Now that we’ve had a taste of spring ball and the team is on spring break, it’s a good time to take another crack at a position breakdown on the blog.
This edition will feature the defensive backs, a group whose injuries in 2017 may have been even more significant than the linebacker position … not a real fun debate for UND fans.
Consider a year ago, UND lost NFL draft prospects in safety Cole Reyes and corner Deion Harris but also solid corner Evan Holm.
Reyes is in Chicago today to workout for NFL scouts, while Harris is back for his fifth season.
As we look to 2018, UND lost a good chunk of experience in Reyes, fellow safety Chuck Flowers and corner Torrey Hunt, who was suspended for the final game of 2017 and is no longer on the roster.
I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect out of the return of Harris. He’s in light pads at spring ball and moving around okay, but he’s nowhere near a full participant.
With Harris a mystery, a key for UND at corner will be the return of Holm and whether Hayden Blubaugh makes strides in Year 2. I think there’s significant upside in Blubaugh, who simply was thrown into a fire too soon in his career in 2017. A lot of times, I felt Blubaugh was in good position but was either too physical, not physical enough or didn’t make the right play on the ball in the air.
Kyle Hietpas and Tyus Carter should add some depth at corner, although it would be good to see Hietpas add some bulk. He still looks very much a freshman, but his skills provide optimism. As for up-and-comers at spring ball, Hietpas is on a short list of potential standouts needing to make a jump.
At safety, UND returns youngsters in Jordan Canady (redshirt freshman in 2017) and Ty Shannon (true freshman in 2017). UND liked the early indicators from these two, but there’s no doubt they’re going to have to elevate their game to have a good 2018.
One of the more encouraging signs of spring ball has been Tamas Stewart, who I was afraid injuries would hamper his availability throughout his career. His track record means UND isn’t out of the woods with him yet, but I’m more inclined to include Stewart as a factor in 2018 now than I was before spring ball.
Outside of Canady, Shannon and Stewart, UND needs to develop depth. Junior college transfer Hayden Galvin is intriguing here. His frame is still slight, even though I hear he’s added more than 10 pounds since he arrived in Grand Forks. If he has a good summer, too, I would take his safety candidacy more seriously. His hudl film stood out.
Another Juco, Zach Zimmerman — the brother of UND QB hopeful Andrew Zimmerman — has been taking reps with the safeties but also might be a candidate to be a linebacker, a transition we’ve seen from Jawon Johnson, Tanner Palmborg and Jake Disterhaupt.
Tykeise Johnson, Eli Allen and Derek Murph are also battling for spots, but two other names are really worth watching at defensive back as spring ball continues and especially in fall ball: Juco Lenny Nelson is going through drills at corner but he looks and plays a bit like a safety so it might be something to consider. Also, Chavildo van Ommeren — another recruit from the Netherlands — isn’t in spring ball but was signed and should be ready to go for fall camp. His hudl film makes me think he’ll get a long look at safety in fall camp.
As for UND’s rookies in fall camp, corners C.J. Siegel and Jacob Odom and safety Kadon Kauppinen will enter with high praise, especially Siegel, who was a star basketball player and an all-around athlete on the football field in Wisconsin.
I’d guess Siegel receives the longest look, although we saw with Blubaugh last season that even when you have a ton of athleticism, corner is a major challenge at the FCS level as a rookie.
Let me know if you have any other thoughts on the defensive backs or are curious about anything out at spring ball.