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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 09 2013

Kolpack: Bison may need 2013 class to be the next big thing

Fargo - The 2010 season was something special for the Auburn Tigers, who went undefeated behind Heisman Trophy quarterback Cam Newton. When it came to football in the state of Alabama, the Crimson Tide had to take a back seat.

Nick Saban who? That season was all about Gene Chizik, who with that 14-0 record was the Next Big Thing in coaching. Well, the Next Big Thing didn’t last – the Tigers couldn’t win a game this season in the Southeastern Conference.

Zero. 0-8. Thankfully for the Tigers, they had Alabama A&M, Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State on the schedule for three gimme victories.

How does a program go from unbeaten king of Division I to winless in its league? Recruiting, plain and simple.

We bring this concept to Fargo today because the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes at North Dakota State that are mainly responsible for back-to-back Division I Football Championship Subdivision titles are now getting old – mostly juniors and seniors. This is the last go-around for the seniors starting with winter workouts.

The 2009 class produced the likes of quarterback Brock Jensen, defensive end Cole Jirik, nose guard Leevon Perry, defensive tackle Ryan Drevlow, tight end Garrett Bruhn and running back Sam Ojuri.

Marcus Williams was added to the team after signing date.

The 2010 group may be better starting with linebackers Grant Olson, Carlton Littlejohn and Travis Beck. Behind them are safeties Christian Dudzik and Colten Heagle; in front defensive ends Mike Hardie and Kyle Emanuel. On offense, the class produced wide receivers Ryan Smith, Zach Vraa and Trevor Gebhart, running back John Crockett and left tackle Billy Turner. Long snapper Michael Murphy was part of the class.

The 2013 recruiting class was officially unveiled last week, and the Bison certainly passed the eyeball test. But so did the 2011 and 2012 classes and early returns suggest those two years have some work to do before they could be considered a success.

Of the 20 players who signed in 2011, nine have already left, and the class boasts just offensive guard Josh Colville, fullback Andrew Bonnet and punter Ben LeCompte who are making a significant on-field contribution. The 17-member 2012 class mostly redshirted, so gauging the ability will take at least another year. But four players in that class are no longer with the team.

Attrition happens. Chizik had some apparent highly regarded recruiting classes after the national title season, but players leaving were a big problem.

This is not to suggest that NDSU is going to be the next Auburn. For starters, Craig Bohl knows how to evaluate talent. Ask the Gophers what they think of NDSU’s player personnel director.

But the pressure could be on the 2013 class to be the next big thing if this continued national championship threat is going to continue.

Recruiting is brutal. You think you have a good group and the next thing you know a bunch of the lads find the Fountain of Immaturity.

Good programs are always looking ahead years down the road, not just next season. If Bison fans in 2014 are feeling confident enough to make reservations in Frisco, then it will probably be because this year’s recruiting class is producing.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia