Sioux defense shines in first scrimmage of springGRAND FORKS — Many of the University of North Dakota football team’s proven commodities took a back seat Saturday in the first live scrimmage of spring football.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications Co.
GRAND FORKS — Many of the University of North Dakota football team’s proven commodities took a back seat Saturday in the first live scrimmage of spring football.
That gave Sioux coach Chris Mussman a chance to evaluate his depth.
Expectedly, results were mixed.
“I liked our tempo,” Mussman said. “I liked our give-and-take. Guys are playing hard, and I thought we got better as a football team.”
Still, some inexperience showed.
“We had a big play made on us defensively early and our offense still had some problems staying onsides,” Mussman said. “When it’s first-and-15, it’s a lot tougher to make first downs.”
The defense had the upper hand much of the scrimmage, allowing just one touchdown during the 70-play scrimmage — a short run by sophomore running back Jer Garman during red-zone work late in the practice.
Defensively, sophomore Joey Walker and redshirt freshman defensive back B.J. Fafita turned in standout days. Walker entered spring ball as the backup at strong side inside linebacker, while Fafita is slated as the backup strong safety.
“I feel like I’m reacting more rather than thinking about it,” said Walker, a Milpiteas, Calif., native. “It’s starting to have fun playing football again.”
Fafita was especially noticeable during red-zone situations.
“We need some of those young guys to step up,” Mussman said. “Defensively, we seem to have more speed than we had last year. Our guys are doing a fantastic job pursuing.”
Only one minor injury came out of the scrimmage. Senior running back Mitch Sutton injured his shoulder, but Mussman said it isn’t cause for concern.
“It’s precautionary,” Mussman said. “He landed on it hard. If it was a game, he’d still be playing. It’s spring ball, and we need to keep him healthy.”
Garman, sophomore Adam Shaugabay and redshirt freshman P.J. Sparks took a majority of the carries in Sutton’s absence.
This and that
— Mussman was complimentary of his entire group of quarterbacks, most notably sophomore Chris Comes, who is No. 3 on the depth chart. “It was nice to see Chris make a few plays today,” Mussman said. “He made a really nice throw in the red zone to get us down to about the 4.”
— UND senior defensive lineman Jay Nelson and junior linebacker Cordero Finley have been causing problems for the Sioux offense during spring ball. “(Nelson) is 20 pounds lighter and so quick,” Mussman said.
— Sioux redshirt freshman wide receiver Jameer Jackson, who is 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, broke two tackles on one catch and has been a load to bring down for the defense. “That’s why we recruited him,” Mussman said. “He’s a big target and a physical kid. He’s a guy we need to be a backside receiver. He’s a tight end body playing wide receiver.”
— The Sioux special teams gave starting kicker Zeb Miller the day off to learn about the kicking depth. Grand Forks native Tanner Naastad and transfer Bobby Gutierrez split the work on field goals on a windy day.
Miller is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.