As the UND football program transitions into Year 2 of Danny Freund calling plays for the offense, the tight end position is a unique spot.
When Freund took the controls, he often talked about a versatile tight end, one who can both get on the line and block and one who can split out wide and exploit matchups.
The only problem is you were transitioning away from an offense that used tight ends as an extra offensive lineman, more or less. Therefore, you inherited a roster of tight ends that might not perfectly fit your mold.
That's starting to change here in Year 2.
For starters, UND will be looking to replace Alex Cloyd, a four-year contributor at tight end, who's actually now helping on the coaching staff.
Who takes his place? Well, there's a lot of variety in the possibilities.
The first group to mention in this role is Derek Paulson, Billy Riviere and Adam Zavalney.
Paulson is a 6-foot-4, 245-pound senior. He's played in 22 career games but has just one catch for 11 yards. He's one of the better options in the run game, although he has shown to have capable hands in practice.
Riviere is a 6-foot-3, 240-pound redshirt freshman. Considered a big get in his recruiting class, Riviere is just beginning to show some of his potential as a dual threat at the position.
Zavalney, who's 6-4 and 215 pounds, is the most interesting in the group because of his background. The redshirt freshman from Park River, N.D., was a high school quarterback and spent his first two camps in Grand Forks at wide receiver.
Zavalney, who went on a number of UND football road trips last year despite redshirting, has shown an impressive ability for going up high to catch passes. At practice on Tuesday, UND starting quarterback Tommy Schuster, as well as wildcard quarterback Brock Boltmann, found Zavalney in a handful of ways out of the tight end position.
True freshman Max Gunderson, a product of Detroit Lakes, could also play his way into the mix with a strong showing so far in practices.
Here are the details from Day 10:
The scene: UND practiced in full pads from about 7:30 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. at the High Performance Center.
Play of the day: UND simulated catching punts under pressure, a drill that featured your regulars such as Luke Skokna, Jaxson Turner, Garett Maag, CJ. Siegel, etc. The drill ended, though, with an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman attempting to make a catch under pressure with the opposing side having to do push-ups. For the offense, freshman E.J. Langstaff made a diving effort but ultimately badly misread the trajectory and missed the catch. Freshman defensive lineman Tanner Thorsness won the competition for the defense with an awkward catch of a pressure punt.
Looking good: Two-minute offense. UND ended practice with a two-minute series for both Tommy Schuster and Quincy Vaughn. Both groups ended up scoring on the drives.
Needs work: Two-minute defense. Was it good offense or bad defense? That's always the practice dilemma. Either way, it's not a great look when the last offensive play is a long touchdown pass from Quincy Vaughn to Tyler Burian without a defender in sight.
Day 9 notes
- Brock Boltmann had a strong day at quarterback. One of the more notable plays was an absolute heater of a fastball in the end zone for a gain of about 15 yards to rookie wideout Jack Wright.
- One of the toughest catches of the day went to rookie wideout Bo Belquist who went full extension on a slant route to haul in a pass from Tommy Schuster.
- In 2-minute work late in practice, kicker Adam Stage nailed a 35-yard attempt.
- Quincy Vaughn had a nice start to his 2-minute drill series when he hit Minnesota State Moorhead transfer wide receiver Jake Richter on an out route.
- There was controversy in skelly work when wide receiver Garett Maag made a diving catch in the back of the end zone. The offense celebrated and the defense adamantly claimed Maag was out of bounds.
- The linebackers seemed to put consistent pressure on quarterbacks during team work, including some notable plays from Kason Kelley (true freshman from Omaha), Quinton Urwiler (true freshman from Batavia, Ill.), Devon Krzanowski (transfer from St. Cloud State) and Jaxson Turner (senior from Esko, Minn.).