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Hustle makes up for depth

GRAND FORKS — At UND’s only extended scrimmage of the spring football season, redshirt freshman Cole Reyes delivered the session’s biggest hit — one that broke up an intended pass to fullback Dwayne Pecosky, who is one of the more physical players on the North Dakota roster.

Reyes’ hit was the one play that drew most of the attention from the live session.

But UND’s secondary during the spring season is inexperienced and razor-thin in depth, leaving questions as to what’s in store for 2014.

However, that should change by the time fall camp rolls around with the addition of incoming recruits and the possibility of transfers.

Only three cornerbacks have practiced during the spring season and Baylee Carr is the only safety with considerable experience returning.

However, the secondary teaching continues as UND’s spring season will come to an end with Saturday’s annual Green-White game.

“I think we’ll be all right,” said Reyes, a safety.

It’s almost like starting over for the secondary, which has a new position coach in Marty Rodgers, who played for Bubba Schweigert when the first-year UND coach was the defensive coordinator at Southern Illinois.

“I’ve learned to work a lot harder,” said Reyes, who sat out last season with a broken hand. “Overall, my footwork has gotten a lot better. And the coaching is more one-on-one. We’re working on specific things to get better.”

Rodgers, who spent last season on the Minot State staff, said he likes what he sees so far from the secondary.

“It’s a real smart group,” he said. “If you give them something to learn, they pick it up right away.”

Schweigert, meanwhile, has high praise for Rodgers.

“He was tough,” said Schweigert. “He was about 180 pounds but he played physical and could really run. And he had a passion for football. Practice was the highlight of his day, every day.

“I think he’ll bring that attitude to our group. He coaches hard, just like he played. Hopefully, our guys will take that to heart and learn from him.”

UND has spent much of the spring season working on fundamentals, specifically tackling.

Last season, UND ranked eighth in Big Sky total defense (426.5 yards per game) and ninth in pass defense (239.8).

Reyes, who likely would have played as a true freshman if not for his broken hand, said he likes what he’s seen so far defensively from the new coaching staff.

“The defense is still complicated, but less than last year,” he said.

And he realizes what it will face when Big Sky play begins in the fall.

“It’s a passing league,” he said. “We did make a lot of mistakes defensively last season, especially from the defensive backs on the big plays.

“But our communication has gotten better.”

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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