Now with spring football and the NFL Draft in our rearview windows, the football offseason truly is here, but as people that follow this blog know there never really is any down time and the Bison Media Blog won’t be slowing down either. We’ve got some ambitious plans that we’ll be bringing out this summer and some dates to look forward to.
Lucas Albers leads a group of athletic tight ends into 2015.
Position Group Preview (May 11th – June 29th): Starting Monday, Jeff and I will be breaking down and looking at each position group each week; from special teams to quarterbacks.
Preview Top 10 Games in FCS in 2015 (Mid-May): Pretty self explanatory here, but a look at the can’t miss games this upcoming season.
15 To Watch in ’15 (VIDEO; July 13th-July 31st): The second year of the highly popular series that Jeff and I did last year; where we daily discuss the most important players on the roster for the upcoming season.
Preview Missouri Valley Football Conference teams (VIDEO; August 10th-21st): An inside look at each of the teams in the top conference in the FCS, and how they’ll shake out this year.
There are some other treats along the way, but those are the biggies that we’re going to be tackling (sorry for the pun) this summer. I understand not everyone is huge on football and we won’t be ignoring the other sports, you can trust me on that.
Jeff and I will be heavy into the Fargo Marathon this week, but our regular coverage will return later this week for the Summit League softball tournament.
The NFL Draft begins tonight in Chicago, it’s highly unlikely any FCS players are selected tonight, the first likely off the board according to most mock drafts I’ve seen is Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt. 18 players from FCS schools were selected last year, I think we’ll see more this season. Here’s a list of players that NDSU has faced in recent years that will likely get picked over the next three days:
Garrett Grayson – Quarterback, Colorado State
Remember Grayson? He was the starting quarterback for the Rams when NDSU when to Fort Collins in 2012, and had a terrific start throwing a 69 yard touchdown pass to Crockett Gillmore, giving CSU a 7-0 lead a 1:30 into the game. That turned out to be on the only touchdown they would score in the game, as Grayson finished 13-24 for 171 yards with an interception (Marcus Williams) as well. He’s been rocketing up draft boards lately, likely a third or fourth round pick.
Tyler Lockett – Wide Receiver, Kansas State
Bison fans will remember Lockett’s speed, he hauled in a 56 yard touchdown pass from Jake Waters early in the third quarter that gave KSU its first lead of the game at 14-7. Lockett finished the game with seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown, he was the best player on the field that night for the Wildcats. He has a terrific burst, something teams covet, Lockett we’re hearing is a third round projection.
E.J. Bibbs – Tight End, Iowa State
Bison fans will always needle me for how much I talked/written about Bibbs heading Dinto the game, asking Chris Klieman the week of the game, “How do you stop Bibbs? Klieman: “We don’t have a matchup for him.” Well clearly they found a matchup, holding Bibbs to just one catch for eight yards. Bibbs finished the year with 45 receptions for 382 yards and eight touchdowns. Most projections have Bibbs as day three pick.
Malcom Agnew- Running Back, Southern Illinois
Agnew isn’t the first player on SIU that you think of as being drafted, but has had some solid workouts to raise his value. Agnew was one of the few rushers to go over 100 yards against NDSU in the past couple of years, he ran for 117 yards in the game in Fargo this past season. He was hampered by an ankle injury that cost him the final three games of the season, part of a huge running back class in the Valley.
David Johnson – Running Back, Northern Iowa
He likely will be the first player taken out of the Missouri Valley, Johnson should have never played at UNI, his talent always screamed Big 10 or Big 12. He was dynamic all season long, then had a terrific week at the Senior Bowl. Johnson ran for 138 yards and added another 36 yards receiving this year against NDSU, to go on top of his sensational 80 yard touchdown run against the Bison in 2013. He was nearly unstoppable in that game before he injured his ankle. I think Johnson is a Day 2 selection, he’ll go in the third round.
Zach Zenner – Running Back, South Dakota State
You take away his career games against NDSU and he’s the all-time leading rusher in FCS history. I know you can’t do that, but his body of work speaks for itself. First player to ever run for 2,000 yards in three seasons, he too had a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game. Zenner’s running ability I think translates well to the NFL, I think Zenner gets picked somewhere in the 6th or 7th round.
MyCole Pruitt – Tight End, Southern Illinois
Just look at his touchdown reception against NDSU this past fall and you’ll see why he’s coveted by NFL teams. Pruitt has good size at 6’2, 251 pounds and his receiving ability is unquestioned, the conference record holder in receptions and touchdowns by a tight end. Pruitt had a solid East-West Shrine Game, Bleacher Report has Pruitt going in the 4th round to Baltimore.
Zach Wagenmann – Defensive End, Montana
Wagenmann was the rarity in the Big Sky, a standout defensive player. He had a tremendous career in Missoula, a three-time All-Big Sky player, he was held in check against NDSU back in September with just three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup. I watched him though against Wyoming and he was tremendous in that game, consistently in the Cowboys backfield. A broken foot will hurt his draft stock, but still expect him to be drafted.
Xavier Williams – Defensive Tackle, Northern Iowa
Williams is the player that Kolpack believes UNI will have a harder time replacing than Johnson. His game against NDSU screams that. Williams was a man on the defensive line, racking up 7 tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack. He had eight sacks total from D-tackle, which is tremendous. Another guy that will be drafted in day three.
I want to first congratulate my friend and colleague Jeff Kolpack on his writing venture, I have read his dad’s book, a copy resides in my office at WDAY, was mandatory reading when I started in Fargo in 2006. I look forward to reading his version, including the part where I made him and Big E TV stars with the video blog in 2011. Anyway on to today’s post.
Chris Klieman says an updated depth chart will come out later this week, I wanted to focus on five players that helped themselves this spring and five that need to do some more work to get into the regular rotation.
FIVE THAT HELPED THEMSELVES:
1) MJ Stumpf – The junior linebacker by all accounts had a terrific spring. The coaching staff raved about his ability to pick up the playbook and adjust to a full-time role. Stumpf adjusted well to the will linebacker spot, as I wrote at the end of March it was a big month and the Harvey native responded. The big key now is taking this momentum into the fall, but Matt Entz can feel good that two pieces of his linebacker core are ready to go.
2) Lance Dunn – The redshirt freshman running back stood out during the spring game rushing for 76 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the bulk of the spring that impressed me. Dunn showed a tremendous burst and shiftiness that the other two running backs likely don’t possess. Kolpack said on my radio show last night he believes by the third game of the season he could see Dunn getting the majority of carries in a game. One thing’s for certain, Dunn has inserted himself into the conversation at tailback.
3) Jalen Allison – The redshirt freshman corner was pretty close to playing as a true freshman last year.
Jalen Allison has earned more playing time this fall.
He stepped up in the final week of the spring after CJ Smith injured his knee to get a lot of first team reps, he finished with four tackles on Saturday. Allison’s speed is tremendous, he may take the mantle of “fastest guy on the team” which we have bandied about over the past three years. Allison said he’s picked up the defense and now the game has slowed down. He’ll be on the field August 29th in Missoula.
4) Aaron Steidl – Perhaps the next to step up in the line of great walk-ons is the redshirt freshman from Alexandria. Steidl got rave reviews on the scout team last year on the defensive line and we saw glimpses of it this spring. Saturday he stood out with three tackles, including a big tackle for loss in the first half. His size is good (6’2, 265 pounds); defensive tackle coach Nick Goeser told me on my radio show last night he has all the tools to become another Brian Schaetz. If Steidl can get to that level, NDSU will have hit another home run.
5) Dan Marlette – Marlette was a tackling machine all spring long and showed it on Saturday, leading the team with six, two for loss and a sack. His athleticism was on display all month long, he told the assembled media after the spring game he wasn’t pleased with how he or the defense played, but make no mistake Marlette impressed this spring. He’s listed as the backup at will linebacker to Stumpf, but he’s definitely in the rotation for playing right now, we’ll see how big August is for him and earning more playing time.
FIVE THAT HAVE WORK TO DO:
1) Levi Jordheim – Jordheim had flashes where he impressed at the SAM linebacker spot and you could see the potential to be a big playmaker. He still has some learning to do at that spot, and that’s why I see the fall as being a huge month for him. Don’t count him out from seeing the field this fall.
2) Khayvon Hawkins – Another redshirt freshman, every time I saw Hawkins on the field he made a catch on the sidelines and went over the middle. He scored a touchdown in the spring game, where he took a tough hit right in front of the goal line. I don’t believe he has that much work to do before he’ll be on the field, and after the departure of Carey Woods, he’ll have to produce in the fall.
3) Tanner Volson – The offensive lineman from tiny Balfour, North Dakota had a great spring, according to offensive line coach Conor Riley.
Tanner Volson had a big spring, with a chance to get on the field this fall.
Volson has good size too, at 6’4, 291 pounds and he was starting at left guard for the last couple weeks of the spring with Zack Johnson out with a knee injury. Volson has shown the ability to be a solid lineman and if you saw the spring game, that offensive line was pushing the D-line around. If Johnson’s knee continues to be an issue, watch for Volson to be in the mix in the fall.
4) Stanley Jones – Another North Dakota kid, his spring was hampered by a broken bone in his foot that prohibited him from participating in a majority of the practices. He did return for the final week and for the time I got to see him, he’s certainly bigger and has the build to be a good defensive end. Jones will need to stay healthy during the fall, but he’s already listed as the backup to Brad Ambrosius. With the departure of Alex Hahn at defensive end, the door is open for Jones to grab a spot in the fall.
5) Tyler Wrice – Wrice enters his third year in the program and in my opinion the time is now for him to step up and be a factor in the offense. We’ve seen Wrice get attempts on the jet sweep to mixed success (the fumble against Youngstown was costly last year) but haven’t seen his ability as a pass catcher yet, just two receptions for 20 yards. In an offense that appears to have a bunch of weapons, there’s still a spot for Wrice to be a factor in the old “Ryan Smith” role.
Football Saturdays return to Fargo tomorrow with the Green and Gold game, Jeff laid out in today’s paper five position battles to keep an eye on, in case you missed them, here’s the link.
Here’s three more that I’ll be watching tomorrow:
Linebacker: I’ve written and said plenty on this position and tomorrow is the first real opportunity to see these players in live reps. Nick DeLuca is the known commodity in the middle, but it’s the 4-5 players around him that I’ll be watching. MJ Stumpf has had a terrific spring according to the coaches, it looks like he’s wrapped up a spot. The other spot is occupied by Pierre Gee-Tucker, but his injuries have really stopped him from taking that next step. He was wearing the white injured jersey in practice on Wednesday, I’ll be curious to see how many reps he gets tomorrow.
Pierre Gee-Tucker is one of the starters listed at linebacker.
After that, a group of young players have a great opportunity to impress. Dan Marlette, Levi Jordheim, Matt Plank and Bo Liekhus all figure to get plenty of snaps tomorrow. Head Coach Chris Klieman said that Marlette has had an impressive spring, while Jordheim’s grasping of the defense is still coming along. I’ve been impressed with Plank, who’s shown some nice tackling ability during the scrimmages. We’ll see how it shakes out tomorrow.
Offensive Line: We know about what’s coming back up front for NDSU, but thanks to a rash of injuries, there’s a chance for a lot of young guys to get a look tomorrow. Landon Lechler, Zack Johnson, Jack Plankers and Jeremy Kelly will likely not play, on Wednesday Colin Conner and Zack Ziemer were getting reps with the first team. I’d also keep an eye on a couple of North Dakota guys, Tanner Volson and Luke Bacon, offensive line coach Conor Riley told me last week that each have had solid springs and could find their way into the rotation. Austin Kuhnert will also see his first game action at center, a position that he’s transitioned to this spring.
Defensive Line: Jeff has written about Caleb Butler and Jarrod Tuszka’s emergence at defensive end, I’m eager to watch those two play tomorrow, each have earned playing time in the starting rotation. On the inside, keep an eye on two players, Grant Morgan and Aaron Steidl. Morgan got limited reps last season, but with injuries to Nate Tanguay and Brian Schaetz this spring, Morgan has played more and done a nice job. I’ve heard rave reviews about Steidl since last year during the fall on the scout team, he’s another walk-on from Alexandria and has impressed the coaching staff this past month.
That’s just a few other guys to watch tomorrow, reminder our radio show will be live from the tailgating lots tomorrow starting at 9am till 11, swing by and say hi! Pregame show here on the blog at 12, postgame show up at 6pm, should be a fun day!
Apologies for not posting earlier, some issues on updating the blog, did post the blog on WDAY.com, but here’s our report from Saturday.
Also as most know wide receiver Carey Woods has decided to leave the program. Woods was set to enter his junior year, his fourth year in the program. Woods had his struggles this past season, dropping a couple of passes, but it was something he told me on many occasions he was working on and was ready to take his game to the next level. Woods will always be remembered for his fabulous touchdown catch in the far corner end zone against Northern Iowa when NDSU was behind 13-0. He took a vicious hit against Sam Houston State this year in the semifinals, but was cleared to play in the national championship game. The biggest question going forward is now who picks up the slack at wide receiver? Clearly the two redshirt freshmen, Khayvonn Hawkins and Darrius Shepherd have emerged and now will be counted on.
It should be noted now that’s eleven member s out of 18 of the class of 2012 that are no longer with the school, including all three wide receivers that were recruited (Woods, Gray and Warren).
The other loss is linebacker James Gates, a sophomore out of Wisconsin, he was part of the 2013 recruiting class, he redshirted that season and played in just three games last season, he was a two-time all-state player out of Wisconsin, Menomonie’s all-time sacks leader. That just means the pressure is even greater on Dan Marlette and Levi Jordheim to step up at linebacker, keep an eye as well on Matt Plank, who had a big tackle in the scrimmage yesterday as well.
More updates to come as the final week of spring ball wraps up.
Monday could go down as a landmark day for mid-major sports. Yesterday we found out that the Horizon League approved the new cost of attendance measure; mandating it in men’s basketball and for at least an equal number of female student-athletes in league sponsored sports. Our friend Joe Scalzo from the Youngstown Vindicator reports that Youngstown State will fund women’s basketball and the eight other schools in the league are expected to do the same. The stipend is projected to cost between 2,000-4,000 dollars.
For those that don’t know “cost of attendance” covers things beyond tuition, room and board, such as transportation for athletes to go home or other academic-related supplies.
Liberty will add cost of attendance to its football program in 2015.
The second big announcement on cost of attendance came courtesy of FootballScoop.com, which reported that Liberty would start to offer COA to its football team starting this fall. (The measure goes into effect August 1st). The Flames would become the first FCS program to go that route. The move shouldn’t surprise that many that follow FCS football closely, Liberty has been trying the last two years to move up to FBS and this can be viewed by Conference USA or the Sun Belt as a legitimate reason to add them to their league. But it also can serve as a alarm for rival or similar-minded schools at the FCS level that the train is leaving the station and you had better get on board.
That brings me to NDSU. Athletic Director Matt Larsen told me in February that the school was in a “wait and see” approach on how things were going to shake out with COA, but may have their hands forced depending on what other schools went forward with the measure. This is in my mind the first step to having NDSU make a decision on approving COA.
Let’s start with the Horizon League. A basketball-first conference, made up of nine schools, only two of which play football (Valpo and Youngstown), similar to the Summit, a conference of nine schools, where just four play football. This move by the Horizon signals they’re putting their eggs in the supposed basketball basket, which is no surprise, that’s the most recognizable sport in the league. The Summit however, is not in that same spot, the league does not have the television visibility of the Horizon and frankly hasn’t had the postseason success the Horizon has had.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference has bragged and rightfully so in my mind the last two years about being the best league in FCS. Seeing a team from the Big South approve COA is only going to push the issue in the Valley. UNI has to be considering it for basketball, just to stay competitive in that league, but what happens to football? You know the Panthers don’t want to fall behind NDSU if the Bison sign off on COA. Same can be said about SDSU and Youngstown. Perhaps more importantly in this discussion, is how many schools can actually afford to do this? Larsen told me that he believes it would cost 3,400 dollars a year on cost of attendance and if you offer for football at NDSU, what female sports will get it?
You know that if Liberty is moving forward with COA, that Coastal Carolina (its biggest rival) won’t be that far behind. And Bison fans saw first hand how the Chanticleers football program has improved. It’s about keeping up or staying ahead of the Joneses. With these decisions yesterday, expect something by this summer from NDSU about approving COA.
Couple of other basketball notes, Fargo North standout Siman Sem has been offered a scholarship. He’s going to be a junior next year, more on that story, click here. Also Maren Walseth has lost one of her top scorers from this past season in Kahla Becken, who has to quit the game after suffering a third concussion. Leaves NDSU with three open scholarships for next season.
As the college sports world convenes in Indianapolis this weekend for the Final Four, NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen will be brushing shoulders with all of the blue bloods in the NCAA from Kentucky to Kansas. In a short amount of time, his school will be included in a blue blood conference.
News broke on Friday that North Dakota State will be added as an affiliate member to the Big 12 wrestling conference for the 2015-16 season. OSU head coach John Smith told the school’s newspaper that NDSU and the other five Western Wrestling schools (SDSU, Northern Colorado, Air Force, Wyoming and Utah Valley) will join up with Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
The significance of this move probably can’t be understated; for NDSU it’s a chance to have its wrestlers go up against the best in the nation. It’s also an opportunity for the Bison to welcome Iowa State, Oklahoma State and OU on a regular basis to Fargo and the brand new SHAC.
As one Twitter follower pointed out to me; “what other scheduling possibility could come from this?” Football may be off the table after NDSU improved to 3-1 against the Big 12 last year. Read Jeff’s story here.
With spring football underway, there’s another crop of walk-ons that are threatening to get some major time this upcoming fall. Wanted to focus on how impressive NDSU’s walk-on program has been in recent years, here’s the story that ran on WDAY Wednesday night: