Big expectations: Bison hope 6-5 Engel finds a role at receiver
FARGO-Most of the North Dakota State football players had left the Dacotah Field Bubble after practice had ended earlier this week. Sean Engel remained, doing some drills under the watchful eye of receivers coach Atif Austin that looked more like...
FARGO-Most of the North Dakota State football players had left the Dacotah Field Bubble after practice had ended earlier this week. Sean Engel remained, doing some drills under the watchful eye of receivers coach Atif Austin that looked more like something from an armed forces boot camp.
All Engel cared to say about it is "coach Austin is helping me get better."
"He expects a lot of out of me and I expect a lot out of myself," Engel said.
That about sums up his first year in the Bison program, a redshirt season aimed at putting the receiver from Chaska, Minn., in position to make a difference next fall. He's getting plenty of opportunities to prove himself in spring football practice, currently in its second week of action.
NDSU would like nothing better than to have the 6-foot-5, 211-pound Engel a regular part of the receiver rotation. It's a physical presence Bison football hasn't had excel at the position for as long as anybody can remember.
In the Division I era, perhaps Zach Vraa and Warren Holloway were the closest and both were 6-2.
"Obviously I'm 6-5," Engel said, "so a little height doesn't hurt. Just going up and getting the higher balls that some people can't reach-I have long arms so the catch radius is bigger than other receivers."
There was some talk last August of Engel playing as a true freshman, but an injury sidelined any of those thoughts. That's fine, Engel said, pointing out an extra year of getting bigger and faster can do nothing but help in the long run.
Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham figures the receiving corps so far in spring ball-and it's early-is divided between three or four that "are head and shoulders" above the others and around three more who could see the field.
"The three or four guys have all played quite a bit and all of them understand what we're doing," Messingham said. "But we have to get five, six, seven guys so we can have seven or eight that we can play on any given down."
Broken down, the returning receivers are senior RJ Urzendowski and juniors Darrius Shepherd, Dimitri Williams and Dallas Freeman. Engel is likely in the next lot of three trying to make a push.
"I'm just going out there and practicing and not worrying about starting or even getting on the field," Engel said. "I'm just trying to be the best player I can be and wherever I land, that's where I'll land."
One point of emphasis in improving: Being more physical. His goal is to go into fall camp next August at 215 pounds while maintaining his 4.61-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
"I'm just trying to win all the one-on-one matchups," Engel said. "Last year I struggled getting off the line against some of the bigger DBs and the whole winter was spent getting stronger. Now it's easier to get off the line and be more crisp with everything; running all the routes the way they should be instead of the way I think they should be."