Everybody, everything to get evaluated during Bison spring football practice
North Dakota State starts spring ball with almost everybody healthy, most positions up for grabs
FARGO — The snow banks at the outdoor practice field at the North Dakota State football practice facility were nearly as high as the surrounding fence, in some spots even higher on Wednesday. Thursday is the first day of spring practice and in a switch from years past, the Bison don’t even have to worry about the Fargodome schedule.
The benefits of having their own digs with the Nodak Insurance Football Performance Complex. Speaking of, what goes on inside during the next 15 NDSU practices may be complex in putting together the pieces.
There’s plenty to put together.
Everybody, everything is open to evaluation, said Bison head coach Matt Entz.
“No one is going to be able to hide during spring ball,” he said. “There is going to be a camera on every single movement you do out there. And the great part about it is we can evaluate everything.”
The bright lights most likely won’t be on this Bison team in this offseason like other years. For one, South Dakota State defeated NDSU in the FCS national championship game. For another, the Bison lost a lot of experience and have five new coaches on staff.
NDSU will find out if its long-touted depth will continue. The Bison have 17 defensive linemen and 14 offensive linemen who will be part of spring drills. There are 14 wide receivers on the roster. In all, they’ll have 40 players who played at least 200 snaps last season.
Four quarterbacks will practice, including Cam Miller and backup Cole Payton. Miller is the established starter, although that didn’t stop Entz from touting about competition.
“I envision Cole Payton’s role continuing to expand,” he said. “The thing I’ve asked Cole to do is push Cam as much as you can. The better our backup is, the better our starter has to be. Let’s make sure Cole is doing as much as he can.”
Both quarterbacks spent Spring Break working with individual quarterback coaches: Miller in Florida with Bison receivers Zach Mathis and Braylon Henderson and Payton in his hometown of Omaha, Neb.
“Really pleased with the seriousness that some of these guys are going into this spring with,” Entz said.
Defensively, sophomore Reggie King was moved from safety to cornerback. Three players will sit out spring ball with various injuries: fullback/long snapper Hunter Brozio, defensive end Loshiaka Roques and offensive lineman Kaden Chadwick. Fullback Logan Hofstedt will be limited to individual drills.
Four new players joined the team this semester in transfers Hunter Zenzen, a defensive end from Iowa State, cornerback Marcus Sheppard (Bowling Green), linebacker Marcus Gulley (Minnesota State Moorhead) and offensive lineman Isaac Zatechka (Missouri). In addition, linebacker Jaiden Pickett from Milwaukee graduated high school early and enrolled at NDSU.
The Bison spent the previous eight weeks with winter conditioning under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer. Spring ball represents the next phase that will be followed by a short break and summer conditioning.
Entz mentioned the new indoor facility in his opening remarks, noting the facility replaced the portable bubble over Dacotah Field that was put up late in the fall and taken down in the spring.
“I don’t know if the bubble would have survived the winter with this amount of snow we’ve gotten this winter,” Entz said.