A new or inexperienced wide receiver seems to take a turn making plays at UND football camp at the High Performance Center -- from Minnesota State Moorhead transfer Jake Richter to veteran Tyler Burian to rookie Bo Belquist.
On Tuesday, it was true freshman Marcus Preston making all sorts of catches during team drills.
Preston, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound wideout from Lawrence, Kan., is emerging as a candidate for playing time in the spring of 2021.
Come the season opener against Southern Illinois, UND's primary reps at wide receiver will likely be distributed between Garett Maag, Richter and quarterback-wide receiver Brock Boltmann.
The rest of the depth chart is up for grabs. That's where Preston is an intriguing option. It's clear Preston has a bright future with the Fighting Hawks, and the question is more about when he'll make an impact and not so much if he'll make an impact.
On Tuesday, he caught a couple of medium range passes from redshirt freshman Tommy Schuster. Later, he elevated over corner C.J. Siegel to catch a ball from Ethan Postler. Then, he flashed the speed to go with his catches in traffic. He beat the entire secondary on a deep ball from Ethan Postler, who hit Preston in stride for the long touchdown.
Finally, he made a fully extended grab on a medium route when Quincy Vaughn's rollout pass appeared high but Preston was able to reel it in.
Preston has stiff competition for the fourth- and fifth-wide receiver spot. Burian has been playing much more confidently this spring, while the other rookies -- Belquist and Jack Wright -- also appear to have bright futures in the program. Mikey Griebel also has experience and potential to fill that role.
Here are the details from Day 16:
The scene: UND practiced in helmets and shorts from about 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the High Performance Center.
Play of the day: On play-action, Quincy Vaughn took a deep drop and hit Tyler Burian on a long bomb in which Burian went up top to catch the ball over a safety and corner.
Looking good: Chandon Pierre. The young nose guard was seemingly unblockable during team drills.
Needs work: Defense of 50-50 balls. The downside of impressive plays from wide receivers in practice is that the secondary wasn't winning many jump balls.
Day 16 notes
- Tommy Schuster was on point during practice. In team drills mimicking a late-game scenario, Schuster hit three consecutive passes to move the ball downfield. He connected on a tough slant pass with Brock Boltmann, then completed to Marcus Preston before finally hooking up with tight end Adam Zavalney on a seam route.
- Adam Stage, the transfer kicker from St. Cloud State, finished off the Schuster drive with a good field goal from about 45 yards.
- Defensive pressure marred much of Quincy Vaughn's reps in the late-game scenario team drills. Chandon Pierre, Hayden Reynolds and Jake Rastas each flushed Vaughn to bust up plays.
- Quincy Vaughn was able to hit on a couple of rollouts. After Ty Shannon moved the pocket with a blitz, Vaughn hit Mikey Griebel for about 8 yards. Later, he rolled out to hit Marcus Preston on a 15-yard grab.
- In skelly work, corner Caleb Nelson made a nice play to bat a ball away, while safety Peyton Fisher broke up a pass and tipped it to linebacker Kaden Wolsky for the interception.
- In team work, backup offensive lineman Bennett Helgren and Xavier Trevino made a big hole for running back Austin Clemetson.
- Running back Otis Weah found room around the edge with nice seal blocks from tight end Billy Riviere and left tackle Matt Waletzko.
- Guard Kyle Hergel made a couple of blocks that offensive line coach Joe Pawlak made sure to congratulate Hergel.