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Receivers step up at North Dakota spring practices
A lack of depth at the receiver position was a problem last season. So far this spring, however, receiving depth appears to be better. A number of battles will take place today when UND holds its first spring scrimmage, scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. start at Memorial Stadium.
Toward the end of Friday’s practice at Memorial Stadium, UND quarterback Braden Hanson connected with receiver R.J. McGill for a 50-yard gainer. It was one of those perfect-spiral on-the-money passes that McGill caught in stride behind the Sioux secondary.
“That long post over the top felt real good,” McGill said. “He put it right into my bread basket. It was right on the money.”
McGill has been right on the money in spring camp. He’s also been asked to take on a bigger role with a group of receivers that could be one of the team’s strengths when UND begins play in the Big Sky Conference this fall.
“R.J. has had a good spring,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “We’ve asked him to be more of a leader this season. That’s our concern in the receiving group as a whole. It’s a quiet bunch. Nothing against those guys, but someone has to step up and fill that role.”
A lack of depth at the receiver position was a problem last season. Greg Hardin and McGill were the only two receivers to catch more than 14 passes. Hardin caught a team-high 43 passes for 549 yards last season while McGill finished with 34 catches for 433 yards.
So far this spring, however, receiving depth appears to be better. Jon Heimler, Tyhre Ivery, Blair Townsend, Jameer Jackson and Casey Young appear to be in the mix to complement Hardin and McGill. Heimler is the only senior.
Ivery ranked third among receivers last season, catching 14 passes. But he was held out of practice this week after taking a hard hit during the team’s first live session last Saturday.
“We should be deeper at receiver,” Mussman said. “We still have to make it through the semester academically. But if we keep everybody here we have a chance to finally get some depth.
“And we have three more (receivers) coming in the fall. We have 12 now. We’re not going to have 15 when we go into fall camp.”
A number of battles will take place today when UND holds its first spring scrimmage, scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. start at Memorial Stadium.
The most visible battle will be at quarterback. Joey Bradley continues to take the No. 1 reps. Hanson, the North Carolina transfer, started at No. 4 on the depth chart when the spring season started but he was taking reps with the No. 2 unit Friday.
“I like our top two (quarterbacks) right now; they’re playing pretty well,” Mussman said. “We’re in a much better situation than we were a year ago. The battle will be who will be the No. 3 between Marcus (Hendrickson) and Chris (Comes).
“And there are guys fighting just to stay on this team. Competition will make us better.”
By: Wayne Nelson, Grand Forks Herald