UND coach Bubba Schweigert starting unique offseason with tough roster decisions

With the NCAA not counting the 2021 spring against an athlete's eligibility, UND has to sort out who's coming and who's going as it prepares for the fall.

UND wide receiver Marcus Preston laterals the ball to Luke Skokna during the second quarter of UND's FCS quarterfinal game at James Madison University. Photo by Daniel Lin / Daily News-Record

UND football coach Bubba Schweigert has been in the profession for more than 30 years, but this offseason will be unlike any other in his career.

Because the NCAA won't count the 2021 spring season against an athlete's eligibility clock, everyone on the roster is eligible to return in the fall, including those listed as seniors.

But the Fighting Hawks, like every other team around the country, are bringing in a 2021 high school recruiting class this summer.

That means the UND coaching staff has to sort through which seniors want to come back for an additional year and where that leaves the program in terms of the proper number of players on a roster, as well as how many scholarships are available.

On Monday, Schweigert said he's visited with his seniors and has a good idea of their intentions.


"We'll make that official when the time comes," Schweigert said. "We'll have to work through roster issues as far as numbers and have to work through scholarship issues as far as numbers. That process takes time, now that we know the wishes of all those seniors.

"We also have to make some tough decisions as a coaching staff. We want to do what is best for our football program. It is very hard to build a program and do what's best for each individual. Those (decisions) become tough because there are personal relationships that are built. This is very unique. I don't know if we'll ever go through it again and chances are we won't. We're working through that yet. When it's official, we'll feel better about releasing who'll be back and who's moved on from the program."

UND had 15 seniors on the 2021 spring roster including 10 starters. Those seniors are cornerback Evan Holm, safety Jordan Canady, fullback Brett Finke, running back Dalton Gee, safety Hayden Galvin, linebacker Ray Haas, offensive lineman Bennett Helgren, tight end Derek Paulson, offensive lineman Nate Nguon, linebacker Jake Rastas, wide receiver Jake Richter, kicker Adam Stage, linebacker Ty Shannon, offensive lineman Ryan Tobin and linebacker Jaxson Turner.

Paulson, who was a part-time starter at UND, is one of four UND players to enter the transfer portal this offseason. Offensive lineman Kyle Hergel, who entered the portal after the regular season, has announced he'll play at Texas State next year. Third-string quarterback Reid Neal and walk-on linebacker Kaden Wolsky entered the portal after the playoffs.

The transfer portal, however, works both ways. UND will also be searching for additional talent to supplement the current roster this offseason.

"It's a new world we live in," Schweigert said. "I believe you've got to be on it, but I believe you have to be thoughtful and bring in individuals who fit your culture and university. I've been doing this a long time. Young men who are in a good place physically and emotionally and feel good about the place can do good things on the football field. If they aren't in a place that fits them, they can struggle on the field and it can distract your team. You have to be on it (the transfer portal), and it's part of the process."

UND, which was 5-2 in the spring and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals for the first time in school history, will start the 2021 fall season at Idaho State on Sept. 4.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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