FARGO — North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz was in Lakeland, Fla., early Wednesday afternoon. He wasn’t there for a winter vacation from the cold weather in North Dakota.
Then again, recruiting in late January isn’t nearly the tension storm that it used to be thanks to December’s early-signing period. If Entz would have gotten the Bison job two years ago at about the same time, things would have been vastly different in advance of the traditional national signing day of the first Wednesday in February.
Entz was named the NDSU head coach in December, but did not take over full time until after the Jan. 5 NCAA Division I FCS national title win over Eastern Washington.
“If we were starting from scratch, it would have been a lot more stressful than it is now,” Entz said. “We probably would not be having such a broad recruiting base if we had not signed those ... kids.”
NDSU signed 25 players to either a scholarship or preferred walkon status in the December early period that were dominated by Upper Midwest players. Broken down, eight are from Minnesota, four each are from Wisconsin and Illinois, three from North Dakota and two from Iowa.
This time around, it appears geography is not an issue. As was the case with the Chris Klieman era, Florida is still a target. That’s the recruiting area for new wide receivers coach Noah Pauley, with Entz lending a hand this week.
Defensive back Cameron Smith from St. Petersburg, Fla., tweeted on Wednesday he received an NDSU offer. He tweeted last spring he had offers from Colorado State, Southern Mississippi and Cincinnati, although it’s not certain if those scholarships are still on the table.
Entz said there are recruits out there who are either overlooked or were told to not sign in December and wait for the February date.
“And then nothing happens,” Entz said. “It’s a unique deal when you think about a number of kids are told to not sign early because there will be more opportunities and then all of a sudden some of those opportunities dry up. Those are some of the kids we’re looking at right now. A Group of Five school offers and things have changed.”
Group of Five schools are those from the likes of the Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference or Conference USA.
It appears the Bison are targeting a handful of players for the traditional signing day on Feb. 6. With just a few scholarships available, Entz said the Bison are better able to target specific needs. One high school player in Georgia, running back Cam Moore from Acworth, tweeted about an in-home visit from Bison assistants Buddha Williams and Tyler Roehl.
Williams recruited Georgia last year “more or less to get a feel for it,” Entz said.
The Bison also appear to be targeting a high school player from Plano, Texas, taking advantage of name recognition thanks to seven appearances in the last eight years in the FCS national title game in nearby Frisco. Cornerback Braylon Henderson from Plano East High School tweeted a photo of himself with Bison assistant Randy Hedberg.
“Our name carries a lot of weight in that north Dallas area,” Entz said.
There’s more than just this recruiting class, too. Bison coaches are busy checking on juniors, either watching them work out or watching them in another sport, like basketball.
“With the new signing date, I would say we’re probably six months ahead of where we were three years ago,” Entz said.