North Dakota State fans will need to get in their seats early Saturday as the Bison will play their final home game of the regular season and as is tradition, the senior class will be honored individually before the game. This is an impressive class, not only in size, 24, but also in what they had to deal with. Nearly every member of this class dealt with an injury or a personal tragedy during their time in Fargo. It says a lot about this group about how they’ve had to adapt in their time in college. Each year I write about the senior members of this class, you can look back at the past years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017).
Eric Bachmeier – Bachmeier came to NDSU off an outstanding prep career at Kindred High School. He was moved to the defensive backfield upon arriving in Fargo and saw sporadic time at safety, he played eight games last season in his best season on the field. Bachmeier was moved to wide receiver before this season began, but broke his hand during fall camp and has yet to see any game action. Bachmeier is a good team guy, who always has a smile on his face.
Bryce Bennot – Bennot is the player that every college program loves to have. A guy that shows up everyday and goes to work knowing what his job is, knowing he likely won’t see the field. Bennot has played in four games in his career, but when you ask the coaching staff about his value on the scout team, you’ll understand why guys like this are invaluable to the Bison football roster.
Ross Effertz – The Mandan native was ready to be done with football after his high school playing days. He decided to walk-on to the Bison football team and four and a half years later, Effertz is still there. He’s played in just two games during his career, but if you want to know the true definition of “program guy” read his and Bachmeier’s story, told by Kolpack.
Jaylaan Wimbush – What a ride it’s been for the Florida native. Wimbush has switched positions twice, starting as a safety when he first hit the field in 2015, then moved to cornerback and a starter for two years, then moved back to safety for his senior year. Wimbush made his first highlight play in the 2016 season opener, breaking up a pass in overtime against Charleston Southern to secure NDSU’s win. He has steadily gotten better during his time on the field and has always been a great special teams player. Will be a difficult player to replace.
Blake Williams – Williams was a first, a first recruit out of the state of Michigan that succeeded. He had to bide his time, with players like Nate Tanguay and Brian Schaetz in front of him, but once he started to see regular reps, Williams delivered. I thought his first impact game came last year at Eastern Washington where he dominated the offensive line. Williams and Aaron Steidl have become a force up the middle for the Bison defense and an on a personal note, Williams is one of the best interviews on the team.
Caleb Butler – Butler is one of the best success stories of this entire class. A walk-on from Blaine, who was a great wrestler in high school, who was thrown into the mix in October 2015 at Indiana State when Greg Menard got hurt. Butler made an instant impact, getting into the Sycamore backfield and the rest is history. He’s become a disruptor on the defensive line, part of a deep rotation of defensive ends. Butler isn’t the most talkative guy in the world, but lets his playing speak for itself, another great story from the walk-on program.
Stanley Jones – A tremendous player out of Bismarck High School, he was the only guy to be able to tackle James Johannesson in the 2013 title game, Jones has quietly built himself into a great football player. Jones made his first impact in the 2016 season finale at South Dakota, where he had three tackles for loss. He started four games last year and was a good player in Greg Menard’s absence. Jones has become another reliable player in the Bison defensive end group.
Desmond Cain – Cain came to Fargo two years ago as a transfer from Illinois. He was a standout player as a true freshman for the Illini, and some fans thought that talent would make a big splash in Fargo. It hasn’t played out that way for the Bison, Cain had just five receptions last year, he has seven this season. Cain has made some impact plays in 2018, including long receptions against Delaware and Youngstown State. Cain has yet to reach the endzone but perhaps that will come during the postseason.
Dallas Freeman – Freeman has stepped in his senior season to become a reliable target for Easton Stick. Freeman has the second most receptions on the team this season with 14, he scored his first touchdown of the year last week against Missouri State. Freeman has shown the ability to get open and make plays with his legs, which has been needed this season. His dependability will be counted on down the stretch with defenses looking to stop Darrius Shepherd.
Nate Jenson – The Waupaca, Wisconsin connection may end after this Bison football season, which has turned out a couple of impressive players. Brock Jenson will go down as one of the best and Nate has been pretty good the last years. You can’t miss him on the field, standing at 6’6 and has become a trusted target for Stick. Jenson made a big splash last year at Eastern Washington, making a couple of fantastic catches in the road win. He scored a big touchdown against Youngstown State and found the endzone last week at Missouri State. A huge target that’s just tough to bring down, he’s turned into a very good player.
Tanner Volson – What a road it’s been for the Balfour, North Dakota native. Volson came to NDSU out of 9-man football and it took some time for him to adjust to the Division 1 game. When it clicked though, Volson was ready. He started the first couple of games at center in 2016 after Austin Kuhnert was suspended and did a solid job. He took over the center job last season and proceeded to earn conference offensive lineman of the week twice over. Volson hasn’t missed a start since entering the lineup and is tough as they come. When you look at the best 9-man players to come to play at NDSU, Tanner Volson will be in the discussion.
Jalen Allison – Allison joins a list of impressive shutdown corners at NDSU, along with the likes of Marcus Williams and CJ Smith. Allison made his first impact in the 2015 playoffs with a pick six in the rout of Montana. He’s had to defend some of the best wide receivers in the nation, he went toe-to-toe with Jake Wieneke and did a fabulous job in 2016 and 2017. Allison was hurt in the semifinals last year and missed the title game against JMU, but has had a solid senior season that included a monster pick against the Jacks. He’s expected to return to the lineup Saturday after missing the last two games.
Colin Conner – Conner did not have an easy job, stepping in to the shoes once filled by an All-American at left tackle. But Conner did it and did it well, starting 29 straight games on the blind side of Easton Stick, despite being in near constant pain last season. He had surgery on both of hips in the offseason and then was moved inside to left guard, where Conner has flourished. He’s been another rock on the Bison offensive line.
Luke Bacon – Another 9-man success story, Bacon dealt with unspeakable tragedy shortly after arriving on campus when his sister passed away in a motorcycle accident. Bacon stayed and persevered, and after biding his time has become the ultimate utility man of the NDSU offensive line. Bacon has played both tackle and guard during his time in Fargo, he’s been lobbying to play center, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Bacon has started at right guard this season and has done a solid job there.
Cam Pedersen – Pedersen may go down as the best kicker in Bison history. He was thrust into the lineup in 2015 after the Montana loss and did a solid job, including three field goals in the national title game. Pedersen delivered on the biggest of stages, kicking a game winning 37 yard field goal with no time left to beat Iowa. He followed it up with another game winner in overtime on the road at Youngstown State last season. Pedersen’s accuracy sometimes comes into question, but Chris Klieman trusts him and if NDSU needs a big kick to be made, Pedersen can be counted on.
Levi Jordheim – In the run of walk-on successes in Division 1, it’s hard to beat Jordheim. Jordheim came to Fargo from Dickinson and had to learn a difficult Bison defense. His time to shine came last season, where he started seven games and was an impact guy, including setting a school record with three fumble recoveries against Northern Iowa. Jordheim got hurt late last year and he missed five games, returning for the title game. He’s been rock solid as a team captain in 2018, exactly what you expect out of him.
Dan Marlette – One of Jordheim’s best friends, Marlette and Jordheim have been roommates since arriving in Fargo in 2014. He too had to wait his time and that came last year when Nick DeLuca went down. Marlette showed his talents at Eastern Washington, with an impressive game against the Eagles and it seemed like it was a going to be a breakout year. Marlette though tore his ACL in the Valley opener against Missouri State and lost the season. He’s come back as a leader in the linebacker room and has been terrific this year, including scoring his first career touchdown against Western Illinois.
Dimitri Williams – It appears Williams is going to go down this road again next year, as he’s played three games and will redshirt in 2018. Williams played a true freshman in 2015 and developed into a great special teams player during the postseason last year. We’ll save more on Dimitri for next year.
Aaron Steidl – One of my favorite people in this class, Steidl is a great story. A walk-on turned captain, who was thrust right into the mix in Missoula next to Nate Tanguay. Steidl made a huge play against UND in 2015 that I thought the dome roof might blow off. He’s a natural leader and you can see it before games when he chats with nearly every player before a game. His stats will not blow you away, but he’s become a force on the Bison defensive line. A gritty player that will be missed when his team is done at NDSU.
Lance Dunn – Dunn came on the scene after a great spring game in early 2015 and hasn’t left. He became a force in the Bison backfield in 2016 with big games at Northern Iowa and South Dakota and really took a major leap forward last season. Dunn was playing at a MVP level in 2017, on pace to break Jeff Bentrim’s school record for touchdowns until he tore his labrum midway thru the year. Dunn came back for the title game and in the 4th quarter, he was the guy NDSU was counting on to move the ball. He’s been great in 2018 and NDSU’s last true healthy running back after injuries to Bruce Anderson and Ty Brooks. I expect a loud cheer for number ten on Saturday.
Robbie Grimsley – Grimsley came to Fargo in August of 2015 and hasn’t left the lineup since. Saturday will mark Grimsley’s 55th consecutive game, a remarkable record, only outdone by two other Bison greats, Christian Dudzik and Kyle Emanuel. Grimsley didn’t wait long to be an impact player at safety, with two interceptions as a freshman. He added four more in 2016, he had his first pick six last year and has become a leader on the Bison defense. He was Mr. Football in Minnesota in his senior season and that nickname certainly seems fitting for what he’s done in Fargo.
Darrius Shepherd – Shepherd will go down as one of the great receivers in Bison history, and it will be thanks to his unreal senior season. Shepherd has been the “go-to-guy” for Easton Stick since Stick took over under center, but none more apparent this season. Shepherd had been bothered by injuries since his freshman year, including the remarkable catch he had against UNI in 2015. This year though, Shepherd has stayed on the field and been a difference maker. He’s still getting open even though defenses know Stick is looking for him. His ability to go over the middle and make a tough catch will make him a difficult player to replace.
Greg Menard – Menard decided to return for the 2018 season after he lost last year to an ACL tear in fall camp. Menard played as a true freshman in 2014 and you could see the early glimpses of what could be a devastating player. Menard got to learn from Kyle Emanuel and he took off in 2015, he racked up three sacks against South Dakota State and had a fantastic performance in the title game against Jacksonville State. He was even better in 2016, raising his play to All-American level. He’s been focused on the NDSU sack record in 2018 and we’ve seen a determined Menard in the second half of the season. He has 37 sacks, four shy of tying the school record, set by the guy he looked up to during his freshman year, Emanuel.
Bruce Anderson – It didn’t take long for the fans to embrace the Florida kid and he gave them every reason to cheer. Anderson’s 2015 playoff performance alone would give him a place in Bison history, with two kickoff return touchdowns, but then his ability as a running back has been jaw dropping. He had a difficult sophomore season with injury, but last season, became the guy for NDSU. His late season surge was unreal, capped off by his record setting game against Sam Houston State in the semifinals. He’s had a good senior season, another ankle injury has slowed him down, but he appears to be getting healthy and ready for another postseason run.
Easton Stick – Stick will go down as the greatest quarterback in Bison history. He already owns the touchdown passes record and may get the all-time wins record in FCS history if NDSU wins the title. Stick showed his mettle in 2015, coming in for an injured Carson Wentz and posting an 8-0 record in helping the Bison win the title that year. Stick took over in 2016 and guided NDSU to a 12-2 mark, but the title streak ended that season. You could see Stick developing as a quarterback and he was really good last season. He had a bad game at SDSU, but since then, he’s thrown three interceptions over the last sixteen games. His value as a runner can’t be underestimated as he’s routinely faked out guys and his speed is fantastic. Stick’s durability is also a quality that’s been overlooked as he’s never missed a game. He has a chance for a third title ring as a starting quarterback and will be remembered fondly by Bison fans.
There they are. 24 seniors. One of the best classes to walk thru the doors at the Fargodome.