NDSU is 11 practices into its fall camp, almost two weeks, and other than the injury to defensive end Greg Menard, all seems rather quiet. Usually about this time of the month somebody calls it a career and leaves the team. As of Friday afternoon, all are present and accounted for. Head coach Chris Klieman joked the coaches must be too easy on the players but of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The biggest concern right now, Klieman said, is getting the backups up to speed of Division I FCS football.
“Making sure we get player 1B ready to play on Sept. 2,” he said. “I know who a number of those guys are that have played a lot of games. A big concern right now is those guys that haven’t played of getting them enough live reps, getting them enough full-speed reps because you can’t go live all the time now. Whether that’s for a special team, the third linebacker or a third D-end or whatever you want to call it, that’s our big concern right now is creating that depth.”
Translation: there haven’t been any major shifts to the starting lineup coming out of spring ball. There are still some rotations to be decided in the offensive line, such as if Colin Conner will be a left tackle or a left guard, or maybe both. As for which backups are challenging for more playing time, you could probably deduct that would be junior linebackers Dan Marlette and Levi Jordheim, freshman linebacker Jabril Cox, safeties Jaxon Brown, Eric Bachmeier and James Hendricks, cornerback Marquise Bridges, defensive ends Jarrod Tuszka and Derrek Tuszka, defensive linemen Cole Karcz and Blake Williams and receivers Dallas Freeman and Sean Engel. I’m not even going to try and take a stab at the offensive line since there seems to be a host of guys in contention with three seniors departing from last year.
“We like to say you’re only as strong as your weakest player,” said safety Tre Dempsey.
Klieman said he’s narrowed down the number of true freshmen who have a chance to play right away but won’t make that determination until perhaps the middle of next week. Any names? “Let’s wait until the middle of the week,” he said.
About the most visible thing at practice on Friday was the bus from Valley Bus that had an NDSU athletic wrap around it. Athletic director Matt Larsen said the company plans on keeping it on all season and is considering adding an NDSU wrap to another company bus.
“It’s great branding,” Larsen said, “because even if it’s not North Dakota State using it, having the Bison brand go up and down the highway is pretty good for us.”