Grand Forks, N.D. -- You have one more opportunity. That was the final message from head coach Bubba Schweigert to his team on Wednesday morning after the Fighting Hawks concluded their 14th practice of the spring.
One more opportunity to improve, one more opportunity to impress and one more opportunity to build toward a Big Sky title defense in 2017.
For several North Dakota football players, especially the younger crop, Friday's annual Spring Game will go along way in cementing their final evaluations from the past six weeks as the coaches pinpoint who can help this program keep its momentum moving forward.
"Friday will be a huge evaluation day for us," Schweigert said. "Our goal is get to better each day and it's a huge day for us to see where we are at as a football program at the end of spring practices. We want to see how much we have improved. We saw improvements during the spring, but it will key for us to translate that to the field Friday in front of a crowd and be able to execute our offense and defense."
What To Know About The Spring Game?
The doors will open to the public at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The simulated game action starts at 5 p.m. with the offense and defense squaring off against each other in situational drills inside the red zone. After the short-yardage work is concluded, there will be a handful of special teams situations mixed in with a trio of segments that will feature three first-and-10 drives a piece.
The first 1,000 fans will receive a special Spring Football poster. Parking is free and fans can utilize the lot on the North side of the HPC.
A free live webcast will also be available on UND Insider and Facebook Live on the UND Athletics Facebook page.
Youthful Tight Ends Making Strides
Junior Luke Fielder and sophomore Alex Cloyd are the only tight ends on the roster with game experience, so this has been a pivotal spring to develop depth at a position that plays a key role in the overall execution of the offense.
Fiedler topped all tight ends with 11 catches for 95 yards and his first career touchdown in 2016. He garnered three starts in two-tight end sets, while Cloyd saw action in eight games as a true freshman, catching two passes for 13 yards.
For Cloyd, this spring has been beneficial to his growth in the offense. He admits the mental part was the most challenging for him a season ago after having his redshirt pulled. "Now, that I am thinking faster, I can play faster," Cloyd said. "Plus, our defense is one of the fastest in the country, so they are bettering us everyday as well."
A newcomer to the position group and a player expected to contribute not only at tight end and fullback, but also on a multitude of special teams, is Logan Alm. The Hawley, Minn., native spent his first two seasons in the program as a defensive lineman, but the sophomore has enjoyed making the transition to the offensive side of the ball.
"It's been a huge learning experience coming from the defensive line, moving over to tight end and fullback," Alm said. "It's a lot different. There are a lot more movements, working with the o-line and the running backs. It's been a good learning experience."
Cloyd and Alm's position coach Shawn Kostich has been impressed with the growth he has seen from all of his tight ends and fullbacks. "They're doing good and had a nice spring," he said. "I think mentally is where I've seen the biggest improvement. It's not an easy position to learn, but our guys are starting to transition what they're learning in the meeting room to the field a lot faster."
Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald will have a Spring Game preview in an upcoming edition of the paper. He spoke with Schweigert today about what the fourth-year head coach wants to see out of his team during Friday's game. The MidcoSN crew took its turn interviewing several members of the defense along with defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt on Wednesday. Middle linebackers Jake Disterhaupt and Donnell Rodgers all provided their spring insights along with defensive end Drew Greely.
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