Beat-up Bison start spring football practice without Stick, emphasis on depth
FARGO-You hear about the aches and pains of the North Dakota State football players during the Division I FCS playoff run, but details are difficult to come by. Mostly, it's because of the nature of the sport: Players tend to shrug off injuries.T...
FARGO-You hear about the aches and pains of the North Dakota State football players during the Division I FCS playoff run, but details are difficult to come by. Mostly, it's because of the nature of the sport: Players tend to shrug off injuries.
The true nature of the ailments was revealed on Monday, March 19, when head coach Chris Klieman gave his state of address of spring football practice, which starts Wednesday. At least 18 players will either sit out the workouts entirely or be limited in what they can do.
Several played in the 17-13 victory over James Madison in Frisco, Texas.
"We'll do the best we can with the numbers that we have," Klieman said. "It's a pretty good chunk of guys. We'll have to be creative in how we practice and we've always done a good job with that."
The injured list includes starting quarterback Easton Stick, who will miss at least the next two weeks, with what Klieman calls elbow tightness. An MRI came up negative, Klieman said.
"It's progressing well," he said. "But we need to see what these other young quarterbacks can do anyway."
That would be redshirt freshmen Holden Hotchkiss and Noah Sanders, who will compete for the backup spot. It's a battle that will go well into fall camp, Klieman said.
Eight players with starting experience will be sidelined from full practice: Defensive end Greg Menard, offensive tackles Collin Conner and Dillon Radunz, defensive tackle Aaron Steidl, tight end Nate Jenson, linebacker Dan Marlette, running back Lance Dunn and cornerback Jalen Allison. Key reserve running back Ty Brooks. who saw the field a lot before injuring his shoulder in the FCS semifinals, will also miss spring ball.
Allison, too, was injured in the semifinal win over Sam Houston State (Texas), but it was a knee injury that caused him to miss the title game. It turns out his knee is fine now, Klieman said, but Allison had surgery to repair a shoulder injury that he hurt late in the regular season.
Backup defensive tackle Cole Karcz was hurt early in August, but played the entire season with a shoulder injury, Klieman said. The list doesn't include departed seniors who have had some medical work done to them since the end of the season.
"Some guys were really battling and fighting for their brother next to them to be able to play in the semifinal and championship game," he said. "Football is 365 days a year now and the bottom line is we have to get the guys to Saturdays in the fall."
Klieman said it's a culmination of starting practice on July 30 the last three years, since NDSU played in the ESPN FCS Kickoff in two of those years.
"And then going through the gauntlet of what the Valley is," he said, of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. "And then to playoff football and get done playing on Jan. 6. That's a lot of practicing and a lot of wear and tear on bodies. Sometimes they break down."
Running back Demaris Purifoy is also recovering from an injury and will miss spring drills, but the position is so deep that Klieman is looking for other roles for the backs. Seniors Bruce Anderson and Dunn are the unquestioned starters.
Sophomore Seth Wilson came on late in the season, after sophomore Adam Cofield went down. Cofield is back this spring. In all, that's six running backs that will be returning.
"That's awesome. Last year I wish we had six," Klieman said.
He said the hope is to work in packages to get multiple backs on the field, whether it's two-back or three-back sets or flex one of them out in a receiver spot.
"We'll try to see what more those guys can handle mentally," Klieman said.
NDSU is switching the format of its annual Spring Game to more of a one-hour controlled scrimmage with an emphasis on fan activities like a tailgate expo and youth day. It's set for Friday night, April 20.
"There are a lot of guys on the two-deep who haven't played much football," Klieman said. "We have to make sure to work with those guys and make sure they're up to speed."