With the NFL Draft in front of us this weekend; it’s interesting to note one year from now could be another significant event for the NDSU football team with the prospects of having multiple players selected in the draft. Many readers of this blog believe Marcus Williams is an NFL draft prospect and I’m not here to debate that; I believe that as well. Williams case may be helped in the past couple of years for FCS cornerbacks being selected; starting with Janoris Jenkins and the Rams and Trumaine Johnson with the
Dolphins (Rams) last year; Jenkins played at North Alabama after a couple years at Florida and was drafted in the 2nd round; while Johnson starred at Montana; before also being selected by the Rams in the 3rd round. More and more FCS players are climbing up draft boards; there should be a couple this weekend to keep an eye on; Southeastern Louisiana’s Robert Alford; a standout DB; and JJ Wilcox; who played running back for Georgia Southern against NDSU in the FCS semis; is a projected strong safety draft pick.
Williams has all the accolades you could want; All-American; all-time interception record holder; and dynamic special teams player. Most fans would agree that his tackling is the biggest thing he needs to work on for his senior season; that non-tackle on Dominique Swope in the GSU game will not look good on a scouts tape; but his interceptions against Youngstown and SDSU will also speak loudly.
The second guy in my mind is Billy Turner. The moment Turner was inserted into the lineup at Northern Iowa in 2010; he’s continued to impress; to the point where you just expect not to see any pressure from the defensive line on the left side of the Bison O-line. Turner is a physical specimen; at 6’6, 300 pounds and while his highlight tape will not be as impressive as Marcus, you have to believe that NFL scouts will see his size and his footwork and want to draft him. Turner will be a four year starter and has already blocked for four 1,000 yard rushers; his challenge will be to get noticed when there are usually a ton of great offensive line prospects each and every year. Is it a slam dunk these guys get drafted? No way; injuries; bad seasons, could derail those plans; but a year out; things look good for what many will call two of NDSU’s best and become the 1st pair of Bison to be drafted since 2001 when Lamar Gordon and Pete Campion were drafted.
It was the peak of the playoffs last last December and I asked former NDSU tight end Matt Veldman about a story I wanted to do on his work with some underprivileged kid or kids. Not sure exactly what the story was. Whether it was out of modesty or the fact it was a subject that he just didn’t want out there, or maybe the subject demanded obscurity, he politely declined. So, it was on to another story.
This week, I got a sense of what Matt was doing. Our special game day section story this Saturday is on Bison linebacker Grant Olson, who over the course of our interview talked about his work with ShareHouse in Fargo, an addiction service that helps men and women get through those rough times. To get more in depth with the story, I talked with a director at ShareHouse, who said Grant did a geat job with the 9-year-old boy he mentored. The mother told the director she couldn’t say enough good things about him, and so you get the picture of how that went.
Anyway, it came about that Matt also was helping with ShareHouse last year, which I’m guessing was the story I was trying to tackle during the playoff run. That says a lot about the both Veldman and Olson, the things they do behind the scenes without fanfare. I did something similar on Billy Turner last year.
I’m sure there are other Bison players doing the same type of community service. There are kids that always do things benefit the community in ways we don’t know about. It’s one thing to do something in front of a full Fargodome; it says quite a lot about a young athlete to do something so valuable when nobody is watching.
NDSU got a mixed bag of health reviews today in the first full day of football practice after the Christmas break. Senior free safety Daniel Eaves returned at full strength after missing the Georgia Southern and Lehigh University playoff games with a knee injury. But starting left tackle Billy Turner did not practice because of what head coach Craig Bohl called a twisted ankle.
Bohl said he didn’t think the injury “would be an issue.”
He said receiver Trevor Gebhart, who was questionable in returning from a broken leg, will not be back for the national championship game against Sam Houston State.
“There will be certain guys that will be able to go into this game along the lines of 100 percent of what they were,” Bohl said. “They were kind of going game to game.”
The first spring practice is in the books. First thought: the practice turf, now in its second year, was one of the most valuable purchases by the athletic department in the last few years. Without it, the Bison wouldn’t be practicing unless they brought in helicopters to dry off the grass practice fields. Other thoughts:
- Tackle Billy Turner’s size is bordering on something to marvel at. Would it be out of line to call the sophomore the best player on the team?
- Freshman quarterback Esley Thorton throws a nice ball, tight spiral with some zip, and it’s obvious why the coaches want to give him a good look.
- JC cornerback Aireal Boyd has nice size at 6-foot-1 and around 190 pounds, and looks like he can match up with the 6-4 receiver out there. We’ll see how quickly he picks up the NDSU defensive scheme.
- Freshman linebacker Travis Beck was working in with the No. 1 defense, but it was in Brandon Jemison’s spot. Jemison is out until fall with a hip injury. If it were a regular season game, you might see somebody like Grant Olson move over from the No. 2 middle linebacker, or maybe they like Beck and are giving him a good look.
- Sophomore Ryan Smith is making a smooth transition from running back to receiver.
- This is the second spring ball for defensive tackle Justin Juckem and receiver Cooper Wahlo, two of the more heralded recruits from the 2009 signing day class. It’s time for those two to take a step or two forward in these 15 practices.
- A possible starting offensive line: Turner at LT, Austin Richard at LG, Jesse Hinz at C, Paul Cornick at RG and Jeff Jerve at RT.