The Bison had just lost 24 players from 2013 who played their last year of eligibility as new head coach Chris Klieman stepped to the microphone on signing day on the first Wednesday of February in 2014. Just a little more than a month earlier, the stuff hit the fan in recruiting when there was an apparent inner-office tussle on verbal commitments between Klieman and departing head coach Craig Bohl. The Bison lost just one verbal to Wyoming in cornerback Ryon’e Winters, who ended up not lasting long in Laramie anyway.
“We took nothing for granted,” Klieman said on signing day. “Everybody knows in this profession a verbal commitment means something, but not everything. Even if we felt solid about somebody, we re-recruited them.”
The Bison re-recruited and signed 29 players that day, 21 to scholarship and eight walkons (that includes transfer running back King Frazier who has graduated). There were some stars in the class that didn’t take long to make themselves known like defensive end Greg Menard, quarterback Easton Stick, wide receivers RJ Urzendowski and Darrius Shepherd and cornerback Jalen Allison. But if the class was ever going to make a stamp on the program, it would be how the other players developed as the years went on. The 2014 class is now in its fourth year on campus and that day appears to have arrived. The “other guys” are no longer other guys.
NDSU is 2-0 on the young season and is getting contributions from these other members of the ’14 class: tight end Nate Jenson, linebackers Levi Jordheim and Dan Marlette, defensive end Stanley Jones, offensive linemen Tanner Volson, Colin Conner and Luke Bacon, running back Lance Dunn and defensive linemen Caleb Butler, Aaron Steidl and Blake Williams. My story in the newspaper today on Williams can be found here. In college football, you need maturity — meaning good retention in recruiting classes that allows you to grow both physically and mentally as a football team. If 2017 is going to be a success, the 2014 boys need to continue to produce. Against Eastern Washington, 14 of those guys were in a regular rotation of some sort.