My story on NDSU recruiting class retention rate that was posted on www.inforum.com today cannot go understated in more ways than just this season. Without it, without a stable of upperclassmen, it’s hard to sustain any long-term success and avoiding those valleys. NDSU was able to survive a seven-member senior class in 2012 with that outstanding group from the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes, a team that had 30 juniors that could go down as some sort of unwritten record for most juniors in one season. And that 2012 senior class included cornerback Andre Martin, who transferred from Northern Iowa for his final year of eligibiity.
And not every recruiting class in the run of six FCS titles in seven years has been sustainable in terms of personnel. Take the 2011 class that came in with 20 players, but by the time they were redshirt seniors, there were only six left. Of course, those six were rather good with quarterback Carson Wentz, cornerbacks CJ Smith and Jordan Champion, tight end Andrew Bonnet, punter Ben LeCompte and tight end Luke Albers. Add in walkon Joe Haeg, receiver Zach Vraa coming back for a sixth year, defensive tackle Brian Schaetz who played as a true freshman and offensive line transfer Jeremy Kelly and there was more than enough leadership to keep the Bison on the title run.
There hasn’t been many dips under head coach Chris Klieman. The list of signed scholarship players, not counting transfers, and those who made it through their senior year looks as follows:
2014: 19 signed, 13 remain
2015: 20 signed, 15 remain
2016: 13 signed, 7 remain
2017: 16 signed, 16 remain
That’s 51 high school recruits out of 68, for a scholarship-player retention rate of 75 percent. There are 24 seniors on this roster, 19 in the junior class and and 21 in the sophomore class. That’s pretty good consistency. The ’17 class is unusually uncommon with eight of the nine preferred walkons still with the team. You almost always see players who find the college game to be a little more intense than anticipated, see a long line on the depth chart or just don’t have the fire to play the game anymore decide to do something else.
“I credit our older guys for treating our younger guys the right way,” Klieman said. “They challenge them but they’re also there for them, too, giving them some advice. Right now, we’re in good shape.”