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UND deep, talented at receiver position

GRAND FORKS - Greg Hardin's breakout game came in the second week of the 2010 season when the North Dakota receiver caught six passes for 171 yards and a touchdown against Northern Illinois.

GRAND FORKS - Greg Hardin's breakout game came in the second week of the 2010 season when the North Dakota receiver caught six passes for 171 yards and a touchdown against Northern Illinois.

UND's leading receiver from last season, however, caught only three passes for 26 yards in UND's final two games. By the end of the season, UND's top receiving threat usually drew double coverage and the redshirt freshman from Omaha was showing signs of wear and tear of his first season of collegiate football.

The big problem for UND throughout 2010 was finding a complement to Hardin, a gifted receiver with soft hands and good speed.

This season, however, appears to be different.

"This is the most talent we've had, from top to bottom," UND wide receivers coach Tim Belmore said. "The sense of urgency is better than it has been in a long time. And we're healthy."

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UND lost two receivers to season-ending injuries during fall camp last year. A lack of depth was an immediate concern.

As UND prepares for its season opener Thursday against Drake, a number of candidates appear to be ready to step into the role as the receiver that will complement Hardin.

They include:

- Sophomore R.J. McGill, who caught 19 passes last season as a true freshman. And he's had an impressive fall camp.

- Blair Townsend, a

6-foot-3, 217-pound sophomore who has recovered from a broken foot in 2010. A year ago, Townsend was in the mix for considerable playing time across from Hardin.

- Senior Chris Anderson, a player that has shown glimpses of solid play throughout his career.

- Tyrhy Ivery, a redshirt freshman from Garland, Texas, who is expected to give UND speed on the edge.

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- True freshman Jameer Jackson, the 6-3, 210-pounder from Brooklyn Park, Minn., who is one of the most impressive freshmen, physically, the Sioux have recruited in recent seasons. He may be one of two players offensively that could have his redshirt lifted.

Versatility appears to be UND's strength at the receiver position.

"We have guys in which their strength is size, power and making explosive plays," Belmore said. "And we have guys that are quick and fast all over the field. We have a great blend from top to bottom. That's the most exciting thing about our group.

"Things are coming around. We're almost in a scenario where we can move certain guys around to get them the football."

Hardin, who caught 41 passes for 736 yards and nine touchdowns last season, said having receivers at full health during fall camp has been a big plus.

"Camp has been pretty good, but it can always be better," he said.

Nelson writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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