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New NCAA four-game eligibility rule has altered the way Bison practice

FARGO -- Fans watching the final two quarters of North Dakota State's win over North Alabama last Saturday saw a handful of true freshmen make their college debut for the Bison. In all, eight true freshmen have seen the field this year through tw...

Trey Lance of North Dakota State battles his way into the North Alabama end zone during their football game Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service
Trey Lance of North Dakota State battles his way into the North Alabama end zone during their football game Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO - Fans watching the final two quarters of North Dakota State's win over North Alabama last Saturday saw a handful of true freshmen make their college debut for the Bison. In all, eight true freshmen have seen the field this year through two games.

It's the result of a new NCAA rule that allows players who haven't redshirted to play up to four games without losing a season of eligibility. For the Bison, it's a new rule that has changed the way they practice.

No longer are most true freshmen a part of the "scout team" and nothing else. A scout team's job is to replicate an NDSU opponent's offense and defense. Those players now could be part of the game plan for that week including this Saturday when the Bison host the University of Delaware at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

There's still a scout team but there are also practice periods consisting of "inexperienced NDSU" vs. the starters.

"Because we might find some guys who can help us this week or maybe help us in three weeks from now," said head coach Chris Klieman. "Until somebody finishes those four games, he has the potential to be able to help us and play in those four games."

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Last week, quarterback Trey Lance, receiver Kenneth Channelle, defensive end Tony Pierce Jr., cornerback Destin Talbert and linebacker Mark Stumpf were the true freshmen that played. In the opener against Cal Poly, receiver Phoenix Sproles, safety James Kaczor and linebacker Jasir Cox played.

Sproles has been a part of the regular rotation both games and appears on a path to play all season.

"We thought we would have the opportunity to play a few players last week," Klieman said. "It took us a long time to get to that opportunity but we were able to get there."

The Bison led North Alabama, in its first year of a transition to Division I, 17-0 at halftime. It was 24-0 heading into the fourth quarter before the Bison broke it open for a 38-7 win.

The preseason theory was the new rule would keep true freshmen more engaged in practice and that has been true, Klieman said.

"We want to see how well these guys are doing," he said. "How much have they progressed? So they're not just seeing cards thinking they're just a scout team guy. We have to keep stressing that on a weekly basis that you're an injury away from playing. Now, which guys are coming along fast enough? Every week is going to be a little different."

Lance was the most notable of the true frosh with a 44-yard touchdown run. He also ran base plays, like an easy out pattern completion to Channelle. This week, redshirt freshman Holden Hotchkiss remains the No. 2 quarterback with Lance back on that maybe or maybe-not playing bubble.

Moreover, the schedule gets tougher beginning with Delaware of the Colonial Athletic Association. The Bison open Missouri Valley Football Conference play after that against South Dakota State and Northern Iowa.

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"We still plan on redshirting the lion's share of our guys," Klieman said.

UP NEXT

What: Delaware at North Dakota State

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome

TV: KVLY.

Radio: 1660-AM, 107.9-FM.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITYCHRIS KLIEMANTREY LANCE
Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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