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After one year of just Goeser, Bison returning to two defensive line coaches

Offseason coaching changes at NDSU helped decision to go back to the old way

North Dakota State defensive line coach Nick Goeser watches athletes run a pattern during practice Thursday, March 23, 2023, in the Nodak Insurance Football Performance Complex, Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

FARGO — The candidates to play defensive end and defensive tackle at North Dakota State this spring — and ultimately next fall — are numerous. The Bison have 17 players on the line with some able to play both inside and outside.

At least they have two coaches to handle it.

In a switch from last year — call it a one-year experiment, if you will — NDSU’s veteran assistant coach Nick Goeser will return to coaching one unit in the defensive ends with the hiring of defensive tackles assistant Jeff Phelps, who will handle the inside guys.

“I just felt like when we played our best football, particularly on defense, we had two defensive line coaches,” said head coach Matt Entz. “Nick did an unbelievable job, he’s been unbelievably steady for this program.”

The switch perhaps started when defensive coordinator David Braun, who did not look after one particular position group, left for the same position with Northwestern. Also leaving was assistant coach Kody Morgan, who left for Kent State (Ohio) in the Mid-American Conference.


Morgan coached the safeties. Enter new defensive coordinator Jason Petrino, whose individual expertise is with the safeties.

That freed up the defensive line to go back to its old two-coach format.

“Coach Petrino feels a little bit more that he wants hands-on with the safeties,” Goeser said. “We felt like when we’ve been at our best, we’ve had two D-line coaches so we went back to that model.”

Asked if coaching the entire defensive line got to be a lot to handle, Goeser didn’t deny that, but also with the caveat that there were positives of having one voice for the entire line.

“When you’re meeting together and you’re in the same setting,” he said, “I think everyone can be on the same page a little bit better.”

It also made it an easier adjustment for former players like defensive end Spencer Waege, who at times also played inside at tackle or nose guard.

“But when we truly split,” Goeser said of two coaches, “I think it allows us to be really detailed in what we’re looking at, what we’re doing, what we’re coaching and I think that allows us to maximize our potential.”

The move means Goeser will assume more of a role in special teams, like he did in the past. Specifically, he’ll handle the punt unit.


As for the defensive ends, NDSU returns several veterans in seniors Jake Kava, Tony Pierce and Dylan Hendricks, junior Loshiaka Roques and sophomore Kole Menz. Junior Hunter Zenzen, a transfer from Iowa State, is expected to figure into plans. Redshirt freshman Kelton McCaslin got some playing time last season as a true freshman.

That’s a lot of players for two spots. What’s going to separate anybody this spring?

“Oh boy that’s a great question,” Goeser said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things. You have to have playmaking ability, you have to play with unbelievable effort, you have to understand the game and you have to make plays for us and understand our defense.”

The Bison were tested in their depth last year with injuries. Kava played five games before getting hurt. Defensive tackle Eli Mostaert went down in the third game, necessitating Will Mostaert go inside full-time. It took Hendricks several games before he was healthy enough, finally, to see the field.

“For us to have as many guys as we do, I think it’s going to push each other,” Goeser said.

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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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