND has signed. We just saw a glimpse of what he is capable of this spring with a couple of nice hits. Once he gets faster and stronger, and becomes more familiar and confident with his responsibilities on defense, we will see a problem child for opposing offenses. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be a 4 year starter and one of the better playmakers for UND next fall. It’s scary and sad to think about what might have been with him and Cam Kuksa roaming the secondary together for 3 years.
- Shea Walker has been a pleasant surprise at the noseguard spot after moving across the ball from center. He will be counted on there for the defense next fall.
- Inside linebacker is a position of concern right now. The entire group, led by Will Ratelle, will need to step up big time from now until the 2014 opener. Too many mistakes and not enough playmaking by what we could see this spring.
- Corner is also a concern right now. Maverick Edmunds has improved his play and junior college transfer help is on the way this fall. There could be a candidate or 2 from the high school signing class to have their redshirts pulled as well. Depth is a serious concern right now, but should be alleviated to a certain degree by September.
- At QB, nobody really made any separation between Mollberg and Bartels in our opinion. Mollberg is the style of QB you want running the Paul Rudolph offense because of his athleticism and comfortability being under center. This will go on into fall camp. However, one wild card ‘riser’ is Kurt Palendech. The redshirt freshman made big strides this spring and will be a nice insurance policy for depth along with Jake Hanson in the near term, and a threat to play in the long term – a very athletic playmaker back there.
- We are being kind in saying that the interior offensive line struggled this spring and on Saturday. They have a long haul to go before heading west next fall. Again, personnel and depth will be much different by then, but the current players at center and guard have got to be better. This is a problem that started last fall and has continued into the spring. Youth is definitely a contributing factor there, as is the new offense and terminology.
- In our opinion, Devin Barton has emerged as the best offensive lineman on the team since mid-season of last year and should be the starting left tackle next fall if he’s able to switch sides. Lets see if he can learn how to be a leader for this young and inexperienced group. We see incoming Juco tackle Brendan Slaight as a right tackle.
- Freshman Aeron Carr, with all of his talents, needs to grow and mature as a football player. His athleticism is obvious on the field. Now he needs to become a better football player. He’s still very young and has time to get better mentally. You can notice his track mentality on the field from time to time. He can be a difference maker on offense if he takes steps in the right direction this offseason and next fall.
- Freshman Patrick Sharp has talent and had a few nice runs on Saturday. He needs to build his body up this summer and put on some weight, but he has a chance to be a good player this fall. He’s not an every down back that you can pound the ball to, but he has a good burst and isn’t afraid to run between the tackles. Could be a guy who gets 10 carries a game next year and will definitely be in the rotation. He just needs to be able to show he can hold up in the protections, especially on 3rd down. This team needs dynamic players and he can be one of them with his speed.
- Casey Young has taken advantage of the defections and graduations of the receiving corps and will definitely be a rotational player who we expect to do all the little things right and lead by example. His physical stature is an asset that UND is short on right now at this position.
There were 8 recruits at the game on Saturday. We were able to confirm the following prospects as being at the Alerus Center:
— Joey Woods – Fertile, MN
— Zach Larson – West Fargo, ND
— Zach Williams – Winnipeg, MB
— Brady Oliviera – St. Catharines, ON
— Jacob Schwab – Bismarck, ND
— Matt Morse – Apple Valley, MN
— Trevor Wright – Winnipeg, MB
— Derek Dufault – Winnipeg, MB
2014 Signees that attended the game – Dylan Harmston, Sam Fluegge, and Luke Stanley.