The UND football team wrapped up spring ball with the annual Spring Game on Friday night at High Performance Center. I covered the event and wrote this up for the Herald, but I figured I’d provide some thoughts on how I saw things.
- First and foremost, UND needs to stop downplaying the Spring Game and treating it like a glorified practice. If nearly 1,000 fans are going to be in the HPC, you need to take better advantage. It was admittedly pretty boring, and I usually don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to keep my attention. Marketing people need to step up and overrule the football people. Maybe that’s Bill Chaves in Year 2. Do we really need to see half-speed punting drills? Would it have killed anyone to mix in a flea-flicker or even just a couple of deep balls? I’m not saying ramp up the contact, but there are a lot of ways to get people walking out of the HPC thinking UND football is something they want to be around.
- One nice positive of spring ball was that UND will exit it mainly healthy. A few minor injuries here and there, but UND should have everyone ready to go for fall camp. I haven’t heard any follow-up news, but there could be a little concern with James Johannesson clearly receiving some concussion protocol on the sideline late in the game.
- No real surprises came out of the spring game as far as concerns. We knew the offensive line would be thin and Nathan Nguon was banged up on Wednesday so didn’t play Friday. Fighting Hawks need that group, specifically the depth, to get better this summer, either through development or recruiting.
- The other noticeable concern at times was at wide receiver. There’s not enough explosion out there. UND can rely on Travis Toivonen and Noah Wanzek. They need Mikey Greibel or Cam McKinney to step up as a slot option. Those two have had nice springs. Still, this position group could go for a playmaker addition. Maybe Garrett Maag, the signee out of St. Paul, could help there.
- I didn’t think any of the quarterbacks stood out — good or bad. Hard to say how that race is developing. I don’t think we’re going to learn enough until we see them in true game action. The good news is I don’t think fans have to hold their breath on a QB draw like they did the last few years. All three guys could win Big Sky games.
- One of the big positives to me was the play of the inside linebackers. Noah Larson and Tryon Vrede made some notable plays. I’m not sure what to think of Vrede. I like his frame and the way he runs, though. That would be a nice boost for a group that will get Donnell Rodgers back in the fall and a defense that already likes what it has seen from Ev Williams, the Minnesota Gophers transfer.
- Speaking of inside backer, I liked the spring for Jake Geier. He had the spring game’s lone interception but more importantly he’s added some bulk after shifting down from safety and he appears to be playing more confidently. He will probably still struggle to crack the depth chart in 2018 but he’s starting to showcase the upside we heard about on signing day a couple of years ago.
- Freshman Graham DeVore had the most noticeable day of the tight ends with a couple of grabs for a first down. DeVore might have played last year if it weren’t for a summer injury (story of 2017, I know). He’s an impressive-looking athlete. Those tight end/fullbacks are used a lot and UND, I’d bet, will make sure DeVore can play during a few different looks in 2018.
- Lastly, the terrible weather most of South Dakota and the Twin Cities area received impacted about six recruits from making the trip to Grand Forks. The high school juniors plan to reschedule, I’m hearing.
I’d like to hear what everyone else thought of the spring game. Hit up the comment section.