As the UND football season sputtered to an end in 2017, so did this blog, so I’ll try to crank it up again here with some looks at each position as UND turns to 2018. I’ll start with the quarterbacks, which features the most interesting battle in years.
Almost the entire Bubba Schweigert Era at UND has consisted of Keaton Studsrud at quarterback, minus a few starts here and there.
Studsrud, a mobile quarterback from Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in Minnesota, had a bit of a disappointing 2017 season although his career will be remembered for some gutsy, clutch performances. He led UND to the program’s first-ever FBS win in 2015 against Wyoming, as well as the school’s first Big Sky championship in 2016. Studsrud will have his detractors but he should be credited with the simple fact that he played the most important position for a very important stretch in program history.
In 2017, Studsrud threw for 1,887 yards, eight touchdowns and an uncharacteristic 11 interceptions. Those interceptions can be phrased in quite a few ways, but you could say UND playing from behind in most games in 2017 and a super green offensive line didn’t help the final statistics.
All that said, let’s move on to the new guys. It’s a wide-open race between Nate Ketteringham, Andrew Zimmerman and Brock Boltmann. It’s anyone’s guess who will emerge from this trio, but I think it’s safe to say the position will be deeper than it has been in the Division I era.
UND has struggled under Schweigert when Studsrud was injured, including last season when Brad Heidlebaugh saw his first action in Missoula. The Rugby Rifle didn’t fare well, and I feel confident in saying he’ll move positions in 2018, although the school hasn’t announced anything on that front. From all accounts, he’s a good kid, with good size, smarts and athleticism. Can he be a Luke Stanley/Travis Toivonen type? I know I’m curious to see.
Let’s take a quick look at the top three for 2018.
1. Ketteringham. The first thing you’ll notice about Ketteringham is he looks the part. He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and can make all the throws. The Sacramento State transfer has proven he can get it done in the Big Sky, throwing for 3,391 yards and 24 touchdowns during his two years with the Hornets. He completed 54.7 percent of his passes, while rushing for 237 yards and four touchdowns. In Ketteringham’s favor will be his mobility is better than Zimmerman’s. Ketteringham split reps with Boltmann on the scout team, but it’s generally difficult to gauge a quarterback in that setting. With that said, it was noticeable this season over the past few years that UND’s scout quarterback play was much better. It helped that the two QBs had some weapons on the scout team thanks to transfers, suspension and injury (guys like Cam McKinney, Mikey Greibel, Ben Hardy, Graham DeVore and Austin Gordon). The question mark with Ketteringham is how much of his inability to win at Sac State was a result of his play. I was in Sacramento when UND smoked the Hornets with Ketteringham under center, and that day it was pretty obvious he was constantly running for his life. So, you definitely could make the argument he didn’t have much help there. A new coaching staff came in and didn’t seem on board with Ketteringham keeping the reins, so either that’s a natural occurrence with a new staff or a red flag. If Ketteringham has a great year for UND in 2018, we can remember that Sac State has provided UND with some nice talent the last few years. I would guess it helps to have some connections to Sac State with defensive line coach Jordan Gigli, who came to Grand Forks from Sac. I would guess Gigli has some contact there that could give a thumbs up or down regarding character. Sac State transfers Noah Johnson and (when healthy) Tamas Stewart have been nice additions.
2. Zimmerman. The Fresno City College (and Eastern Washington) transfer got his feet wet in 2017. In some relief efforts, Zimmerman was 21-for-41 passing for 339 yards. He threw three touchdowns and had one interception. From what I hear out at Memorial Stadium, Zimmerman has been a likable guy that works his tail off. He doesn’t move great, but he navigates the pocket pretty well, which is something we saw when he had his chance against Montana and Sac State. Just judging from postgame interviews, I like his moxie. The question with Zimmerman is why he didn’t jump at you during practice. I didn’t see much at fall camp or early in the year to say he deserved a shot when Studsrud went down, although clearly he was the upgrade at QB after Heidlebaugh faltered at Montana. It wasn’t until that second half against Montana that Zimmerman started to earn some consideration for this 2018 job. A full season with a Division I weight program and a little shot of experience under his belt, it’s going to be awful interesting to see what Zimmerman can do to push Ketteringham and Boltmann for the starting job during fall camp. I think he’s got a shot.
3. Boltmann. If you read a lot of UND football coverage, you’re probably sick of my reference of Boltmann’s play to that of Studsrud, but the comparison is so easy to make. They’re about the same size and seem to have similar athleticism. Boltmann is 6-1, 200 pounds from Edina, Minn., and the son of Edina’s head football coach, which is always a good thing. Boltmann’s prep numbers reflect the dual-threat capability. He threw for more than 3,000 yards and ran for more than 1,000. He also played baseball and hockey at Edina and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Minnesota All-Star Game at U.S. Bank Stadium … so that speaks to his athleticism and UND’s love for multi-sport athletes. Boltmann intrigues me and could be the darkhorse in the race, but he’s definitely still considered the QB of the Future for the Fighting Hawks. His biggest question mark right now is he hasn’t seen any live NCAA action. That could change as early as 2018.
Thoughts on the QB race? Questions? Suggestions? It’s a long offseason, so let’s discus.