Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 10 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate.
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For the first time since the UND football program was an NCAA Division II power prior to the 2008 season, the Fighting Hawks have big expectations. For the first time, UND is ranked in the Top 25 in preseason polls. The Fighting Hawks are No. 19 in the STATS FCS poll, No. 21 in the FCS Coaches poll and No. 19 in the Hero Sports FCS Media poll. UND coach Bubba Schweigert, whose team plays at Stony Brook in New York at 6 p.m. Thursday, wants his team to block out the Week 1 love.
UND junior safety Cole Reyes remembers the last time he faced Stony Brook, a 13-3 win in 2014 at the Alerus Center. "It was one of the most physical games I've ever been in as a football player," Reyes said. The No. 19 Fighting Hawks expect the same style at 6 p.m. Thursday in the season opener on Long Island at Stony Brook's Kenneth P. Lavale Stadium. "They're a big, physical team," UND senior tight end Luke Mathewson said. "We expect it to be one of the more physical teams based on their sheer size and game plan."
UND sophomore running back Brady Oliveira has developed a reputation as a physical runner. That physicality runs in the family. His dad, Adail, was a semi-professional soccer player in Brazil before competing in kickboxing in Canada. His brother, Kyle, is a 25-year-old hoping to rise the ranks in mixed martial arts and boxing. Brady, at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, also brings the fight when he carries the ball as the No. 2 running back for UND, which opens the season Thursday night at 6 at Stony Brook University in New York.
UND announced Thursday the 18-member Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, a group asked to provide recommendations on the athletic department's $1.4 million budget shortfall for the 2016 fiscal year. Nine of the 18 members are faculty representatives. Athletic department representatives include athletic director Brian Faison, faculty athletics representative Sue Jeno, deputy director of athletics and senior women's administrator Daniella Irle and men's and women's cross country coach Dick Clay.
UND President Mark Kennedy has set a timeline for a committee charged with providing recommendations on the school's $1.4 million shortfall of the athletic budget. In a memo to members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, Kennedy said he wants a conclusion by Nov. 1. "I recognize that this imposes a tight timeline, but also appreciate that this period will appear too long for student athletes," Kennedy wrote in the memo. Kennedy also stressed the finality of the process.
The UND football program added a few new players Wednesday at Memorial Stadium. The first day of practice during the academic year typically allows a team to expand its roster with fresh-faced walk-ons. Eric Prater, though, wasn't your typical school-start addition. Prater is a 25-year-old redshirt sophomore transfer quarterback from Montana who spent his first four years after high school as a Special Operations Army Ranger. Prater, who is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, will sit out the 2016 season and have three years of eligibility remaining.
If UND sophomore John Santiago had to pick one goal for the 2016 season, the All-American running back said Monday at Memorial Stadium that he wants to break more tackles. That might be a scary proposition for Big Sky Conference defenses. Santiago already developed a reputation as a physical, slippery runner during a standout rookie season in 2015.
One of the big storylines of the 2016 UND football recruiting class was the multi-sport athleticism. Wide receivers Travis Toivonen and Noah Wanzek and tight end Hunter Pinke were prep basketball standouts and tight end Alex Cloyd was an undefeated state champion wrestler. Fighting Hawks cornerback Evan Holm, though, might have the biggest bragging rights when it comes to high school success outside football. Holm spent the spring in Europe playing for Team USA's under-17 rugby team in matches against France and Belgium.
UND senior linebacker Jawon Johnson is experiencing something completely new this week. He's fielding calls from family members looking for tickets to his game. Johnson, of East Orange, N.J., will be a key part of UND's defense in the season opener Sept. 1 at Stony Brook, N.Y., about a three-hour drive from Johnson's home. Johnson's mother, DeShawn Johnson, has never seen him play college football. He started his career at a junior college, New Mexico Military Institute, before transferring to UND.
The UND football program went to Wyoming last fall and picked up its first FBS victory during a 24-13 win over the Cowboys. At tight end, the Fighting Hawks brought Luke Mathewson, Luke Fiedler and Jacob Francis to Laramie. That established trio is back in 2016. But as fall camp has unfolded at Memorial Stadium, there's plenty of competition at that position to get on the team charter flight to Stony Brook, N.Y., for the season opener Sept. 1.