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UND FOOTBALL: True freshman TE Alex Cloyd turning some heads

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The University of North Dakota football program went to Wyoming last fall and picked up its first FBS victory during a 24-13 win over the Cowboys.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The University of North Dakota football program went to Wyoming last fall and picked up its first FBS victory during a 24-13 win over the Cowboys.

At tight end, the Fighting Hawks brought Luke Mathewson, Luke Fiedler and Jacob Francis to Laramie.

That established trio is back in 2016. But as fall camp has unfolded at Memorial Stadium, there's plenty of competition at that position to get on the team charter flight to Stony Brook, N.Y., for the season opener Sept. 1.

The most intriguing newcomer is true freshman tight end Alex Cloyd, a big-bodied Omaha native. The star prep wrestler, who was an undefeated Nebraska state champion last year, is turning heads at camp with his frame (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and athleticism.

Cloyd was UND's toughest recruiting battle in the 2016 recruiting class.

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The tough assignment for the UND coaching staff when it comes to Omaha is that an athlete has to pass three other Division I Dakota schools to land in Grand Forks when traveling from the Husker State.

But Cloyd said he liked UND tight ends coach Shawn Kostich.

"He really knows his stuff," Cloyd said. "He said you really have to understand the game to play here."

Kostich said in a different scenario or recruiting class Cloyd might receive FBS attention.

Instead, he was lost in the shuffle at an Iowa State recruitment camp where Fighting Hawks assistant coaches Kostich, Joel Schwenzfeier and Carl Reinholz were eyeing the prospect and were impressed with his 40-yard dash time.

Now, Cloyd is impressing at UND.

"Alex is a really good athlete," Kostich said. "Alex fits more of a passing-type guy. His run blocking is still coming along."

Cloyd isn't the only rookie tight end to impress. Hunter Pinke, of Wishek, N.D., has had his moments.

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"They've been challenged mentally," Kostich said. "We've learned through recruiting to take smart tight ends because of what we ask them to do."

Cloyd said the mental side of the college game has been his biggest challenge.

"They threw a lot of plays at us," he said. "We got like 60 plays in five days."

Kostich said the coaching staff will make a redshirt decision on Cloyd and Pinke in the coming weeks.

"Their ability to play this year will be determined by their focus this next couple of weeks," Kostich said.

With Fiedler and Francis banged up this fall with minor injuries, Cloyd and Pinke have taken a higher number of repetitions in practice.

Another darkhorse candidate to see playing time at tight end is senior converted quarterback Joe Mollberg, who started games under center as a freshman and sophomore.

"I could see Joe playing," Kostich said. "I have appreciated how he's the leader. He's the oldest in the room even though he hasn't been with me long. When you move positions like that, guys go one of two ways. You either go in the tank or you embrace it, and he's embraced it. I think he's having fun."

Related Topics: UND SPORTSUND FOOTBALL
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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