The UND Drive Blog will provide an inside look at the 2011 Fighting Sioux fall camp that begins on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Before UND can begin its first official drive of the season vs. Drake on Sept. 1, the team will spend 29 days on a different kind of a drive as the Sioux will work hard to reach the common goal of being the best-prepared team at the Alerus Center on that Thursday evening against the Bulldogs and each subsequent game that follows.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The Fighting Sioux football team closed out Thursday's practice with their first live action of fall camp - something all parties involved were looking forward too. The team ran through about 20 plays to wrap up the two-hour session that left defensive coordinator Mike Mannausau pleased with what he saw.
"I was happy with it," Mannausau said of the live portion of today's drills. "The thing you worry about as a coach is missed tackles, but I do not think we had many missed tackles and I think we executed at a fairly high level."
Defensive end Ekenna Anya-Gafu (Sacramento, Calif.) made the biggest play of the live session, taking advantage of a mix-up in the backfield that led to him taking the ball away for a defensive score.
For the most part, that hyphenated word that has become and all too familiar theme emerged again as there was a lot of give-and-take on both sides of the ball. Redshirt freshman Joey Walker (Milpiteas, Calif.) made a nice tackle in the backfield on rookie P.J. Sparks (Glendale, Ariz.).
Senior Dominique Hawkins (Plymouth, Minn.) snuffed out a reverse nicely from his new safety position, making a nice open-field tackle on Greg Hardin (Bellevue, Neb.). Freshman wideout Casey Young (Aurora, Colo.) turned a couple of receptions into first downs as well during the segment.
After seven intense practices, the live portion that concluded the two-hour session was good for the both the coaches and players to get under their belts.
"Going live, gives the players a chance to be excited," Mannausau said. "It allows (the coaches) to evaluate who can play at this level and who can tackle in the open field more than anything. Plus, it's kind of a reward for the players for all the hard work they have been putting into this."
Sophomore cornerback Chavon Mackey (Jacksonville, Fla.), who led the Sioux with six pass breakups a season ago, concurred with his defensive coordinator.
"It was good to be in full pads for both sides of the ball, going all the way live," Mackey said. "It was real football, getting physical. That is what football is about, getting physical with both sides of the ball."
News and Notes
-Two Fighting Sioux defenders made their coaches proud for sure, not that they were the only ones, but redshirt freshman Brian Otto (West Allis, Wis.) and senior Kenny Watkins (Plano, Texas) both came up with interceptions after diving for deflected passes during team drills.
-The special teams concentrated on kickoff returns today and a number of players were given opportunties as the return man. Joining Hawkins in return duties were junior Mitch Sutton (Plover, Wis.), junior Erik Mersereau (Port Washington, Wis.), sophomore R.J. McGill (Glendale, Ariz.) and redshirt freshman Daryl Brown (Plymouth, Minn.).
-The special teams unit impressed its coordinator Josh Kotelnicki so much, he gave the fourth string a chance to get a repetition in as the drill wound down. He yelled to his players that doing so was "unprecedented" as applauded their efforts.
UND Drive: And we're live
Courtesy: Ryan Powell, UND Media Relations