GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Head coach Bubba Schweigert would like to capture a couple of things from the first practice of fall camp and make sure they are a repeated throughout the month of August as the Fighting Hawks ramped up preparations for their season-opening clash at Utah. The first was the energy his squad brought to the field this morning. That one he'll have some control over, however, the second one will be up to Mother Nature.
"There was a lot of excitement out there and I saw guys wanting to get better," the fourth-year head coach said. "That's how we want it (to be) each and every day. The first practice in the fall is the easy one. Everyone is going to be excited. Now, we just have to keep repeating that and do that day after day."
The reigning Big Sky Coach of the Year would also like to see the same weather for the next 24 practices, but he'll reslish in the cool temperatures from the opener and worry more about making sure that high-energy is around instead. "The weather was awesome. To have this type of weather on day one really helps us," he said. "It's going to get hotter some point here in August and we'll deal with that when it comes, but we had a cool day today and great weather to get started."
Schweigert was generally pleased with what he saw during the 22 periods that encompassed the first practice. The Fighting Hawks place a heavy emphasis on special teams and those were the first drills out of the gate when the practice began at 8:30 a.m. There were a number of different skill players from both sides of the ball receiving punts and working on that part of their game. The session ended with some two-minute work that allowed for a little 11-on-11 competition between the offense and defense.
Keeping an eye on the young guys
For 24 Fighting Hawks, this was their first Division I football practice and as they will quickly learn each move they make is under constant evaluation. "It's exciting to get the guys back out here. We had some guys that were limited in the spring that are back full-time now. And, then the young guys, the first-year guys, it is our first time to really work with them," Schweigert said. "You can tell a lot early on, who is going to be competitive, who is a good listener and really can take instruction. Those are all things we are evaluating and that's how guys are going to get better. If they can take instruction and really have that desire to run the drills each period with a real sense of purpose, that's what we like to see."
Tyus Carter Q&A
After being limited to non-contact work during the spring, junior cornerback Tyus Carter has been cleared to return to practice in a full-time capacity at the start of fall camp. Carter started the final eight games of his freshman season in 2015 and the first three of 2016 before he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. After getting the first practice of the fall under his belt, Carter stopped to chat with UNDsports.com for the first player Q&A of the camp.
How does it feel to be back out here without any restrictions? "It feels great to be back out here with the team. You know when you have that red (injury) jersey on, you don't feel like you are too much a part of the team and you just want to contribute. So, it felt good to run around and back out here with my teammates."
What's the vibe like in the lockerroom going into fall camp? "You can definitely tell we have higher expectations of ourselves regardless of those outside the lockerroom. We like to think we have the highest expectations within the lockerroom, so there is a different vibe, a lot more attention to detail and we are all just trying to make sure that everything we do is getting us towards a direction to a national championship."
As a veteran, what's your message to the newcomers on the first day of fall camp? "On day one, they get a lot of new things thrown at them, so just encourage them to keep their head on straight, pay attention in meetings and take the coaching. It's easy to get flustered going from a high school playbook to the schem Coach (Eric) Schmidt has here, so just stick with it and it will all start making sense, be patient and just make plays when they come to you."
What's one thing you can provide to your fellow cornerbacks? "I think I provide leadership. I'm one of the older guys now, so there's a lot of responsibility on me whent he coaches are not around. Coaches can only do so much, so it's up to the veterans to help the youngers guys and make sure they get the job done."
After opening the practice under overcast skies and chilly temperatures, the sun started to break through and the session ended in picture-perfect conditions at Memorial Stadium ... Both sides of the ball were decked out in new Adidas practice jerseys ... The offense wore white jerseys adorned with a Fighting Hawks logo emblazoned on both sleeves ... The defense rocked new black jerseys with white stripes on the sleeves and a Fighting Hawk logo centered on the front right beneath the collar ... The offense seemed to be clicking early during the two-minute drill that brought the practice to a close ... Sophomore wide receiver Travis Toivonen was applauded by Schweigert for not giving up on a play and getting out of bounds to stop the clock ... Redshirt freshman Easton Erbes made back-to-back grabs on one of the possessions to help drive his team down inside the red zone ... Senior De'mun Mercer closed out the practice with a great, over-the-shoulder catch from Andrew Zimmerman that had both sides applauding the effort ... Running backs coach Malcolm Agnew made his debut on the field and will be the subject of a feature that the WDAZ Sports staff is working to release in the coming days ... Newcomer Tykeise Johnson made the lone interception during skelly drills, jumping in front of a deep out route ... The team practice in just shorts and helmets on Thursday and will do so again on Friday before moving to half pads for the two practices this weekend.
-- UND --