FARGO — The offseason for the North Dakota State football team lasted all of one week. On Monday, it will be back to the army headed by strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer, and that includes leaving anything associated with the 2019 NCAA Division I FCS national title at home.
It’s a non-negotiable, unwritten rule that Kramer instituted after the first NDSU championship in 2011. The idea came from former Bison strength coach Steve Bliss, who put up the next year’s schedule on a poster board in the weight room following NDSU’s NCAA Division II titles.
“I asked him what he had done,” Kramer said. “It’s what he did to get them refocused. The weight room is about next year, not this year.”
The traditional stipulation after a game during the season is called the “24-hour rule,” meaning players get 24 hours to either celebrate a win or dwell over a loss. Then it’s on to the next game.
After the 28-20 win over James Madison on Jan. 11, the returning players got an eight-day extension. Is that enough of a break?
The fact the Bison are still a relatively young team makes it more important to start workouts earlier than later, Kramer said. An older team usually needs more recovery time, but the Bison lost only 14 seniors and will have 18 returning seniors. The current sophomore class stands to be the next big senior class with 26.
The Bison have 49 freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
“With a younger team, you want to get back at it and get the young kids developing,” Kramer said. “Younger players can be hard to keep focused. If they’re not working out, sometimes they’re not focused. Once they start doing something, it helps their focus more.”
Plus, Kramer said, it’s not as if this week is going to be all-out intense, tax-the-body-type of workouts. There will be no need to run the players hard, he said. That will start up in earnest in mid-February with early-morning runs twice a week.
That in the past has been a mental test; getting up early in the cold temperatures of Fargo and heading to the athletic complex.
“I can tell you, the mornings are nothing for these players,” Kramer said. “Around the country and you talk to other coaches, that’s a big deal. I have to keep the kids out of here. During the fall, I’ve had 30 kids in here on a Thursday morning to get things done. I’d probably have 40 if I didn’t limit it. It’s not a problem for our kids to get up early, it comes with the program.”
What also comes with the program: playing until early January. It’s happened eight times in the last nine years, certainly enough time for the Bison training staff to get a gauge on how much time off players need.
“I don’t know if it’s so much about the time off, it’s how you start back up,” Kramer said. “You don’t want to start back up running the heck out of them, they just got done doing that. But we haven’t lifted to an extent. The best way to get in shape is to not get out of shape.”
It appears the Bison will head to winter workouts in better shape injury-wise than in recent years. Kramer figures a handful of players won’t participate in order to rehabilitate ailments.
“And sometimes you always find another one you didn’t know about or thinking it was anything,” he said. “I think we’re maybe a little better in that regard this year.”
The Bison did not appear to lose anybody to injury in the JMU game. And any player that may have been dinged up over the course of the FCS playoffs did not have an injury keep him out of the title game.
That was on Jan. 11. On Jan. 20, it’s back to work.