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Think Big: Veteran duo highlights tight end unit
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Updated: Tuesday 04/16/2012 19:38:51 (ET)
by Ryan Powell, UND Media Relations
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Any new coach would relish taking over a position unit that has a pair of veterans leading the way and that is exactly the situation Jeff Richter fell into at North Dakota. 

Richter is the newest UND assistant coach after joining the staff just prior to spring drills beginning after working at Northern State last season. A former Sioux player himself, Richter's role will be to guide the five tight ends on the 2012 spring roster. 

"It's been an easy transition," Richter said. "I knew this was a place I always wanted to come back to when I got into coaching and the opportunity presented itself. I knew most of the coaches having played here and just the familiarity with the system has helped a lot too."

And, those two veterans mentioned above have helped alot too and they not only share game experience and first names, but Seth Wisthoff (Glenburn, N.D.) and Seth Nichols (McVille, N.D.) are native North Dakotans.

"I think both of them have helped me out a lot early on as I get adjusted back to Grand Forks and coaching the tight ends," Richter said.  "They both are great leaders and just by knowing what needs to be accomplished each day at practice and the example they set for our younger guys has really made a big difference early on."

Wisthoff made only seven catches last season for 76 yards, but it was his blocking ability that caught the attention of the Great West Conference coaches as they named him to the league's all-second team. Richter was quick to mention though that Wisthoff brings more than one skill set to the tight end equation.

"Wisthoff is great in the run game, but he's also a guy that we're going to leave in there for passing situations," Richter said. "He has proven before that he can catch the ball and has shown that again this spring."

Nichols, who spent his first season at tight end in 2011 after converting from the quarterback position, led the unit with 13 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown a year ago. The blocking aspect was probably his biggest adjustment, but like Wisthoff, Richter will not be afraid to use Nichols in both running and passing situations.

"Seth has the prototypical body for a receiving tight end, but just like the other Seth, we're not going to take him out of games just because it's a running down," Richter said. "I was really surprised to see how good his technique is after making the switch from quarterback."

Taylor Grant (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Joe Kingery (Bemidji, Minn.) are both vying for a spot in the rotation along with redshirt freshman Zach Adler (Omaha, Neb.).

Grant, who also serves as the team's long snapper on punts, and Kingery have both made strides during the spring.

Adler, who is the lone freshman in the bunch, redshirted last season and will also see time at fullback for the Sioux.

"Zach is a high-motor guy that is just easy to coach," Richter said. "He comes to work hard every day with a lot of effort and energy. He is another versatile guy, who has really shown the ability to catch the football and he'll also mix it up with you in the run game. We just have to get him more reps to see what he can do for us come fall."

Here is breakdown of the five tight ends in spring drills:

Seniors: 2
Juniors: 1
Sophomores: 1
Freshmen: 1  

15 Seth Nichols, Sr. - 13 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD
44 Joe Kingery, Jr. - saw action in 2 games
47 Seth Wisthoff, Sr. - 7 catches, 76 yards
81 Taylor Grant, So. - Started all 11 games as team's long snapper on punts 
93 Zach Adler, RFr. - Redshirted

Practice Notes: Mother Nature saved one of the coldest days of spring practices for the final outside session at Memorial Stadium ... Head coach Chris Mussman called it a "decent" day for his squad that will have to make the minor adjustments on Wednesday to move indoors to the Alerus Center ... The team will practice at its home facility on Wednesday, Friday and close out spring practices with the Green and White Game on Saturday at 3 p.m. ... You could hear a little banter on the field regarding the announcement of the teams for the game that were selected this morning by the assistant coaches ... A lot of the players were trying to find out who was on what team and if they were going to be teammates or opponents ... The offense looked sharper than the defense for a change in the final 10 minutes of the practice that was 11-on-11 work ... Senior Braden Hanson (Charlotte, N.C.), who took most of the reps with the No. 1 unit on Monday, found classmate Seth Wisthoff (Glenburn, N.D.) on a deep crossing route that brought the loudest cheer of the session ... Junior Joey Bradley (issaquah, Wash.) had a nice connection with one of his classmates as Greg Hardin (Bellevue, Neb.) got behind the defense for the big gainer ... Bradley also connected with R.J. McGill (Phoenix, Ariz.) on a 10-yard scoring strike in red zone work ... Sophomore Jer Garman (Marion, Iowa) also found the endzone from 10 yards out after a nice cut back ... None of the sessions on Monday were live ... The specials teams worked on both punting and punt returns during the practice ... The punters worked on being backed up to the end line of the endzones and having to get the ball out quick ... The alumni coaches and media captains for the Spring Game will be announced on Tuesday ... Also look this week for releases on the Sioux Tailgate Challenge judges, the Peoples Choice participants and much, much more regarding Saturday's contest.
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