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Get ready for the season opener with the latest Herald UND football mailbag

What’s the one area/player/thing you’re to look for in the first game? -- T.B.

I think the offensive line is the biggest area I’ll be watching in the season opener. Normally, maybe you could say we should be watching the run stoppers and whether UND will bounce back to form after the return to health of the inside linebackers. But considering Mississippi Valley State rushed for minus-103 yards in 2017, we might have to wait at least one more week to make grades on the rush defense. The offensive line will be interesting to watch regardless of the competition. It’s a young group and specifically lots of eyes will be on right tackle Bennett Helgren, who will be making his first career start. It sounds like Nathan Nguon won’t be ready for non-conference play with an injury, so if Bennett can’t get it done, the Fighting Hawks are going to have to start scrambling for other answers. If watching an offensive lineman is too boring for everyone, how about watching cornerback Deion Harris to see if he looks like the All-American of 2016?

Which converted position player has the better season and why? -- O.F.

A week ago, I would have said running back-turned-linebacker Austin Gordon in a runaway victory, but this week at practice he has been on crutches. We don’t know the severity of the injury yet, but this is a shame considering everyone was pretty high on his chances of making an impact in 2018. Since I don’t expect Gordon to play in Week 1, I’ll have to go with quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brad Heidlebaugh. UND will feature Travis Toivonen and Noah Wanzek primarily, but the impact wideouts behind them is a wide-open race. Garett Maag, a true freshman, would be my choice for most likely to contribute behind the two big names. Izzy Adeoti, Cam McKinney and Mikey Griebel (who just got his cast off his arm) are in the next most likely group. Heidlebaugh would be a candidate for some over-the-middle reliability, perhaps along the lines of a Stetson Carr.

When is the last time you did not see an opposing team roster before playing UND? Very odd. -- E.G.

I don’t think I’ve seen this lack of organization in my time covering UND football. I don’t know if I’ve seen it in any sport, actually, even when UND played in the rag-tag Great West Conference. I don’t even know if Chicago State would pull this.

Cole Reyes update? -- E.N.

Good question. Every time I’ve asked anyone about Reyes’ situation, I’m told he (and potential landing spots) are waiting for him to heal up. It’s too late in the game now for anything to come to fruition for this year, so I’m curious if he gets a shot next season or if anyone in the CFL takes a chance on him. In the end, it’s entirely possible the totality of his injury background is too much to overcome.

UND football has a Royal Rumble, who wins? -- J.S.

I think I’d go with tight end Alex Cloyd. He was an undefeated heavyweight wrestler in Nebraska in high school, and he’s got great size (6-foot-4, 265 pounds). And maybe we shouldn’t overlook Matt Waletzko, a rookie on the offensive line who stands 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds.

What’s your go-to snack at the Alerus Center? -- J.S.

I’m a Taco in a Bag guy. I think they call it a Walking Taco, which should be a crime.

Will Warren Taylor play at all this year? -- O.F.

If the backup punter does see the field, this MVSU game might be the best opportunity. UND isn’t going to travel two punters, I would think, and I don’t see him winning the job over freshman Cade Peterson. He’s a great story, but I think Peterson clearly has the better skills.

Haven’t been able to find a viewing option here in Michigan. Will there be one? -- B.J.

A. I’ll be curious to hear from fans how Pluto TV works this year. I know I struggled with broadcasts on Pluto last year. But that’s probably your best option. You can download Pluto on a Roku/Amazon Fire or your phone and find the sports listings on the app.

If you have a question for the mailbag, you can send it to tmiller@gfherald.com or direct message me on Twitter (@tommillergf).

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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