Schweigert says no position safe at UND
GRAND FORKS — The typical sights at UND football media day were present Monday afternoon at the Alerus Center, minus one common staple.
A depth chart.
With more than 30 new faces in fall camp, first-year head coach Bubba Schweigert isn’t ready to hand over any jobs just yet — even though UND’s Aug. 28 opener at San Jose State is less than a month away.
Coming off a 3-8 season that was followed by an offseason of high-profile transfers, plenty of starting positions remain up for grabs as a new coaching staff looks to steer UND on course in the Big Sky Conference.
No depth chart, no problem, said newcomer Alex Tillman, a senior transfer cornerback from FBS program Houston.
“It really doesn’t concern me,” said Tillman, who arrived on campus in late June. “You are what you put on tape. If you don’t perform on tape, you’re not going to be a starter.”
Tillman, along with former Minnesota defensive lineman Jordan Hinojosa, and former Kansas linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore are three FBS transfers expected to make an immediate impact defensively.
Jenkins-Moore, a former highly touted junior college player, is expected to arrive in Grand Forks on Wednesday. Jenkins-Moore is coming off a knee injury suffered early last season with the Jayhawks.
The UND coaching staff’s hope is that the wide-open depth chart will create more competition during fall practice.
“It’s a good thing,” UND sophomore defensive end Alec Carrothers said. “We don’t want anyone getting comfortable. Nothing is set here. It allows a younger guy to say, ‘Hey, I can make a push.’ That competition is only going to make us better.”
And, according to defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt, the staff isn’t going to be playing any favorites when it comes to handing out spots on the depth chart.
“We really preach that there’s no class system,” Schmidt said. “You don’t play because you’re a senior. If you’re better, we’ll play you. My job is not to take care of you; it’s to do what’s best for the team. Do you take us closer to becoming a championship defense, or do you take us farther away?”
Carrothers, an Omaha, Neb., native, said he thinks the team has embraced the influx of new players.
“As veterans, we claim responsibility for them,” he said. “We want them to be good players and contribute.
“There’s a learning curve they have to overcome. They get a lot thrown at them. We need to be there for them when they need it. They’re away from home; it’s tough.”
That cohesiveness is important, Schmidt said. He doesn’t want any division in the locker room between the holdovers from last season and the new players, which make up almost a third of the team.
“I think you have to do a good job addressing it,” Schmidt said. “I believe chemistry is made when the season is over — in winter conditioning, spring ball, summer conditioning and fall camp. Come the first game, you are who you are. You don’t just automatically become a team right before the first game.
“So, we won’t have as much time as we’d like to develop chemistry. Guys have done a good job to this point, although they haven’t had to face much adversity yet.”
Schmidt is aware of the negative connotation that can sometimes accompany junior college or FBS transfers. The criticism is that they arrive with previous personal baggage, whether it’s struggling in the classroom or clashes with coaching staffs. However, Schmidt says the staff has done its homework.
“From the outside looking in, people have lots of opinions,” he said. “But maybe a guy went to a juco because he didn’t get the offers he wanted right out of high school. If you do the homework, you can find the right guys who can make your roster better.”
Schmidt said he likes the new coaching staff’s aggressive recruiting philosophy, led by recruiting coordinator Kevin Maurice.
“I like coach Maurice’s approach,” Schmidt said. “It’ll pay dividends. We won’t get out-worked in that department. We’ll do what it takes to sell guys on our university … and we have a lot to sell. That helps.”