GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- "Day by day" is a mantra that head coach Bubba Schweigert brought with him to Grand Forks back in December of 2014 when he was hired to take charge of the Fighting Hawks' football program. And, as his team progresses through what his fourth fall camp, the mantra continues to resonate daily with everyone involved with the program. You hear it in each post-practice speech Schweigert gives his team. You also hear it from players and coaches when they are interviewed by the media.
The grind of fall camp brings added importance to the "Day-by-day" mentality. Friday's practice, which was the ninth-consecutive morning the Fighting Hawks have been on the turf at Memorial Stadium, marked the final one before the coaches will evaluate this batch of players in live action on Saturday. The newcomers, the veterans and every Fighting Hawk in between has been building towards tomorrow, displaying championship behavior on a daily basis long before fall camp commenced on Aug. 1.
"Tomorrow's an important day for our football team. Guys are sore right now and we've been out here a lot without a day off yet, but it's vital for our team to learn to play when you're tired," Schweigert said. "That's a skill and we need to be good at that to get the positive results that we want. We evaluate everything and that's just another thing we look at when deciding who will get on the field."
As important as Saturday is to the development of the 2017 edition of the Fighting Hawks, Sunday will carry its own importance as the team gets a day off to recooperate and prepare for the next opportunity to get better.
Eric Schmidt Q&A
Offensive coordinator Paul Rudolph provided an update on his offense on Thursday, so Friday provided a chance for UNDSports.com to catch up with defensive coordinator Eric Schimdt. His unit has led the BIg Sky in rushing defense each of the last three seasons, but has four starting linebackers to replace and All-American cornerback Deion Harris, who was lost for the season during summer workouts. He touched on his unit's progress, the developing depth at each position and what he deems most important moving forward.
Going into tomorrow's live work, how do you feel about the progress your defense is making? "Every day is important right now. We are making strides overall with the continuity of our defense. Tomorrow will be about getting some guys in those live situations where maybe they have not been in for a while and see how they perform. It's obviously a process, but we need to take a big step forward here in the next week."
What area do you want to see the most improvement in from your group during week two? "I'd say technique-wise is where I want to see improvement. A lot of the young guys get overwhelmed early with the learning part of our defense. There is definitely some learning that takes place for different position groups, but we can't use that as an excuse. We have to keep getting these guys in the playbook, getting these guys reps and learning from our mistakes. I think that's probably the biggest thing along with what we feel is important to winning games: being assignment sharp, tackling well, running to the ball and creating turnovers. Those are things we at see at times, but certainly not consistent enough right now."
How is your depth at each of the position groups shaping up? "As far as our deepest position, that's the D-line. There has been really good competition in that group and those guys have done a good job of coming out here with a focus and energy to get better every day. I think those guys understand they are really fighting for reps there.
"We're a little banged up at outside backer right now, so that's something we'll have to deal with moving onto the second week here, but I do think we have guys there that understand our defense and can perform there even though they might be a little bit limited in their practice reps right now. They are smart guys that understand football. We need to develop some depth there and get guys like Andre Steiger, one of those types of guys.
At inside linebacker, it'll be an important week because we'll start making decisions as far as who the guys are that we are going train to get ready for the first game. In the db-world, it'll be interesting. We are definitely taking a look at a lot of the corners and it's a pretty close competition at this point. We've seen good days and bad days, good periods and bad periods, so that will be an important one. I just think overall that developing depth at cornerback and inside and outside linebacker will be a big emphasis as we head into week two."
The Fighting Hawks completed another crisp practice on Friday morning at Memorial Stadium ... It was their final one before getting a chance to go "live" for the first time during fall camp on Saturday morning ... Head coach Bubba Schweigert said following practice that the majority of those live reps will go to the young guys, who are looking to crack the two-deep rotation at their various positions ... There will be officials on hand a point of emphasis for Schweigert will be for both sides of the ball to avoid those pesky five-yard penalties ... Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald was at practice again and is working on a story for this weekend on Keaton Studsrud and the Fighting Hawks' ability to take care of the football ... Both Studsrud and Schweigert provided interesting insight on the topic ... As for big plays, freshman safety Ty Shannon came up with a diving interception during two-minute work in the final team sessions of the day ... The pass rush was also active collecting a handful of what would have been sacks or disruptive hits on the quarterback if not for the pin-the-hip tempo ... Redshirt freshman Jake Geier also forced a turnover when he knocked a ball loose from tight end Logan Alm ... The tight ends were frequent targets of the quarterbacks today with Alex Cloyd, Derek Paulson and Alm making multiple catches during team drills ... In skelly work, fellow freshman Hayden Blubaugh had an interception and nice pass break-up on back-to-back plays that got the defense excited ... He corralled a deflected ball for the pick, then went up high to bat away a deep fade pass in the corner of the endzone ... On the injury front, Schweigert announced after practice that redshirt freshman Andre Randolph will miss the 2017 season after suffering a leg injury earlier in the camp.
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