GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Mother Nature forced the North Dakota football team inside for the first time during fall camp on Wednesday, but the shift to the High Performance Center did not hamper the progression the Fighting Hawks have made over the last week. With the team in full pads for the third-straight day, head coach Bubba Schweigert wants to keep presenting more game-like scenarios for his team and so far he likes the focus his team has shown during those periods.
"We really want to get our guys to start playing the game," Schweigert said. "That's been our focus since we got into (full) pads. We want them to learn how to play the game and put them in game-like situations during every team session."
As with most fall camps across the country, there has been a lot of give-and-take between the offense and defense as far where strides are being made. As long as both sides of the ball are progressing at this point, that's all a coach can ask for. A big part of that is want-to and Schweigert sees that from his veterans all the way down to the newcomers.
"I like our desire to get better. That has been good along with our energy on the practice field, which there needs to be every day," Schweigert added. "We can always be better and that is what we talk to our guys about. We are here to improve and take a good, positive step. Our goal each and every day is to get better."
As the team shifts into the second week of fall camp practices on Thursday, Schweigert wants the offense to lock in on ball security and his defenders to know where to be in the team's 3-4 scheme. "This time of year, you need to protect the ball on offense and not miss any assignments on defense," he said. "That gives you a chance. If you take care of the football on offense and be assignment sharp on defense, play good special teams, then you're going to have a chance to get positive results."
It was the defense's turn to make some big plays during team sessions and captain Cole Reyes got things started with an easy interception on the first play of team drills midway through practice ... Two snaps later, Reyes was at it again when he picked off fellow captain Keaton Studsrud for the second time in three plays ... This time Reyes had to make a juggling interception and secure the ball just an inch or two before it hit the ground ... Reyes made these two plays right in front of an NFL scout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ... Junior Garrett Bollant also got a pick on a desperation heave in a late-game scenario at the end of practice ... The offense had its share of positive plays with sophomore Noah Wanzek making a leaping catch on a deep corner route along the sideline on a 50-50 ball.
Hayden Blubaugh Q&A
True freshman Hayden Blubaugh racked up over 4,000 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns as a running back at Grandview High School over the past two seasons, but the 6-foot, 185-pounder's impact at UND is going to be on the defensive side of the ball. Blubaugh arrived in Grand Forks knowing that cornerback was going to be his new home and one thing the Aurora, Colo., native has shown in his first official week as a college football player is that he's up for a challenge. He chatted with UNDsports.com after today's practice and discussed transitioning to college and to the defensive side of the ball and why he chose to play collegiately for the Fighting Hawks.
Being a true freshman, what's the adjustment been like for you here during the first week of fall camp? "The adjustment has been smooth. I'm just working hard to get my keys and calls down. The older guys have done a great job of teaching me and helping me with my technique and the play calls."
You were an all-state running back in Colorado the past two seasons, now you're focused on playing defense here at UND, what was your experience on that side of the ball during your prep career? "I played safety a little bit. I'm kind of new to playing cornerback. I played a little in the preseason during high school, but that's about it. I was more of a safety and running back. I didn't play a lot of defense in high school."
How has the transition to cornerback been for you? "It's been good. The older guys have done a great job helping me with my technique and all the calls. Coach (Travis) Stepps has also done a really good job of helping me with that. He gets on me about the little things and corrects me on those little things. I love that because it makes me a better player."
For you, what was the deciding factor for you to choose to come to UND? "The coaches. They really supported me and my family. My family and I really loved the coaching staff and the facilities. It just felt like home."
What was your mindset coming in knowing that you were going to be playing cornerback from the get-go? "Since I was a little kid, I've always enjoyed (being physical). The coaches brought me in to play this position and I just want to go out there and show everyone that I can do it. I want to take on the challenge. I love a challenge."
The first week of fall camp is now in the books, where do you want to improve the most going into the second week? "I definitely want to improve on my technique, especially my back-peddling and shuffling. I have a tendency to get to high. I really want to improve on that and also improve on knowing the calls and the formations (we go up against)."
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