GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The Fighting Sioux defense has a lot more to replace than just the team-high 75 tackles senior captain Dan Hendrickson (Minot, N.D.) provided last season. Hendrickson brought a lot of intangibles to the table and also a quiet confidence that helped UND become one of the top defenses in the Great West Conference.
The player who has been waiting in the shadows behind Hendrickson the past two seasons has been Garrison Goodman (San Ramon, Calif.). The 6-foot-2 junior is now primed to take over for Hendrickson and his head coach Chris Mussman has been impressed with not only his play, but the entire inside linebacking corps early in spring drills.
"I like where our guys are at. Garrison Goodman has had a couple of great practices here early on and really stepped up," Mussman said. "The new kid, Derrick Goard (Homewood, Ill.) has shown flashes.
"I like where we are started to head right now. We have a long ways to go, but the key will be to find out who is going to be the No. 2 and No. 3 at both the sam and will positions. There is plenty of competition and that only makes us better."
The same can be said for the outside linebackers, which is a position that Mussman said he is comfortable with the depth this team has.
Three of the top four in the rotation from the 2011 season are back and sophomore Myles Jablonski (Omaha, Neb.) is ready to replace the now departed Johnny Daniels (Miami, Fla.).
Dominique Bennett (DeSoto, Texas) played through some injuries last season and has caught the eye of Mussman, who said he has been the toughest player for his offensive line to block this spring.
Here is a breakdown of the 13 linebackers in spring practices.
22 Myles Jablonski, So. (OLB) - 16 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks
25 Damon Andrews, Jr. (OLB) - 24 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks
34 Cordero Finley, Jr. (OLB) - 18 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 3 blocked kicks
37 Joey Walker, So. (ILB) - 3 tackles
38 Derrick Goard, Jr. (ILB) - JUCO Transfer
46 Dominique Bennett, Jr. (OLB) - 14 tackels, 3.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks
50 Alex Hickel, So. (ILB) - No tackles
51 Will Ratelle, RFr. (ILB) - Redshirted
52 Ben Peters, So. (ILB) - 13 tackles, 2.5 TFLs
53 Garrison Goodman, Jr. (ILB) - 26 tackles, 0.5 TFLs
57 Brian Otto, So. (ILB) - 7 tackles
58 Garrett Reineke, RFr. (ILB) - Redshirted
59 Ryan Nelson, RFr. (ILB) - Redshirted
Practice Notes: Mussman was happier with the play of his offensive line and the offense in general after Wednesday's practice ... He did say the unit still needs to finish, but made some good strides during the sesssion ... Redshirt freshman Romon Bridges (Stockton, Calif.) made a nice finger-tip catch on a deep ball from Joey Bradley (Issaquah, Wash.) ... On his return to the huddle, running backs coach Danny Freund said, "It's not just in the weight room," to the player who won the "Little Big Man" award earlier in the offseason for his excellence pumping the iron ... Mussman noted at the end of practice that he really liked the energy on the field ... Whether it was having an unscheduled day off on Monday that led to the extra enthusiam is unknown, but the wide receivers and defensive backs were definitely locked into the drills, especially a full contact one early in the practice ... The defensive backs were working on avoiding cut blocks by the wide receivers and the friendly jawing back and forth reved up the energy on both sides ... Veteran assistant coach Josh Kotelnicki caught up with FightingSioux.com for the first position breakdown of the spring ... His linebackers were a popular group for media requests afterwards ... Besides FightingSioux.com catching up with Bennett, Goard and Goodman for this piece on linebackers, Valley News Live, WDAZ and Wayne Nelson of the Grand Forks Herald were all in attendance working on stories ... Valley News Live is working on stories on the inside linebackers and defensive line, WDAZ is working on stories with the safeties and secondary coach Benny Boyd, while Nelson is brewing up a story on Dom Bennett's return to health.