UND begins spring practice with questions
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota football team suffered a larger-than-normal amount of attrition during the offseason, primarily due to a coaching staff changeover.
Those player exits have created some unique practice situations as the team opened spring ball at Memorial Stadium on Friday.
UND has just four cornerbacks on the current roster, a group that includes a pair of walk-ons. The team also has nine offensive linemen and no kicker.
Those aren’t ideal numbers for 11-on-11 drills throughout spring ball, so the coaching staff is focused on making sure that doesn’t affect any development.
“Right now we’re rotating guys from different positions to corner,” UND defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt said. “We want to be able to practice right. Just because there aren’t enough corners, we don’t want that to hurt the development of a safety or a defensive lineman. And I think it actually helps our safeties to play a little corner.”
UND doesn’t return much experience at cornerback. The four playing there now are junior Chris Brown, redshirt freshman Will Lyons, sophomore Maverick Edmunds and redshirt freshman Josh Seibel.
Lyons transferred to UND in January, while Seibel walked-on to the program last fall. Edmunds is a walk-on backup punter.
Brown is the only of the four players to see game action with UND. He mostly played in nickel defense packages a year ago.
“We’re getting a lot of reps and working on technique,” Brown said. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen. We’re trying to learn the scheme right now. I feel like we’re picking it up well.”
The small position groups will make a true spring game nearly impossible.
“Spring games are great and all, but we have to do what’s best for our team,” Schmidt said. “We’re not out to win games at the end of April. We want to be ready to win games at the end of August.”
Competition at cornerback will ramp up in the fall when the team is able to bring in its latest recruiting class, which will include both players directly out of high school and junior college transfers.
Schmidt doesn’t foresee anyone on the current roster making the transition to cornerback fulltime. For now, UND will use its seven safeties to rotate repetitions to spell the four corners.
“We need to go find guys through recruiting,” Schmidt said. “We don’t have those body types on our team right now.”