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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 04 2013

VIDEO: NDSU's opponent seeing turnaround start to take shape

FARGO – Ferris State was 1-10 in the first year tight end Jace Heneveld spent on campus, a time when football was nowhere near the popularity of hockey at the school located in Big Rapids, Mich.

Times are starting to change.

“It’s been kind of a facelift,” Heneveld said. “It’s been a big change from the old coaching staff to this staff, which is a high-energy group and likes to work together.”

The new staff is led by head coach Tony Annese, who has bolstered his roster with an influx of transfers.

Heneveld said of the 19 seniors, only five came in with him as a freshman.

The result last year was a 7-4 record and an optimistic outlook this year of contending for a Great Lake Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and an NCAA Division II playoff berth.

“You can’t build a program off of five seniors,” Heneveld said. “So the big thing for him was to bring in some transfers, and he did an excellent job of bringing in some playmakers with an attitude of being ready to win.”

One of the transfers, senior offensive lineman Carlin Landingham, began his career at North Dakota State as part of the 2008 recruiting class. He made the NDSU two-deep chart for the 2009 season opener but later transferred to Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.).

He’ll return to Fargo for the Bison home opener on 4 p.m. Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“I think he’s excited to come back,” Annese said.

Annese was Landingham’s high school coach when NDSU recruited him. He was the head coach at Grand Rapids when he transferred from NDSU, and now the two are together for the seventh year in football.

“That’s kind of crazy,” Annese said. “I know him well.”

Annese used his junior college contacts to quickly build a team when he took over. The previous staff was fired.

“We tried to recruit a better caliber of player,” he said. “We had no depth at all. There was a drop off after the top 30 players with 31-60 being really bad. We’ve worked hard to recruit the state of Michigan.”

He’s the right head coach to do it. Annese is already a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was 195-41 in a 22-season stint that covered four schools, with the last one Muskegon.

He was there when NDSU thumped Central Michigan about 100 miles away in Mt. Pleasant. He was not surprised last week when the Bison knocked off Kansas State saying the win was not an upset.

“Whoever is coaching the North Dakota State defense, whether the head coach has a hand in it or it’s all the coordinator, is doing the best job in the nation as far as I’m concerned,” Annese said.

That is a lesson he hopes his kids take away from Saturday’s game.

“You don’t see kids play that hard,” he said. “That’s how the game is meant to be played.”

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