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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 02 2012

Kolpack: Can small senior class lead Bison?

Maybe this speaks more for the TV side of things, but there are several of us media types who are thankful Matt Veldman got a job in the NFL. He grabbed the microphone at North Dakota State football media day last year and asked questions with some gusto.

Yes, there was a dose of “Anchorman” schtick to his questioning and, yes, he was poking fun of the Dom Izzos of the world in a small way. It was some pretty funny stuff.

Veldman is in training camp this week with the Jacksonville Jaguars trying to make the team as a tight end. He came a long way from an always-injured underclassmen to a tough senior leader. Over the course of the season, he always approached interviews with some maturity mixed with humor.

It illustrates a point that personality, perhaps, had just as much to do with NDSU’s success last year as talent. That team had an identity and its seniors led the way.

Everybody laughed at safety John Pike’s listed weight of 180. He was probably 160 but he was tougher than anybody. Chad Willson wasn’t a very tall linebacker, or heavy for that matter, but he got the job done and then some.

Today is media day, essentially signifying to Bison fans the season has started. The conventional wisdom in the manual of “How to Win a National Championship” says seniors often lead the way to a title.

“When you have a good football team, most of the time it’s because of senior leadership,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl.

When it comes time for the seniors to get their mug shots taken on the floor of the Fargodome this morning, it won’t take long. There are only eight and that has already been reduced with the shoulder injury to tight end Garrett Bruhn that could end his season.

Of the other seven, only center Joe Lund is certain to be a starter. Linebacker Brandon Jemison has battled a hip problem the last two years. Guard Ty Beckius and safety Bobby Ollman have been spot starters.

Cornerback Aireal Boyd and defensive end Ricky Hagen contributed in a backup role. Cornerback Andre Martin transferred from Northern Iowa.

If the Bison are to return to Frisco, Texas, they’re going to have to do it on the backs of underclassmen. That’s not the optimal recipe in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

“It’s a small senior class and we’re going to ask a lot of those seniors,” Bohl said. “The proof will be in the pudding but we’re certainly concerned about that.”

Seniors often provide that urgency in chasing conference titles and playoff berths. You get a bunch of those guys with that attitude and the younger players follow along.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough seniors to go around on the 2012 Bison. It’s a numbers game. There were 17 players in their final year of eligibility last season and as a class it had that “it” quality to it.

So that brings us to the big question of fall camp: Does this team have enough underclassmen with urgency?

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.