The average outsider would look at the 2013 NDSU football roster and say this team will need to rebuild next season. The Bison had 24 seniors on a team that won their third straight national championship. Losing that big of a senior class usually means a drop off in success. I say nay. I say, see you next year, Frisco.
Of the 24 seniors, a handful of them were backups. Of course, you lose the likes of Brock Jensen, Billy Turner, Grant Olson, Marcus Williams and Ryan Smith. Yeah, that hurts. But what some don’t realize, the Bison have 14 other starters returning.
On the defensive side of the ball, you have eight players with starting experience, including the three linebackers after Olson’s injury and three of the four defensive backs. Offensively, three of the linemen return, half the running back tandem in John Crockett, leading receiver Zach Vraa and prized backup quarterback Carson Wentz.
Adam Keller and Ben LeCompte return as well for kicking and punting duties.
With these returning starters, the Bison should be the top contender for the national title. And I’ll tell you why.
The FCS doesn’t play defense. Countless teams bring highflying offenses that make them sexy picks to make deep playoff runs. Eastern Illinois and Eastern Washington both had prolific offenses this year. Their problem: they couldn’t stop a nosebleed if they tried in the fourth quarter. If you want a long and successful playoff run, you can’t have a defense softer than baby poop.
The Bison defense will be the best in the nation again next year. The linebackers proved they can play without Olson and Jordan Champion didn’t allow a drop off when he filled in for an injured Williams. The defensive line will have a fresh look, led by the team’s top pass rusher in Kyle Emanuel. The interior line will be young, but redshirts Nate Tanguay and Nick Jacobsen are both highly touted recruits.
Offensively, the key is obviously Wentz. He’s said to be a better passer than Jensen. Wentz is a 6-foot, 5-inch mobile guy. If he plays to his high potential, the Bison offense will be powerful. What isn’t known is how Wentz handles the big-time moments. Jensen made his name for his clutch performances, something that we don’t know yet if Wentz has.
NDSU always finds players for a dominating offensive line to create running lanes. Crockett is coming off two 1,000-yard seasons. Nebraska transfer King Frazier has many fans excited and he could be the next back in the 1-2 punch.
The Bison shouldn’t have a problem putting up points. And you won’t see teams putting up 30 against the Bison’s defense next year. That is why NDSU has a great chance to make it to Frisco once again.
Eastern Washington is probably the biggest threat. But again, they had better improve that soft defense if they want to contend. Conference foe Northern Iowa will also give NDSU trouble next year for the conference championship.
The key for the Bison is to come out on top in close games, something this season’s 24 seniors had a knack of doing. If NDSU secures a No. 1 or 2 seed next year with home field advantage, look out.
Next season’s team will feature 16 seniors. Those 16 seniors have played plenty of minutes. If you look at the stat sheet against Towson, the leading rusher and receiver were juniors. The top three tacklers were juniors and the blocked field goal and return were both junior players.
Next year, mark my words, these players will have a chance to do it again in Frisco.