Why TrayVonn has a chance to make it in pro ball

TrayVonn Wright and his forte

Former Bison forward TrayVonn Wright signed a contract this week with Wels of the Austria Basketball League. It’s the same league that former Bison guard Mike Nelson played in after Nelson finished his NDSU career in 2009.

Nelson said Wright has a chance to make something of it because he plays a different position. The 6-foot-4 Nelson was a shooting guard and in the ABL, “they’re a dime a dozen,” Nelson said. “With him, they love athletic wings that can run the floor and in his case shoot the ball. It’s tip-dunk galore.”

A few other reasons why I give TrayVonn the benefit of the doubt in making it overseas:

  • Tray didn’t have much growing up and has had to pretty much scratch and claw for everything he’s gotten. There are those who say one of the reasons he had so much trouble putting on weight is nutrition wasn’t of real quality when he was in high school, and that includes going back to Waterloo in the summer during college. Although from a loving home, there wasn’t much for finances. So the kid has mental toughness.
  • He’s 6-7 who was a former high jump champ in high school. We’ve all seen what he can do with a dunk. Nelson said that in itself will make him a fan favorite in Austria.
  • If you can thrive in Fargo in December and January, you can live anywhere.
  • Wright will have to learn to play against players older and stronger. He’s up to around 200 pounds, but even at lesser weight, he was always one of the team’s top rebounders. That will continue to have to progress.


No mistaking NDSU’s top two local recruiting targets

The local recruiting lines have been drawn for NDSU football, which has made Fargo South running back James Johannesson and Hawley tight end Ben Ellefson as its top two targets with South receiver Ty Brooks perhaps a close second, but that’s only a guess right now.

Ben Ellefson has been dominant in Class 2A for the last two years.

Both Johannesson and Ellefson have already been offered by the Bison and if the offer is this early, you can probably assume both are full rides.

NDSU got Chase Morlock from Moorhead last year and that recruiting get is proving to be a valuable one. Morlock played as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, and is in the mix for a regular role at running back this fall.

James Johannesson is already Fargo South’s career rushing leader heading into his senior season.

Both Johannesson and Ellefson won’t be short on attention. Ellefson has offers from South Dakota State and Air Force; it will be interesting if any bigger FBS schools will come into the mix. Same with Johannesson, which my sources indicate he is not a Big Ten-kind of back but perhaps more FCS to lower FBS. The summer camp circuit will be big for him.

Both have good size — Ellefson is 6-4 and 225 pounds and Johannesson 6-2 and 210. Both have speed, of course, or an offer wouldn’t come this early, although if the 4.6 40-yard dash time on Johannesson is accurate according to the 247sports.com recruiting page, that won’t excite too many FBS majors. Here is Ellefson’s recruiting tape and here is Johannesson’s Hudl tape. The anticipation and vision of some of his moves is something else. You can also find a link to Johannesson’s 247sports.com file here.



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It’s down to NDSU, UNC for Dwight Smith

It’s down to Northern Colorado and NDSU for the final collegiate destination for 6-4 guard Dwight Smith. He’s transferring from Colorado State — you can read about that story here.

Smith left Fargo today and said he was impressed with his visit. He liked how the coaches interacted with each other. He formed almost an immediate bond with senior point guard Lawrence Alexander and said he hopes to make his decision by the end of next week.

Smith would give NDSU a veteran presence, important considering the departure of six seniors. Plus, it wouldn’t force the Bison into playing one of their true freshmen perhaps sooner than they would like. He wants to get into coaching some day and actually considered starting that path right away, but said he found a “new passion to get back into the gym and play at least one more year..”

He has a direct connection with Bison assistant Jayden Olson, who was on Tim Miles’ staff when Miles recruited him to CSU.


Football, coaches and fantasy golf league

We interrupt spring football and the hiring of men’s and women’s basketball coaches to bring this programming note: Before the Kolpack & Izzo Saturday morning radio show from 9-11 a.m. is the WDAY Golf Show from 8-9 a.m., which just resumed last Saturday for another summer run.
New this year: a golf fantasy league where the weekly winner gets one hour of free simulator time at the Golf Addiction in south Fargo. The fantasy league is free to join, to do so, follow the link on the lower left of the WDAY radio web page that can be accessed here.


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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.
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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.”

Spring ball: Frazier suffers setback

NDSU’s hope of getting a good look at running back King Frazier is in jeopardy. The transfer from Nebraska tweaked his knee in practice and will be held out for the rest of the weekend and most likely will be checked on Monday. The injury was during a non-contact drill and Frazier was simply planting his leg to move another direction. “We’re definitely concerned about it,” said head coach Chris Klieman. “Granted, we’ve been out there only three days but he did some great things in those three days. If it’s a bad scenario and we need to shelve him the rest of spring .. I don’t know, we didn’t get a chance to see everything we needed to see but the glimpses that we did, he would be a productive player. Now it’s the mental reps that he’s going to miss.”

With Frazier out, that puts John Crockett and Chase Morlock as the 1-2 backs on the depth chart. Frazier, a 6-foot-1, 222-pound sophomore transfer from Nebraska, is expected to compete for the No. 2 spot behind Crockett. Other than Frazier, NDSU appears to be healthy after almost one week of practice.

Klieman on the first day of being in full pads: “It was OK. Not as crisp as maybe we would have wanted. There was some miscommunication with some guys, especially on both sides up front. Today, I think we’ll be a lot better. So it was just ‘OK’ for the first day of pads.”

Klieman on moving Joe Haeg to left tackle and Landon Lechler at right tackle: “For sure we wanted to put Joe on the left and then what we do on the right side is how much Landon can handle some of those things. We’ll wait and see. We’ll still play that out through the spring.”


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Spring football: first day in full pads

Today, Wednesday, was another step in the Bison spring football process — the first day in full pads. Here are a few thoughts from head coach Chris Klieman heading into the two-hour workout:

  • As expected, the interior defensive line will probably grab the attention of the coaches. Klieman said he’s curious to see how Austin Farnlof has rebounded from knee surgery. On the other side, he’s curious to see how the young offensive linemen like Jack Plankers, Landon Lechler and Jeremy Kelly hold up to the pressure; whether they can hold the fort at the point of attack.
  • Running back King Frazier, the transfer from Nebraska, had a good opening weekend. Klieman said he looks faster than he figured.
  • Klieman said sophomore middle linebacker Nick DeLuca has made “quantum leaps” since the end of last season, looks to be more knowledgeable with the defense. There was some speculation that the 6-3, 237-pound DeLuca would get big enough to be a defensive end, but Klieman likes him at linebacker.
  • Defensive tackles coach Nick Goeser knows he has his work cut out for him after seeing four guys graduate last season. “You know what, it’s exciting too,” he said. “We’re going to find out what kind of a coach I am real quick.”
  • We have a story going in Thursday’s Forum on Tanguay. He’s 6-4 and 288 pounds, and hopes to be a solid 295 next season. It’s a forgone conclusion that there’s no way anybody should expect him to be at the level Perry, Drevlow and Luecke were last season, but you have to start somewhere. Although don’t tell that to Tanguay: “I full expect myself not to miss a beat from where those guys left off last year,” he said.
  • Tanguay was one of several who lifted twice a day during winter workouts, getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get to the BSA for a 6 a.m. start and then returning later in the day. “It’s crazy but I loved it,” he said.
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Sign of spring: football practice opens

It was windy as could be when the Bison took to Dacotah Field for the first of 15 spring football practices. It was closed to the media, but here are a few things to ponder in talks and interviews following the workout:

  • Carson Wentz was sharp, at one point throwing a vertical pass across the field between cornerback Zach Colvin and safety Christian Dudzik. As the secondary coach last year, new head coach Chris Klieman said it was the kind of throw the Bison didn’t see very many of and he was anxious to get into the film room and evaluate it. “Was it not that good of a disguise or did the kid (Wentz) make that good of a play?” Klieman said.
  • The Bison for the most part did double reps, meaning when running offense vs. defense plays were able to do it on both ends of the field. It’s a system that needs depth and Klieman said he wasn’t sure if they were going to be able to do, but it was successful on Saturday. It gives the lower depth guys more practices reps instead of them standing on the sideline and watching. The double repping is something former head coach Craig Bohl said was a key to the team’s past success.
  • The best two leaders on the field today: Dudzik on defense and receiver Trevor Gebhart on offense.
  • Every position group has a veteran presence of some sort and Klieman said that’s important for leadership reasons, also. The one exception is the defensive tackle/noseguard group and Klieman said he’s stressed to two-year regular Brian Schaetz that he needs to be that guy.
  • If anybody on the offense wasn’t aware of how offensive coordinator Tim Polasek operates, they do now. “It’s about a fiery guy who has passion,” Klieman said.
  • Polasek on the execution of his offense today: “Sloppy. Good. Bad. Great. All of it. It’s just like you would expect, especially the way we practice with the double reaps and the 2s and 3s getting as many reps as the 1s.”
  • A few of last year’s seniors are helping out this spring: receiver Ryan Smith, cornerback Brendin Pierre and safety Bryan Shepherd. Linebacker Grant Olson is a student assistant coach. “That tells me the program means a lot to those guys,” Klieman said. “There are a lot of guys with a vested interest in this program who want to help. I told those guys that they are guys who have lived it, they have a lot to bring to the table and these kids will listen to them.”
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