Kicking spring season into new gear

UND football team embraces new challenges, uses spring practices to prepare for fall season

The UND football team gathers on the bench at the Alerus Center last fall. The team has returned many players and is beginning to train in spring practices. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

As winter comes to an end in Grand Forks, the UND football team has begun to take the field for 2015 spring practices.

North Dakota, under second year head coach Bubba Schweigert, had its first spring practice at Memorial Stadium on Mar. 27. Schweigert was enthusiastic with getting the players out on the field for the first time.

“We are excited,” he said. “We felt like we had a really good winter. The guys made good progress in the weight room and in the strength and conditioning areas. Congratulations to our strength staff and to all the players who took a good positive step which should help us on the field.”

North Dakota finished last season going 5-7, tied for eighth in the Big Sky conference.

Schweigert was impressed with certain aspects of his team, but feels there needs to be improvements made in the in other areas of the team’s game in order to be successful in the fall.

“The team that we played in 2014, I thought, really took a good step and understood how we want to play,” Schweigert said. “We stopped the run and had some pretty good statistics within our league, and yet we identified areas that we really need to improve.”

Those areas are critical in determining North Dakota’s success.

“We got to really limit the big plays,” Schweigert said. “That really was apparent late in the season, especially against some of the top teams in the Big Sky. And then we got to be better on third down, so that’s a point of emphasis.”

The Green and White lost five starters on the offensive side of the ball after the 2014 campaign.

These spring practices become important as players will look to prove themselves worthy of a starting spot in September.

“We got a lot of young guys, and we want to get better in all areas, but the offensive line — we need to become much more consistent,” Schweigert said. “At receiver and quarterback, we just really got to put it all together and take a big step in the passing game.

“We were really happy with the way we ended the year and took a good step running the football, but we need to take a huge step and get much better at throwing the football.”

Starting quarterback Joe Mollberg still will not participate in spring practices as he is recovering from a foot injury that caused him to miss the final four games of last year’s season. Mollberg completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 919 yards and three touchdowns before the injury.

In the first full-padded practice on Mar. 30, Schweigert was impressed in the first full day of contact.

“(For the) most part, our focus was pretty good,” he said. “You always get concerned when you put pads on for the first time that you’re going to get real sloppy with unforced penalties and the ball on the ground. But for the most part, we took care of the ball — just a couple penalties — but for the most part it was good and I really liked our energy and our want was really good for the first day.”

Ben Novak is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].