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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 03 2013

New Indiana State coach's first order of business was getting star RB to return

FARGO – The first order of business for Mike Sanford when he accepted the Indiana State head coaching position was to make a recruiting trip – to his new team.

Rumors of star running back Shakir Bell leaving Indiana State after former head coach Trent Miles left for Georgia State were circulating within the program. Word was Bell was either thinking of entering the NFL draft or transferring to another school.

“Yes, there was some validity to those rumors,” Sanford said. “That was my first recruit to get him to come back.”

Bell opted to stay for his senior season. He was runner-up in 2011 for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top offensive player in the FCS. He rushed for 1,475 yards last season including a league single-game record of 349 against Drake.

He needs just 542 yards to become the school’s

all-time leading rusher.

“He runs extremely hard and has good vision,” Sanford said. “He’s an extremely tough player.”

Sanford was assistant head coach at Utah State in 2012. He most notably was the head coach at UNLV from 2005-09 and an assistant at Stanford before that.

“I had a great opportunity before at UNLV, we built that program to the point where we were close to getting that thing over the hump,” Sanford said. “The last two years, we were one game away from being bowl-eligible.”

Besides Bell, ISU returns center FN Lutz and cornerback Calvin Burnett as

all-league caliber players.

Mike Parrish, the starting quarterback last year, is getting competition from redshirt freshman Robert Tonyan, Sanford said.

“That situation will be wide open between those two guys,” he said. “I don’t know when that will be determined. It may take a while.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia