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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co. , Published August 27 2012

Ex-North standout McGurran a key to UND football's offense

GRAND FORKS – Having been friends for five years, Emmett Lynch enjoys riling up Ian McGurran.

“One time, I threw him in a snow bank,” Lynch said with a smile.

Having lived together in West Hall, Lynch also knows what makes McGurran tick.

“When someone steps on your foot with cleats on, it hurts pretty bad,” Lynch said. “But (McGurran) totally overreacts. It’s ridiculous. He’ll start jumping around. It’s pretty funny.”

Lynch also knows never to do anything that could take University of North Dakota’s starting center off the field.

“He is the guy we can’t go without,” Lynch said of McGurran. “He’s the most experienced. He knows all the calls. He doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s thorough in his research pregame. He knows the most about the defense we are playing against. He knows different changes and different stances. And he knows how to win.

“I think center probably has the most pressure. Some say the quarterback. I say the center. Things always change for him. He’s changing calls. He’s changing protections. Sometimes, he’ll even change the play if he sees something.”

McGurran, a former Fargo North High School standout, has grown more comfortable with his role as the years have passed.

He started his first game as a redshirt freshman at nationally ranked Texas Tech.

“That seems like a while ago,” said McGurran, a senior. “I was quite nervous for that first one.”

Since then, he has started every game for a UND program that has now completed its transition to Division I and will be eligible for the FCS playoffs this fall for the first time.

UND coach Chris Mussman said sometimes the coaches quiz McGurran or use different terminology to keep him from getting bored in meetings.

“When we first got here, Mitch Braegelmann was the center and he was a great role model,” Lynch said. “Mitch was a student of the game. Ian has just followed in his footsteps. He used to watch film with him and he learned what to look for. I think that’s one of the reasons Ian is such a student of the game and that’s one of the things that makes him such a great football player.”

Mussman said McGurran’s role is a vital one.

“You’ve got to be able to trust that the center knows more than any other position out there,” Mussman said. “He should be able to tell you what every position out there does. The first thing he does is identify the (defensive) front. Then, he identifies the linebacker alignments. Then, he has to make his call as to where he’s going and who he is working with and who he is working to.

“Nobody has played more football than Ian McGurran. He started as a redshirt freshman and has played every snap through the transition for us. He’s a pretty trusted guy.”

McGurran, whose father played center for UND from 1980-82, is trusted enough that he was named team captain last year as a junior.

“Even more special is that both he and his father were team captains,” Mussman said. “It’s a pretty unique situation. Ian was voted captain by his teammates last year. To have two (UND) football captains in their family. … That’s a pretty special deal.”


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald