Contrary to some opinions, NDSU isn’t scheduling spring football practices at 7:15 a.m. to keep the night-owl TV folks from not sleeping much. It just happens to be the best time where the most players don’t have class. Head coach Chris Klieman said a lot of players have class from 3 to 6 p.m., so the football team had to adjust. Chalk another victory up for the bubble, which makes 7:15 a.m. not such a chilly morning practicing outside.
On the field, junior Zack Johnson was trying to get back into football shape after missing all of last season rehabilitating a microfracture injury in his knee. (Story on Zack going in Tuesday’s Forum). Johnson is part of a unit that looks to be a strength of the team next season; the Bison will return six starters who have starting experience in left tackle Joe Haeg, left guard Johnson, center Austin Kuhnert (moved from guard), right guard Jeremy Kelly and right tackles Landon Lechler and Jack Plankers. “That improves a lot of the competition that we have,” said offensive line coach Conor Riley, “and you also have guys who are veterans.”
The key for offensive line consistency from year to year is recruiting and spacing the classes out. For instance, in the current two deep chart, NDSU has two seniors (Haeg and Kelly), three juniors (Johnson, Lechler, Plankers), four sophomores (LT Erik Olson, Kuhnert, C Max Polson, RG Zack Ziemer) and one redshirt freshman (LG Tanner Volson). Moreover, Riley said freshman Colin Conner has made strides early in camp.
“We don’t want to overload where we have a class of five guys and behind them a class of no guys,” Riley said. “Our goal in recruiting is to sign, minimally and in an ideal world if coach Klieman will let me, about three guys a year. That spaces it out pretty well for us.”