Bison seniors say football talent cupboard isn't bare
FRISCO, Texas – At some point on Sunday, Jan. 6, the day after North Dakota State completed its seventh NCAA Division I FCS national title, Chris Klieman became the full-time head coach at Kansas State and Matt Entz likewise at NDSU. The Bison players may have leeway with their so-called 24-hour rule – one day to either celebrate a win or get over a loss -- but it’s on to next year for the coaches.
The Bison entered the sweepstakes for linebacker T.J. Holl, the standout Colgate linebacker who announced on his personal Twitter account he’s going to play somewhere else as a graduate transfer. Holl tweeted NDSU offered him. Others to give him a scholarship invite include Louisville, South Dakota State, Tulane, Citadel and Eastern Kentucky.
NDSU will lose two senior linebackers in Dan Marlette and Levi Jordheim.
There are plenty of others, 22 to be exact, who helped create the 38-24 win over Eastern Washington Saturday in their last game. That includes quarterback Easton Stick, running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn, receiver Darrius Shepherd, offensive linemen Colin Conner, Tanner Volson and Luke Bacon, defensive linemen Aaron Steidl, Stanley Jones, Greg Menard and Caleb Butler, cornerback Jalen Allison and safety Robbie Grimsley.
Certainly, Entz will have some holes to fill.
“He’s going to keep this thing going,” Jordheim said.
Said Shepherd: “We talk about next man up, that’s not just for the players, it’s for the coaches as well. He’s going to do a phenomenal job. I’m excited to see what coach Entz does with the program.”
The Bison are expected to complete their coaching staff in the coming days. For one, Indiana State assistant coach Grant Olson appears to be a top candidate for the linebackers opening. Olson is a former NDSU standout linebacker and a former Bison assistant coach. Assistant coach Tyler Roehl could be in line to be the offensive coordinator.
One of the top candidates for defensive coordinator could be Northern Iowa assistant David Braun. A.J Blazek, an assistant at Rutgers, could be in the mix as the NDSU offensive line coach. Both have prior connections to Winona State, where Entz coached from 2002-09.
Soon after Entz was named the next Bison head coach, Braun tweeted out his congratulations. The final part of the message read, "NDSU Football is in good hands!"
What will the new staff see in the line of player personnel when spring football starts?
There will be an opening at quarterback, where redshirt freshman Trey Lance, sophomores Holden Hotchkiss and Noah Sanders and junior transfer Zeb Noland from Iowa State will be competing for the starting job. The Bison return running backs Ty Brooks, Seth Wilson and Adam Cofield.
The offensive line and secondary are the most experienced returning position groups with the defensive line not far behind. Dillon Radunz, Zack Johnson and top reserve Cordell Volson return on the offensive line. Cornerbacks Marquise Bridges and Josh Hayes and safety James Hendricks will be back.
“I think for the younger guys, just keep attacking,” Shepherd said. “They know what they have to do next year in order to be great."
Jordheim compared it to what happened after the Bison won the 2017 national title against James Madison. There were holes to fill with that team, also.
“That was us last year – the same situation with a new group of guys,” he said. “And North Dakota State recruits excellent people, players and I think that’s part of the formula for success here.”
The Bison signed 25 players to letters of intent in the early signing period in December. They’re expected to sign a few more on the February signing day.
“There’s a great junior class full of leaders that led us this year,” Stick said. “And it’s going to be fun and exciting watching them and seeing them grow and step up. It’s just been an honor to play with those guys.”