Of all the Bison position groups, the offensive line will be the most untested when NDSU travels to Iowa State in two weeks. There is only one returning starter, Joe Haeg, and he’s moving from right tackle to left tackle.
Tackle Billy Turner and guard Tyler Gimmestad graduated. Center Josh Colville had a career-ending knee ailment. Guard Zack Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury. We have a story going on Jeremy Kelly for Sunday’s newspaper and the transfer may play a key role this season.
“We’re going to put the best two on the right side out there, the best two on the left side out there and the best center out there,” Kelly said. “We have only one returning starter and he’s not returning at the same position so there is a lot of competition out there. We’re rotating a lot of guys at a lot of different positions to see where everything fits.”
Kelly is not your ordinary Division II transfer from Minnesota-Crookston. He accepted a scholarship at Air Force after a first team all-state season in Somerset, Wis. NDSU offered 95 percent of a full ride. Kelly did not get through basic training and when he left Air Force before the season began, the other scholarship offers that were once there were no longer. Crookston offered 40 percent of a full ride and he took it. After two miserable seasons in Crookston, he transferred to NDSU, walking on, and redshirted last year.
Of note, it’s interesting how weights get distorted with different publications. The Crookston roster listed him at 280 pounds; he said he was 262 when he transferred to NDSU. Out of high school, he was listed anywhere from 6-7, 230 to 6-6 and 245. On Friday, he said he’s 6-6 and 290 and looks the part of a Division I offensive lineman.
Minor injuries to veteran Bison wide receivers are giving two true freshmen an even better chance of playing right away this season. Head coach Chris Klieman said R.J. Urzendowski and Khayvon Hawkins have positioned themselves to have their redshirt pulled. That decision is probably at least a week away – certainly it will wait until after an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. At the least, they’ve gotten more practice repetitions with the returning regulars because of injuries to Zach Vraa, Trevor Gebhart and Nate Moody.
All three are expected back within a week. Vraa is being held out as a precautionary measure because of possible concussion symptoms and Gebhart and Moody have minor leg ailments. “We made a conscious decision as a staff and said, OK, let’s force feed them,” Klieman said. “Let’s force feed R.J., let’s force feed Khayvon and they’ve really responded.”
Urzendowski is from Omaha and Hawkins is from Crystal, Minn. Another true freshman on defense is also responding in cornerback Jalen Allison, who has been seeing time with the No. 1 defense in passing situations. “He’ll be able to potentially help us on some things,” Klieman said. “The rest of the week will be really important for those guys including the scrimmage on Saturday to see if they can do it under fire.”
The scrimmage at the Fargodome will be closed to the public and media. Klieman also noted true freshman quarterback Easton Stick has shown he’ll be in the competitive mix as a backup. Junior Carson Wentz is the starter with sophomore Derek McGinnis and redshirt freshman Cole Davis competing for the backup job. Redshirt freshman offensive guard Austin Kuhnert has positioned himself for a spot in the rotation as has junior offensive tackle Jeremy Kelly, who’s currently sidelined with a back ailment but is expected back soon.
The latest list of applicants for the NDSU athletic director position. The University only released names, so latest position is a result of a quick web search and cannot be confirmed with 100 percent certainty. More on the timeline and search committee duties in Tuesday’s Forum.
- Rick Hartzell, former athletic director, Northern Iowa
- Craig Angelos, senior associate athletic director, South Florida
- Christopher Rogers, associate athletic director, South Carolina
- Jeff Tingey, athletic director, Idaho State
- Eric Buskirk, senior associate athletic director, UC Riverside
- Daron Montgomery, athletic director, Wisconsin-Stevens Point
- Kevin Buisman, athletic director, Minnesota State Mankato
- Tim Mooney, associate athletic director, Idaho
- David Crum, senior associate athletic director, Colorado State
- Alex Kringen, senior director of development, Kansas State
- Steve Becvar, associate athletic director, University of San Diego
- Sean Johnson, athletic director Angelo State (Texas)
- Stephen Watson, athletic director, St. Bonaventure
- Jack Maughan, senior associate athletic director, NDSU
- Troy Goergen, senior associate athletic director, NDSU
- Chris Walker, associate athletic director, Washington State
- Steve Smith, athletic director, Bay Path College
- Kevin Hurley, senior associate athletic director, Texas A&M
- Matthew Larsen, senior associate athletic director, Stony Brook (N.Y.)
- Robert Clifford, senior associate athletic director, Oregon State
WINNIPEG — Ryan Smith played in mostly OK football stadiums in his NDSU football career. The tour of FCS facilities were similar in stature and cost, although there were a couple of the really cool kind in the FBS stadiums at Kansas State and Minnesota.
The one he played in last night as a member of the Sasketchewan Roughriders, Investors Group Field on the University of Manitoba campus, is exceptional. So if NDSU were to think about going FBS in the future and to do that it would need a new stadium, the 33,000-seat Winnipeg facility would be a good model to follow. Here’s the sticking point: it was $210 million and it’s not a domed stadium.
So, in today’s dollars with a stadium with a roof (and you need a roof in Fargo, N.D. or your October and November games will not draw well), you’re talking lots and lots of millions of dollars. It took NDSU a decade to raise over $30 million for the BSA renovation project. Unless some Engelstad-type character comes forward, you’re in need of going to the voters of Fargo to fund — what? 250 million to 300 million? — and with a super majority needed, there is just no way approval is in the cards there. Raising the roof and adding a second level, according to a dome official I talked with, would be about the same as a new a stadium plus you have to shut down the facility for at least two years.
The Winnipeg stadium has a great sound system, excellent concessions, very nice suites and quality building materials. The fans clearly enjoy their new digs. They are new digs that I just don’t see happening in Fargo, and therefore, I just don’t see FBS happening here for a long, long time. I’d like to hear from you how it could. I’m all ears on this one. I suppose at 19,000 seats you could triple the price, but not sure fans would go for that, especially if the team goes 6-5 in the Mountain West. Oh, there’s another, small, minor issue: finding a conference.
I was for Division I from the outset and I’m all for looking ahead and moving up and taking risks, but I’m just not sure how this FBS thing could happen.
Would the real Zack Johnson please stand up? Well, you could get three of the same name now associated with Bison football to do so. Ryan Perreault, who handles football for the NDSU sports information director, was shaking his head when he saw a tweet late this morning on the commitment of Spring Lake Park, Minn., offensive tackle Zack Johnson. NDSU junior offensive lineman Zack Johnson is redshirting this season after having surgery to address a knee problem. The Bison also have senior Zac Johnson as a backup offensive lineman.
Perreault asked about middle initials, of which I did not have an answer. He also wondered what other schools did when confronted with the same situation.
Anyway, the high school Zack is 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds. Jeff Schlieff, his coach, said he’s a big-bodied kid who is filling out and becoming more athletic. He also plays baseball and hockey, so there must be some semblance of footwork to play those two sports. Schlieff said Johnson took a visit to Minnesota, but nothing became of it. He said Northern Illinois and Wyoming showed interest. “The guys in Wyoming that left Fargo certainly showed an interest,” he said. “It was tougher to get him out there to a camp just because it’s farther away from Minneapolis. But the Bison were the first to get after him. He went up there this weekend, felt comfortable and liked the facilities and the coaches and made the commitment.”
Perfect weather greeted NDSU as it opened its fall camp this morning at the practice fields south of the mass of construction on the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Some news and thoughts:
- Like last year, the media is limited in its access, but the passing game looked pretty sharp for the first day. There is nothing in Carson Wentz’s delivery accuracy and demeanor that says he can’t do the job.
- Darius Anderson, a backup running back last year who rarely saw the field, was taking reps at receiver. Head coach Chris Klieman said he’ll be playing both positions.
- Everybody was present with the exception of true freshman running back Lance Dunn, who had a funeral back home in Iowa but was expected to join the team Monday night.
- Asked if anybody surprised him, Klieman pointed to redshirt freshman strong safety Chris Board, who is slated to back up Colten Heagle this season. “I think Chris Board has carved up his body a little bit more,” Klieman said. “Chris was thrown in there all spring for Colten. Now he’s learning from Colten and is able to replicate the next play seeing how Colten does it. His body is changing. He’s getting so much quicker and faster and as he learns the defense we expect him to be a really good player.”
- Look for perhaps a couple true freshmen to get strong looks to play right away, especially in special teams. My two early picks; defensive back Jalen Allison and receiver R.J. Urzendowski. Klieman said he wants to see how both of those players from the Omaha, Neb., pick things up mentally this week.
- Keep this name in mind: Gabe Lloyd. The high school junior-to-be from Green Bay and son of former Bison standout running back Doug Lloyd, was watching practice on Monday with a family friend. I’m not sure these MaxPreps.com stats are right, but it shows him scoring 11 touchdowns on just 58 carries and averaging 10.2 yards per attempt. That’s explosive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.