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5 things to know about the start of UND football's spring ball

The Fighting Hawks kicked off spring ball this week with three practices in the Pollard Center.

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The UND football team goes through spring workouts Wednesday at the Pollard Center.
Photo by Tom Miller / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — The UND football program began spring ball this week at the Fritz Pollard Center. Here are five storylines to know.

1. The offensive line is beat up

As was a little expected heading into spring ball, there were going to be a larger-than-normal number of players sidelined. That's due to the pandemic spring season quickly followed by the fall season.

Perhaps, then, it's not so surprising that the most physical position will see quite a few players sitting out spring ball for UND with injuries.

By my count Wednesday, there were six offensive lineman sidelined. That group included two incoming transfers in Northern State transfer Jake Oliphant and junior college transfer Brayden Bryant. Bryant was running through exercises on the sideline.

The starting five to kick off spring ball appeared to be Easton Kilty and Donny Ventrelli at tackle, Ben Christian and Colin Lavell at guard and taking snaps at center was freshman Danny Carroll.

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2. No Otis

Back in late November, UND running back Otis Weah entered the transfer portal .

Since, Weah hasn't reported any offers or new destinations, prompting some fans to be curious if there was a window to return to UND's roster.

But as spring ball opens, Weah is no longer with the team.

Running backs Isaiah Smith, Gaven Ziebarth and Luke Skokna have handled most of the workload.

Creighton Mitchell, who was injured during the team's lone scrimmage a year ago and missed the entire season, remains sidelined with the injury but was on the field during workouts Wednesday.

3. New OLB support arrives

One of UND's senior-heavy positions in the fall of 2022 was outside linebacker, where the Fighting Hawks lose Jaxson Turner, Ty Shannon and Ray Haas.

There was a new No. 15 making plays Wednesday — Cal Poly graduate transfer Aaron Cooper.

Cooper was one of Poly's top defenders and could provide a huge boost to that position for the Hawks.

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UND has also moved safety Matt Koshiol down to outside linebacker, a move that has paid off for the program in the past with Tanner Palmborg and Shannon.

Northern State transfer Hunter Hansen played safety with the Wolves. When he committed to UND, he thought he was moving to outside linebacker. But the 6-foot-4 Hansen is starting spring ball with the defensive backs.

4. Canadian WR has big day

One of the young UND players to develop some buzz lately has been 6-foot-2 wide receiver Nate DeMontagnac out of Ontario.

DeMontagnac traveled with UND often in the fall but didn't see much playing time.

DeMontagnac stood out Wednesday with a number of impressive catches including a back-shoulder throw from classmate Trey Feeney out of Moorhead.

5. The schedule

UND will mostly be on the field for spring ball on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

This first week, however, will see UND swap Friday for Thursday in order to allow the university to host the Summit League indoor track and field championships for the first time at the Pollard Center.

UND will wrap up spring ball on Saturday, April 2, which in the past has been some sort of "spring game" or "scrimmage." I'd be stunned if it was anything formal like that this year, but UND will release details closer to the date.

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALLUND SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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