UND's veteran leaders mark first day of practice
With the first practice of the college football season, most of the UND coaching staff hit the Memorial Stadium field Thursday for their fourth season in Grand Forks.
For some UND players, it was also their fourth or fifth fall camp.
UND head coach Bubba Schweigert is entering his fourth season as head coach and after inserting young players into the lineup early in his tenure, those key pieces of the program are now veteran leaders.
"Being one of the oldest guys on the team now, we have to use our experience to teach the other guys the ropes," said UND linebacker Jake Disterhaupt, a fifth-year senior captain. "We have to teach the small things to take us to a national championship, which is where we want to be."
Disterhaupt, quarterback Keaton Studsrud, safety Cole Reyes and running back John Santiago are the captains, but the leadership group is also rounded out by veterans Mat Cox, Tank Harris, Drew Greely and Brandon Dranka, among others.
Studsrud and Reyes were captains as juniors, too.
"Each year you want to grow in that leadership role," Schweigert said. "Those guys learned a lot in that role a year ago. We expect a lot out of them. They're both really good players, and they practice well."
Schweigert said he challenges his leaders to be vocal. He said leadership by example is good, but he wants more.
"You have to take charge," Schweigert said. "You don't have to be someone's face but you need to talk to them in the evenings or after a film session. You have to keep everyone's vision in the right direction."
One additional benefit of veteran leaders in the fourth year under Schweigert's system is the ability to have players act as coaches.
"Our vets understand our system so much better than we did even a year ago but especially two years ago," Schweigert said. "Now, we're playing guys with a lot of reps under their belts. Some are still young, but they've had reps. They can teach young guys even on the field with us and that's valuable."
UND's first practice had players in helmets and shorts. The team will transition to half pads by Saturday and full pads Monday.
The Fighting Hawks, the preseason Big Sky Conference favorite, start the season Aug. 31 at Utah.