A different look for Bison football is guaranteed
Fans may be surprised when they see the Bison football team take the field
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 15:08
The topic is all over Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding area. Will the NDSU football team repeat as FCS national champions?
Heck, people have been discussing this since the drive back from Frisco, Texas. It is always entertaining to hear the different reasons or explanations people give on why the repeat is going to happen. I personally love when alumni boast about how they have the “inside scoop” on the team and what is going on in the offseason.
The one reason I hear the most though, is that this year’s team is the exact same as last years. Well sure, they have starter upon starter coming back. I can, however, assure these people that the team they see take the field against Robert Morris will in fact be much different than the team they saw hold up that national championship trophy. I usually am too lazy to argue this point, but I have a whole column to do and so I think I’ll give it a shot.
First off, the most important unit for a football team that is going to pound the run game as NDSU does is the offensive line. It just so happens that this group for the Bison is under a watchful eye during fall camp.
Gone are veteran linemen Austin Richard and Paul Cornick. The replacements are promising but the difference is staggering. Head coach Craig Bohl announced that redshirt freshman Joe Haeg has gotten the nod at right tackle to replace the All-American Cornick.
The battle for left guard includes Josh Colville, who is listed as 35 pounds lighter than Richard was last year. The Bison run game was in sync all of last year but fans should expect early struggles until the offensive line gels together.
If the run game struggles, the Bison have the luxury of having Brock Jensen in the pocket. Jensen is as accurate as they come, but gone are two of his favorite targets. Ryan Smith looks to take over Warren Holloway’s spot as the number-one targeted receiver. One small difference, and I mean small, is the seven-inch decrease in height. The Bison need to find a down field target because you won’t see Smith running any fades. Replacing Matt Veldman, who is currently on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster, is a talented Garrett Bruhn, but nerve damage in his shoulder is a concern for the coaching staff. If that shoulder doesn’t hold up, depth at that position will be a main concern.
Offensive struggles may be troubling so it is a good thing the Bison defense could be the best in the FCS. But even the defensive squad has some differences that were not to be expected.
For one, last year’s backup quarterback Esley Thorton may now be blitzing the opposing team’s quarterback. That’s right, Thorton has made the move to linebacker. This comes after the unexpected dismissal of senior Brandon Jemison. The linebacker corps may be just as thin as the offensive line now. If Travis Beck, Grant Olson and Carlton Littlejohn remain healthy, there should not be any issues but injuries are very prominent in NDSU’s hardnosed defense.
If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of buts in this column. Well, there are a lot of buts on the NDSU football team. Do they have the talent to repeat? No doubt about it. I never argued that once. The only thing I question is this: last year’s team made their run with experience, health and depth. Can the 2012 Bison do the same?