The expected outcome at the end of spring practice
Credit where credit is due, the North Dakota State football team and the marketing department got this one right.
The annual Green and Gold Spring game was called a scrimmage, which is what the game has become in the last couple years.
It is now more of a glorified practice, ending the spring portion of the schedule. It was the first performance from new head coach Matt Entz and a “new” look offense. The quotations around new are because while the style won’t undergo any major changes, there are new faces that will have to replace over 70% of the rushing and receiving yards that graduated last year.
And one of the reasons that the change from an actual game to a glorified practice comes from player safety. Staying healthy is key in the spring, and the Bison lost a top running back in Seth Wilson to an ACL injury for next year already this spring.
So turning the final Friday night of spring ball into more of a night of pomp and circumstance is reasonable. Friday night was a chance to revel in the new championship rings and for fans to have fun.
However, the fans will still have questions following Friday’s performance. First and foremost, who will be Easton Stick’s successor?
Replacing the winningest quarterback in FCS history, a quarterback on his way to learn under Philip Rivers with the Los Angeles Chargers, is Entz’s biggest task. His predecessor Chris Klieman had to do the same thing with Brock Jensen, but that was a rather straight forward pick in Carson Wentz.
Ending spring practice, it seems like four quarterbacks are within a shout of take the starting spot. Sophomores Holden Hotchkiss and Noah Sanders were set to battle with redshirt freshman Trey Lance as soon as the plane lifted off from Frisco in January. Junior transfer Zeb Noland arrived in the winter to bring some upperclassman and Big 12 experience into the race.
Noland played in the only tackle portion of the scrimmage and was rather sharp. It is possible that there is nothing to read into that.
It would make sense for Entz to play some tactical games, much like Klieman did when it came to disclosing injuries. Imagine being Butler defensive coordinator Joe Cheshire in August. It will be hard enough to find viable game tape of Noland or Lance, but now try to add in preparation for Hotchkiss and Sanders.
Each can bring something different, so even having a two-horse race come the end of August would be a pain for opposing teams.
A non-conference slate that includes Butler, North Dakota, Delaware and UC Irving may provide a start for each of them. That is unlikely, but it has the same odds of a starter being named any time soon.
And it is also a possibility that the Herd rolls with quarterbacks splitting reps through the first four games. It would be a drastic change of pace for the program, but seeing as Missouri Valley foes know each other so well, it could be an ace up the Bison’s sleeve.
There is still four months until the Bison take the field in Minneapolis against the Bulldogs, so there is plenty of time for change.
But after 15 spring practices, there is no more clarity on who will be under center for the Bison in the fall.