UND football looks to pair strong run game with passing unit
GRAND FORKS -- With a breakout year on the ground in 2015 behind the all-American production of freshman running back John Santiago, the University of North Dakota football team was hoping to improve its passing attack during spring drills.But th...
GRAND FORKS - With a breakout year on the ground in 2015 behind the all-American production of freshman running back John Santiago, the University of North Dakota football team was hoping to improve its passing attack during spring drills.
But thanks to injuries and departures, UND’s passing game progression is still a work in progress as the team completed spring practice No. 8 on Wednesday morning at the new High Performance Center.
UND’s second-leading receiver Josh Seibel is out for the rest of the spring with a knee injury. In addition, young wide receivers Iwarri Smith and Brandon Walker - both Michigan natives - are no longer with the program.
Seibel, a former walk-on from Bismarck High, finished 2015 tying for a team-high with 26 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns.
Walker, a sophomore, played in seven games last season and caught 10 balls for 92 yards. Smith, meanwhile, was making the transition from running back, where he ran 45 times for 237 yards as a true freshman in 2015.
The loss of Seibel means UND will enter 2016 with just one of its top four players in terms of receiving yards from 2015.
UND still has the 2015 top target in sophomore Luke Stanley, as well as speedster Clive Georges, who was injured much of the first half of the season but finished with 10 catches for 250 yards in six games last year.
“We have Clive returning as a playmaker for us, and he has to continue to do that and improve,” Fighting Hawks coach Bubba Schweigert said. “We felt Luke had a solid season, and we need him to step up his performance.”
Schweigert said although the injury is disappointing for Seibel, it’s providing valuable playing time for others during spring ball.
Alex Reed and Stetson Carr have been the primary beneficiaries of the depth chart shuffling. Reed impressed during fall camp last season after transferring from Iowa Western, but the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior-to-be spent most of the year sidelined with a variety of injuries. Carr, the brother of former UND safety Baylee Carr, returned to the program after a year away and made the travel roster late in 2015.
“We like Alex,” Schweigert said. “Ever since he came to the program, he has been solid. When we have our back turned, we trust him and that carries over to the field.
“In the fall, he didn’t stay healthy. Right now, he’s healthy. You get better when you stay healthy and practice. We’re going to challenge him to step into a role and help our football team.”
UND’s wide receiving corps also includes two players who redshirted in 2015 in Tim Dulin and Dickinson High graduate Carter Blackwell, as well as two walk-ons: former Grand Forks Red River athlete Chad Bartosh and Grafton’s Zak Hernandez.
The team also signed two wide receiver recruits in February who will join the team in the fall: Travis Toivonen of Red Wing, Minn., and Noah Wanzek of Jamestown.