The first series in the Bison Media Zone's offseason coverage focuses on five breakthrough players for the 2021 season.
The offense gets its time in the sun with the next player that's featured, wide receiver Raja Nelson. Nelson was a highly touted recruit out of the Twin Cities and Lakeville North High School. Nelson was a huge piece of the Panthers winning a first state title in 2018. He was named the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in 2019, becoming the second Bison commit to win the award, joining Robbie Grimsley out of Hutchinson in 2014.
Nelson's stature may not be imposing at 5-9, 187 pounds, but his hands and speed are something to behold. Nelson was another player that was pushed onto the field this spring because of injury. NDSU was down two of its top receivers in the spring with Phoenix Sproles and Zach Mathis both out, Nelson saw more reps at different positions as the season went along.
He finished with four receptions for 30 yards, he also became one of the main kick returners on the team as the spring went along. Numerous coaches on the Bison staff believe he has the potential to be a very talented offensive player for the Bison. Nelson was a sought after recruit, who held offers from Army and North Dakota besides NDSU.
The wide receiver position has just one senior among the group in Sproles. Jake Lippe and Braylon Henderson each saw increased reps during the spring and along with redshirt freshman DJ Hart, they will be asked to shoulder a larger load in the fall.
Depending on Nelson's ability to continue to learn the playbook and make plays, he could be a prime candidate to be a major breakthrough player for NDSU this fall.