Eric Schmidt is in a familiar setting, just a new role as he embarks on his first season as North Dakota's defensive coordinator and middle linebackers coach. Schmidt's defense has gone through seven spring practices now on the same field he used to roam at Memorial Stadium.
The former outside linebacker has returned to the program that he helped lead to a 2001 Division II national title and he is trying to instill those same championships attributes to the 2014 UND defense.
"It is a work in progress right now, but we are trying to work this thing to get good at the fundamentals of defense," Schmidt said.
He has four clears goals set aside for the spring, which will set the tone for the fall. Schmidt wants his defense and middle linebackers to:
1) Be great communicators on defense
2) Be the best pursuit team in the FCS
3) Be great tacklers
4) Stopping teams on third down to get off the field or as he calls it, "winning money downs"
"Those four things are all we talk about with our guys, day-in and day-out," he added. "We try to keep it really simple with our guys and get really good at the basics of football. So, our focus right now is just playing with great effort and be a bunch of tough guys out here on defense."
With former safety Joel Schwenzfeier instructing the outside linebackers, Schmidt's focus position- wise is on the inside backers and he has five players looking to gain an edge going into the fall.
"We are still building trust between each other," Schmidt said. "Our guys know the message and they are doing a good job of talking the way we are talking, which you like to see.
"This bunch is not hard to coach. These guys want to win, but we still have to develop leadership, develop toughness and get guys to be consistent day-in and day-out. I thought we got better from practices 1-4, then five was just okay, six was not good and today, I thought we did some decent things, especially in the last team session."