Here come the Bison; a 2021 spring football primer

NDSU begins its delayed season on February 21st with Youngstown State

North Dakota State junior James Kaczor (26) is making the move to play linbebacker full time this season for the Bison. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO - The Super Bowl is now in the rearview mirror, but the waiting for more football will be a short one.

North Dakota State is set to take the field in two weeks time for its delayed 2020 season, playing eight Missouri Valley Football Conference games leading to the FCS Playoffs with a 16 team field. The playoffs will culminate with the FCS Championship Game, slated for May 16th in Frisco, Texas.

Here's a primer on what you need to know about the NDSU football team heading into this spring season.


NDSU is scheduled to play eight games against conference opponents, beginning on a Sunday, February 21st against Youngstown State. The game is on a Sunday because the North Dakota state wrestling tournament occupies the Fargodome from February 18-20.


The Bison schedule was shuffled after Indiana State opted out last month. Southern Illinois was added to the schedule, the Bison will head to Carbondale, the place they ended the 2019 regular season on February 27th. NDSU will play other road games at Missouri State, South Dakota and Northern Iowa.

Illinois State, North Dakota (in its debut year in the MVFC) and South Dakota State join Youngstown State as home games at the Dome. 9,500 fans will be allowed in for the season opener against Youngstown.

article6876838.ece Bison season begins How excited are you for Bison football this spring? Very, have my tickets and will be going Somewhat, will watch on TV Not at all, waiting for the fall


There was some shakeup on Matt Entz's staff since the Central Arkansas game. Offensive line coach AJ Blazek left in January for Wyoming, and now he's on his way to Vanderbilt. Running back coach Dan Larson was promoted to offensive line, while MSU Mankato offensive coordinator Joe Beschorner was hired to coach the running backs.

Beyond that, everyone else is back in their roles for this season.



Trey Lance is off to the NFL, meaning the time is now for Zeb Noland. Noland came to Fargo in January of 2019 after transferring from Iowa State. He was the backup to Lance in 2019 and was set to be in that role again in 2020. With the season moving and Lance declaring, Noland now finds himself in the catbirds seat for not only this spring, but the fall season as well.

Beyond Noland is a lot of youth. Cam Miller is a true freshman and Logan Graetz is a redshirt freshman. Transfer Quincy Patterson is ineligible for the spring season, so everything will be done to keep Noland healthy.


NDSU's most trusted position has also undergone a facelift since the fall. Adam Cofield left for the FBS and Western Kentucky, while highly touted prospect Saybein Clark has left the team to pursue other interests. That leaves the top job to junior Seth Wilson, who looked good in the UCA game in October. That was his first game action since tearing his ACL in March of 2019.

North Dakota State's Seth Wilson carries against Central Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

Kobe Johnson returns after an impressive freshman campaign that landed him on the Valley all-newcomer team. After that is a lot of youth, Jalen Bussey played in one game in 2019, scoring two touchdowns.

Dominic Gonnella and TK Marshall are true freshmen that are going to see the field this spring, along with DJ Stewart, who has moved from running back to wide receiver now back to running back. There is not a senior among the group.


Hunter Luepke is listed as a fullback, but don't be surprised seeing him line at running back. His two touchdowns in the fall game opened a lot of fans eyes to his versatility and athletic ability.


The talent back at this spot is impressive, led by all-conference preseason pick, Christian Watson. Phoenix Sproles was injured in the UCA game, but is back for the spring.

Braylon Henderson showed some flashes in the UCA game, he'll be joined by Cole Jacob and Zach Mathis to provide depth. Keep an eye on freshman Raja Nelson, who dressed in October, along with another freshman, DJ Hart, who could become targets for Noland as the season goes along.


The offensive line has some big changes this spring. Dillon Radunz opted to begin his NFL career, while center Karson Schoening decided to move on with his life and not return this spring. Three new players will work into the starting lineup, sophomore Jalen Sundell takes over at center, while senior Zach Kubas is the new right guard. Hankinson native Cody Mauch now takes over at right tackle.

North Dakota State offensive tackle Cordell Volson readies for a drill during a practice session at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum


Cordell Volson moves from right tackle to the left side after starting 16 games at that position in 2019. This is a massive position group, the heights of the projected lineup go 6-7, 6-4, 6-5, 6-4 and 6-5.


This position group looks to be as good as any on the Bison roster. Noah Gindorff and Josh Babicz return after each had stellar 2019 campaigns. Gindorff had 10 receptions, six of them for touchdowns in 2019, while Babicz has already found the endzone this season with a touchdown against UCA. He had five in 2019.

Look for redshirt freshman and Parkers Prairie native Travis Yohnke to find his way onto the field this spring.


Here's a position that has a mix of experience and a lot of youth. Spencer Waege is a junior and seems poised for a big year, he didn't play in the one game in the fall. Waege is joined by Logan McCormick, who has been biding his time to start after he played as a true freshman in 2017.

Those two are joined by sophomores Tony Pierce and Brendan Cook. Pierce's play got better as the 2019 season went along, while Cook flashed for two games before suffering a season ending injury in the fourth game of the season. Those two will each be counted on this spring.

In the middle, Costner Ching returns for his second year starting, while Lane Tucker takes over for Matt Biegler, who opted not to return. Look for youngsters Javier Derritt and Eli Mostaert to be difference makes soon for the Bison.



This group had plenty written and spoken about them before the game with UCA, and that inexperience was on display. Jackson Hankey is back for his second year starting in the middle, now flanked by James Kaczor, who has fully made the transition to that spot, along with Jasir Cox. Kaczor and Cox combined for 18 tackles in that game.

North Dakota State's Jasir Cox leaps to celebrate a sack against Central Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, at the Fargodome. David Samson/The Forum

Luke Weerts, who played in all 16 games as a freshman last year, seems to be in the mix as well for more playing time with Aaron Mercadel moving on in the fall.


This is a position that has a mix of experience and youth as well. Michael Tutsie and Josh Hayes are back to start at safety and corner respectively, joined by two players who are either young or inexperienced. Dawson Weber is the starter at free safety, he started against UCA and had two tackles and an interception. Weber is joined by sophomore Jayden Price, who also came up with an interception in the fall game.

Julian Wlodarczyk and Dom Jones are two names to remember at the safety position that also could be playing quite a bit this spring.



This is the one group where this little to no change. Jake Reinholz, who kicked the book end games in 2019, the season opener and the national title game is the starter, while Griffin Crosa got the lions share of kicks with Reinholz out. Ross Kennelly is back for his third season as the long snapper, while Garret Wegner returns for his third season as the punter. Continuity on special teams could be a huge factor as the season goes along.

Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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