Sunday LIVE Chat

Another busy week has come and gone in NDSU athletics, from the hiring of a new basketball coach at NDSU, the renovation of the Bison Sports Arena to the first scrimmage of the spring football season, we’ll discuss it all at 10pm Central tonight!

 

Bison First Scrimmage Highlights

Impressive showing for some players yesterday at NDSU’s first scrimmage ranging from unknown Melvin DeSouza to known commodities like Chase Morlock. Carson Wentz is entrenched as the starting quarterback, but strong showings from Tyler Wrice, Chris Board, Alex Hahn and Dee Gray. We’ll be back later today with our usual Sunday chat beginning at 10pm Central.


First Bison scrimmage: His name is Melvin DeSouza

So you Google one of the standouts from NDSU’s intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon at Dacotah Field — Melvin DeSouza — and what you get is a highlight film of No. 92 playing defensive end for Eden Prairie High School in the Twin Cities. He was a running back for the Bison who scored two touchdowns including a 75-yarder when he ran away from some people.

He’s an interesting story with more on him in the Sunday Forum. But the short version: he walked on to the team in the middle of last season after head coach Craig Bohl called him. He transferred from the North Dakota State College of Science without much fanfare and looked into joining the team right away. He had never played running back in his life until Bohl put him there. He may not play much, if at all, next season. But you never know. He’s 5-foot-9 and 225 pounds and is at least making offensive coordinator Tim Polasek take notice: Polasek mentioned him on an appearance on our Kolpack & Izzo radio show this morning. Our response: Melvin who?

Other thoughts from today:

  • Quarterback Carson Wentz was sharp, particularly on a 19-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Dee Gray. Wentz is clear and away the starting quarterback. The question will be his backup: Derek McGinnis or Cole Davis.
  • Starting running back John Crockett was held out — so were several other starters — but sophomore Chase Morlock was every bit the 1-2 role that Crockett played last year with Sam Ojuri. Morlock had 44 yards on three successive carries at one point.
  • The defense was very good in the first half of the scrimmage. The offense dominated the second half, which in the good news-bad news department may not bode well for the depth on defense at this point.
  • Freshman safety Chris Board looks like a player. He had a quarterback sack, defended a pass play well and tackled a receiver for a short gain in a span of three out of four plays.
  • In the Melvin DeSouza department, the media folks were also scrambling to find the name of another player not on the roster who scored a touchdown. Running back Colter Pritchard, a walkon from Langdon, N.D., scored on a 40-yard pass reception from backup quarterback Cole Davis.

The Next Step

Now that NDSU has made a decision on head coach, the first order of business for Dave Richman is to make sure the four signed incoming freshmen intend to honor their commitment. Mark Miller from WisSports.net reported Thursday that Paul Miller intends to keep his commitment to NDSU for next year. I spoke with Germantown (WI) head coach Steve Showalter today he said that Jake Showalter (his son) and Evan Wesenberg plan to meet with the Bison coaches about their status. Have not heard any change of commitment from Prior Lake’s Jon Sobaski, the other signed commitment. NDSU has two scholarships left to play with, a JUCO big man is coming in for a visit this weekend for Richman to look at.

Some other news tonight; the rumor that we heard over the weekend became official as Western Illinois head coach Jim Molinari resigned as head coach of the Leathernecks. The full story is here from Peoria, with comments from Molinari, confirming he is joining Tim Miles’ staff at Nebraska.

Jim Molinari has resigned from Western Illinois to join Tim Miles at Nebraska.

Molinari leaves Macomb after completing revamping that program, the Leathernecks were bad for a while, but he turned the team into nearly an NCAA tourney team, losing to SDSU in the Summit League final in 2012. WIU made back to back CBIs in 2012 and ’13.

With Molinari leaving, that makes five of the current eight Summit League schools that will have new coaches in 2014-15. NDSU (Dave Richman); USD (Craig Smith); IPFW (Jon Coffman); IUPUI (Jason Garnder) and now WIU. It’s a league that we have got used to schools going back and forth, and now coaches are on the move and that’s a good sign that you have successful teams in a successful league. Add in Oral Roberts, who’s had a solid team for years and what you have is a pretty solid league that’s more stable than it was even 12 months ago.

Lastly, this story seemed crazy 12 months ago when first blogged about, but now it seems there is some serious steam about the possibility about Missouri State moving up to FBS and join the Sun Belt Conference. Brent Thibodeaux, who covers Texas State football for Rivals, tweeted Wednesday that the Sun Belt is hopeful for a 12th school in this order: James Madison – 1st, Missouri State – 2nd and Liberty a distant 3rd.


 

While this news may shock or at least surprise some Bison fans, we’ve been hearing the rumors about Missouri State for a while. The renovation of Plaster Field is a real thing, they have a live camera that you can see the construction going on in Springfield. The Bears have not tore up FCS in recent years, 25-42 since 2008, Mo State won five games this past season, the most since 2010. The Sun Belt is eager to add a 12th school so that the league can stage a championship game at the end of the year for added revenue, and the reason why this is happening and soon is because the deadline to move up for 2015 is June 1st. The actual geographic footprint makes sense for the Sun Belt, despite the additions of two schools in Georgia and one in North Carolina, the rest of the league isn’t that far from Missouri (2 in Arkansas, 2 in Louisiana, 2 in Alabama, 2 in Texas). Western Kentucky is leaving for Conference USA on July 1, but with the additions of Georgia Southern and App State, the league will sit at 11 for this coming football season. We’ve known for a while that James Madison has been sought after, I don’t believe the Sun Belt is their fit, I think they want C-USA, and join their rivals from Old Dominion. As crazy as this is to think, this could happen and soon.

I’ll leave this post with this thought. If Missouri State does decide to leave, that brings the Missouri Valley Football Conference back to 9 teams. On one had you can return to a format where each team plays everybody. On another hand, there could be a possibility that if Mo State is gone, is it inconceivable to think that Patty Viverito and Tom Douple get on the same page and talk to UND? The Summit League would love to get to an even number and that would get them 10. I know Bison fans you can freak out know, but that’s why it’s a blog. Enjoy.

Dave Richman Named Head Coach

It was a short turnaround, but at the end of the day NDSU believes they found the right guy in Wahpeton native Dave Richman. Richman has agreed to a five year contract, paying him 190 thousand dollars a year. Here’s my one on one interview with the new Bison coach from Tuesday night.


Bison Video Blog: ‘Coaching Watch 2014′ edition

Join WDAY sports director Dom Izzo and The Forum’s Jeff Kolpack for the latest Bison Video Blog. Make sure to follow Dom and Jeff on Twitter @DomIzzoWDAY and @FGOSPORTSWRITER.


Sunday Live Chat

What to discuss tonight? Saul Phillips it out and who’s in? Jeff and me with our thoughts and your questions, weekly live chat starts at 10 pm Central here!

 

Phillips To Ohio

The coaching carousel has now fully engulfed Fargo, first football, then women’s basketball and now men’s basketball. Jason Arkley from the Athens Messenger first reported late Saturday night that Ohio University was set to hire Saul Phillips as its new men’s basketball coach.

Saul Phillips is heading to Ohio to become the new head coach of the Bobcats, leaving the Bison after seven years.

Phillips heads to Athens, Ohio and inherits a team that won 25 games this past season and head coach Jim Christian left earlier this week for the Boston College job. The Ohio job has been a clear level jumping job for the the last two coaches, John Groce took Ohio to the Sweet 16, then left for Illinois, and now Christian heads to the ACC with Boston College. Christian had a base salary of 425 thousand, he was the highest paid coach in the MAC, now Phillips likely won’t be paid that much,but we can expect a serious pay increase when we get the official announcement, likely on Sunday.

UPDATE: ESPN reports that Phillips has signed a five year contract at Ohio that will pay him 550 thousand dollars a year, Phillips told me that the deal came together late Saturday night.

Here’s an official statement from Phillips on the Ohio website: “I am extremely excited about the future of Ohio basketball and I am elated to have a chance to add to its rich tradition,” Phillips said. “This is an outstanding university in a terrific community. I share the vision of the administration as to what the enormous potential is of this storied program. I simply cannot wait to start working with our players and helping them reach their potential. I want our fans and my players to know that I will pour maximum energy and enthusiasm into Bobcat basketball.”

Athletic Director Jim Schaus: “The hiring of Saul Phillips as the next head men’s basketball coach for Ohio is indeed a tremendous hire for us,” Schaus said. “I am just ecstatic to be able to welcome a coach with his experience and success to Bobcat Nation. Saul is passionate, energetic, a great communicator and is inspiring. He has a reputation as an excellent recruiter and players coach. His North Dakota State team had many big wins including a win over Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. I am confident about Saul helping us build Bobcat Basketball to new heights of excellence. I can’t for him wait to get started!”

SUNDAY UPDATE: Spoke with Gene Taylor from Arlington this morning, told me he was hopeful when some jobs were filled that perhaps Phillips would be safe, but knew when the Ohio job opened and they were going to visit with him, “it be hard not to hire him.” Taylor added that by university law they have to open the job up, but also will visit with associate head coach Dave Richman, says on him: “Dave’s been part of two staffs here, he’s a had a big impact, certainly talk with Dave, very impressive young man, he’s had a lot to do with coaching success.”

As for NDSU, Phillips leaves with a 134-84 career record, two NCAA Tournament trips, a NCAA Tourney win and three consecutive postseason trips. The question now becomes on who will take over the NDSU program? This is a good job, far better than when Phillips took over in 2007. I have to think associate head coach Dave Richman will get a long and serious look from Gene Taylor, he’s been Saul’s right hand man and from what I’ve been told, wants the job badly. We’ll see on that front, more coming tomorrow, but now both basketball jobs are open at NDSU.

 

Turner’s quest subject of online show

Billy Turner will be the subject of an online show called “Driven” that will be aired on YouTube.com and viewers can already access a preview of it by going on the website and inputting the search words “Driven” and “Billy Turner.” The series documents smaller school players trying to make a name for themself and proving doubters wrong.

It’s the product of a company called All Def Digital that uses YouTube.com as the source for its channel. Three men – Russell Simmons, Steve Rifkind and Brian Robbins – are the brainchild behind the operation with Simmons documenting Turner’s story. He first filmed him during the Senior Bowl and did subsequent shoots at the NFL Combine, North Dakota State’s Pro Day at the Fargodome and some scenes at Turner’s home in the Twin Cities.

“Basically it’s a chance for him to tell my story,” Turner said on the Kolpack & Izzo radio show on WDAY-AM this morning.

The story will consist of eight episodes, Turner said, that will entail various aspects of his life. Each one will be different in its content.Turner said his story started to become viable through his Premier Sports and Entertainment agent, who talked with All Def Digital during the Senior Bowl in January. Turner said All Def started to take interest when they saw film of the Kansas State game, a Bison upset victory, and liken his story to that of former Central Michigan offensive lineman Eric Fisher, who was the first overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft. Turner is expected to be a middle round pick in this year’s draft that takes place next month.

Meanwhile, Turner has six visits scheduled in the next five weeks with various NFL teams starting this weekend with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He compares it to being recruited out of high school and setting up campus visits. “It’s a going from one team to another type of deal,” he said. “It’s a long process but you have to sit back and realize it’s part of trying to realize my dream.”