Stauss, Bison offer new look

The football assembly line has been busy this month at North Dakota State. The Bison have been adding this, adding that, working on this and tweaking that.

The football assembly line has been busy this month at North Dakota State. The Bison have been adding this, adding that, working on this and tweaking that.

The ultimate question is in doubt: What is this team going to be like?

It's akin to a new product. The Bison hit the market Saturday night against Tusculum College (Tenn.) with not much old and a lot of new.

New coaching staff. New offensive playbook. New quarterback. New defensive linemen. New running back. New receiver and kick returner. Almost everything is new down to the knee braces offensive linemen wear.

"I think all of the questions have been answered between us," said senior safety Mike Sheppard, a former linebacker who is playing a new position this year.


Sheppard is one of four captains along with center Rob Hunt, linebacker Josh Mock and quarterback Tony Stauss. Sheppard and Mock are in their fifth year of school. Hunt is starting his fourth year at NDSU.

Stauss attained captain status after transferring from Northwestern last January. He's been an immediate hit with his teammates.

"A lot of it has to do with this character exceeding his athleticism," said head coach Craig Bohl. "He's very diligent. I think the players realize how much time he's put into it on his own."

Stauss called the captain tag the ultimate honor a player can receive. It's the first time he's been elected to lead a team.

"I've been waiting for something like this all my life -- since I was 5 years old," Stauss said.

He's been waiting for Saturday's opener since he decided to attend NDSU last December. He circled the date on his calendar.

An all-state quarterback at Racine Horlick High (Wis.), he was a nationally recruited prep All-American in 2000. He was on pace to become Northwestern's starting quarterback until the Wildcats changed philosophy on offense. They wanted a quarterback with better running ability.

Stauss is a thrower. He passed for 3,181 yards his senior year in high school. The new NDSU offense then, which appears to have the potential to throw often, fits his style.


"I think this offense gives everybody the chance to maximize their potential," Stauss said.

Stauss said a successful season depends on two factors: limited injuries and offensive execution.

"I'm hungry to get out there," he said, "and prove what I can do."

That, perhaps, goes for every aspect of the Bison team. There are few proven entities.

Punter John Bonicelli finished second in the North Central Conference with a 39.9 average. Travis White was sixth in the league in receptions with 36.

Otherwise, the NDSU statistics mirrored its overall record: 2-8.

"We have everything to prove," Sheppard said. "Our backs are against the wall.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

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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