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UND's Bubba Schweigert hoping to take football program to next level in 2017

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- After the 2015 North Dakota football season, Leave No Doubt seemed to be the mantra for the 2016 season, a nod at the Fighting Hawks' omission from the 2015 FCS playoffs.

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UND coach Bubba Schweigert and the Fighting Hawks react to Reid Taubenheim's field goal late in the fourth quarter. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - After the 2015 North Dakota football season, Leave No Doubt seemed to be the mantra for the 2016 season, a nod at the Fighting Hawks' omission from the 2015 FCS playoffs.

In 2016, UND earned a No. 7 seed in the FCS playoffs and completed an unbeaten record in Big Sky Conference play before bowing out of the postseason tournament with a 27-24 loss last Saturday to Richmond.

UND hits the offseason this week and the Leave No Doubt phrase has been outdated, so what's the slogan for 2017?

"(Leave No Doubt) was the marketing guys," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We go 'Day by Day.' We take it one day at a time."

In Schweigert's three seasons, UND has made a two-game improvement from the following season. UND went 3-8 in Chris Mussman's final season, followed by years of 5-7, 7-4 and 9-3.

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This offseason will be the first in which Schweigert can boast an FCS playoff appearance on the recruiting trail.

"It helps you," Schweigert said. "You look at the crowds we've had and the atmosphere in the Alerus (Center), and the young men who visit us with their families ... it helps you. But it's still hard work. Everyone else is recruiting, too. If nobody else was recruiting, recruiting would be easy. The guys in Alabama are the only guys who get to do that. The rest of us have to compete."

Schweigert said his offseason focus in recruiting is to improve UND at quarterback, offensive line and defensive back.

UND returns starting quarterback Keaton Studsrud, who will be a senior in 2017. After graduating Ryan Bartels, UND's only other quarterbacks in the program are North Dakota natives - Rugby's Brad Heidlebaugh and Minot's Ben Bolinske.

UND's offensive line graduates an anchor in Michael Coe, but the rest of the group returns for 2017. Still, Schweigert wants to see more from this group.

"If we want to play the way we want to play, we've got to be more physical up there," Schweigert said. "We felt we weren't consistent up there this season."

At defensive back, UND returns Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year Cole Reyes and all-Big Sky Conference performer Deion Harris. Both will be seniors in 2017.

"Our back row gave up too many explosive plays," Schweigert said. "When you stop the run like we do, teams will play against us the way they have a lot this season and protect the passer with as many people as possible and look for 1-on-1 matchups."

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The coaching staff recently met with players after the season and Schweigert said his team is motivated for the 2017 season.

"We're getting a few more pats on the back for not advancing in the playoffs and that's not good for us," Schweigert said. "We have a bigger vision for our program.

"(The postseason appearance) can help you if you use it as a building block. We have to learn from this. If you're complacent, though, it didn't help you one bit. We want the expectations of our program to change."

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKSBUBBA SCHWEIGERTFOOTBALL
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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