Jeff Kolpack, Published March 23 2012
As spring football arrives, title defense begins for BisonFARGO – The pads are coming out of storage for the first time since Frisco, Texas. If North Dakota State wants to return to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game, the coaches say the first step begins this morning.
It’s the first day of spring practice.
It was about this time last year when a “Remember the Cheney” battle cry of sorts was circulating throughout the team. It was in reference to the 2010 quarterfinal playoff loss at Eastern Washington. The question head coach Craig Bohl has gotten a lot recently is if the team is hungry enough after winning it all in January.
“That’s difficult to replicate,” he said of the motivation. “We have a different composition in our football team this year. Certainly there are guys who are hungry and want to win it all, but wanting to and doing it are two different things.”
Gone are 18 seniors. Expected to begin practice today are 80 returning or walk-on players, including 25 who have made at least one start.
Bohl said fullback Berkley Grimm, who played as a true freshman last year, has left the team to transfer to a school closer to his home in Iowa. Grimm saw spot duty as a backup and did not have a carry.
Freshman defensive lineman Josh Lisenby is also leaving for personal reasons, Bohl said. Lisenby redshirted last year.
It will be a thin defensive line for all 15 spring practices. Returning regular players Ryan Drevlow and Justin Juckem will be absent to deal with minor injuries. Juckem is having his knee scoped to address constant inflammation and Drevlow is having shoulder surgery.
Both are expected to be at full strength for fall camp.
“Both are maintenance surgeries,” Bohl said.
Bohl said a top priority is to find a couple of linebackers to replace departed starters Preston Evans and Chad Willson. Brock Jensen, who will be a junior next fall, returns at quarterback, but the next three spots on the depth chart will be up for grabs among sophomore Esley Thorton and freshmen Carson Wentz and Ryan Stanford.
Bohl said Jensen is still nursing remnants of turf toe injury from last season, but is expected to be near full strength.
And as usual, spring football is a chance for the redshirt freshmen to prove they’re in line to contribute on the field next fall.
“We’ll find out a whole lot more this spring,” Bohl said. “By the 13th or 14th practice, we’ll find out what guys are still getting better and what guys are punching the clock. Last year, we had so many guys on the right side of the fence.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found