Looking ahead; a peek into the future for the 2022 Bison football team
NDSU will be bolstered by the return of several starters using extra year
A little more than a week has gone by since North Dakota State was celebrating a ninth Division I championship in Frisco, Texas.
But as soon as the victory over Montana State was over, fans were starting to look ahead to the 2022 season.
The Bison will get a boost of players back on offense and defense that are using an extra year of eligibility because of Covid that will make NDSU a lock to be the favorites to win another title in 2022.
QUARTERBACK - Cam Miller won seven of his final eight games and now has become a Bison quarterback legend, winning a national title much like Jensen, Wentz, Stick and Lance did. Miller was decisive and accurate when he came into the lineup and you could see how comfortable he became with the offense. He's the starter heading into 2022, and with a package now developed for Quincy Patterson, he's a threat at both quarterback and running back. But don't forget about phenom Cole Payton, who played three games, including a snap in the national championship game. Payton scored two touchdowns in his two games and his talent may be too much to keep on the bench.
OFFENSIVE LINE - The NDSU offensive line will need to replace three year starter Cordell Volson, look to Ada product Mason Miller to be first up at right tackle, Miller has already started a playoff game, he did that last spring. The Bison found depth up front in Brandon Westberg, who started four games at center for an injured Jalen Sundell. Look for youngster Grey Zabel, who also started games during the spring season, but was injured at the end of that year to take a step forward next fall.
RUNNING BACK - Running back is a position where every player returns. TaMerik Williams emerged as the go-to back, while Kobe Johnson showed he can still break huge plays as he did in the national championship game. Jalen Bussey was injured during the playoffs, but should be be healthy for the season, as will be Dom Gonnella, who was the top back for the first four games of the year, prior to him getting hurt.
And we cannot forget all world player Hunter Luepke. Luepke had a stretch with five straight touchdowns during the postseason and with his versatility, Luepke will be in contention for All-American honors potentially at several different positions.
WIDE RECEIVER - There's no replacing All-American Christian Watson, who aims to be the first Bison wide receiver drafted into the NFL since the late Stacy Robinson was in 1985. The Bison do have Phoenix Sproles returning for a fifth year of eligibility, which will add experience to a group that lacks it. Zach Mathis had moments later in the year to give you optimisim as a Bison fan, but his inability to stay healthy has been a hinderance. Youngsters Braylon Henderson, Raja Nelson and DJ Hart will need to take the next step and don't be surprised by the emergence of a redshirt freshmen or even a true freshmen arriving on campus this summer to make an impact next year.
TIGHT END - NDSU will say so long to Josh Babicz after five years, but gets a major boost with Noah Gindorff returning for a sixth season of eligbility. Gindorff was poised for the NFL experience, but the leg injury he suffered against Southern Illinois changed that. Gindorff's monster frame and his 11 career touchdowns will help a group that lacks in experience. Joe Stoffel played more as the year went along, look for Travis Yohnke and incoming transfer Jacob Streit to help with depth.
DEFENSIVE LINE - NDSU will need to replace its entire starting defensive line. But there's hope there with Eli and Will Mostaert twin returning after a really solid 2021. Shanley product Jake Kava had a really solid season while youngster Loshiaka Roques also is in the mix to play more on the Bison dfenisve line. Not to be forgotten is standout defensive end Spencer Waege, who tore his ACL in September against Towson. Waege will use a sixth season of eligibility to return and add a monster presence up front.
#NDSUSeasonOpenerCountdown: #31: He stepped into the starting lineup this spring and promptly led the team in tackles in the NDSU postseason opener against Eastern Washington. A player who figures to see the field even more this spring at linebacker. Number 31, Cole Wisniewski. pic.twitter.com/24XTpHrYWB— Dom Izzo (@DomIzzoWDAY) August 4, 2021
LINEBACKER - The Bison will miss Jackson Hankey a three year starter at that spot, but have Jasir Cox and James Kaczor returning, each using an extra year since both players played as true freshmen. Look for Cole Wisniewski to have an even larger role. Wisniewski had a tremendous year and will be counted on for even more snaps this coming season. Luke Weerts was injured early in the season and missed all of conference play, also is set to return for 4th year in the program. Oscar Benson and Logan Kopp both played this year and will see more of the field in 2022.
DEFENSIVE BACKS - The defensive backs all return, which includes Michael Tutsie and Dawson Weber, two players who will be using a sixth season of eligibility. Each have proven to be near the top of the FCS at the safety positions. Cornerback, which was considered a question mark heading into the season, now has tremendous experience. Jayden Price started all 15 games, while redshirt freshman Courtney Eubanks emerged as a shutdown corner on the outside. Destin Talbert, who had the highlight interception against James Madison, will return for a fifth year of eligibility, while look for rising youngster Marques Sigle to continue to earn more reps.
SPECIAL TEAMS - NDSU will need to find a kicker to replace super solid Jake Reinholz. Griffin Crosa filled in in 2019 for an injured Reinholz, but expect the kicking competition to be open. The Bison are brining in a highly touted kicker in this recruiting class in Drew Klein from Wisconsin.
There's a lot returning. And for the rest of the FCS all they can do is just shake their collective heads because NDSU looks loaded for 2022.