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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 13 2014

Bison recruit Winters plans to take official visit to the University of Wyoming

FARGO – The North Dakota State football coaches are at the annual American Football Coaches Convention this week. Perhaps there should be a seminar titled: “How to get a verbal commitment, and then sweat it out until signing day.”

That’s what the Bison face with perhaps a few of their recruits. Cornerback Ryon’e Winters from Grandview, Mo., gave NDSU a verbal commitment over the weekend, but Winters said Monday he’s still going to take his official visit to the University of Wyoming.

“It’s exciting,” Winters said, “just to know all these schools want you to play for them. It’s a blessing that it’s all paying off.”

The connection to Wyoming, of course, is through former Bison head coach Craig Bohl, who was named the Cowboys head coach in December. The fact Winters is visiting Wyoming on the Jan. 24 weekend is most likely not a violation of the contractual agreement between Bohl and NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor, which according to Taylor stipulates that Wyoming stay away from Bison verbal commitments. The Wyoming visit was set up before Winters’ verbal to NDSU.

“NDSU was my first offer and they were always on board,” Winters said. “When other schools started calling, none of them topped NDSU. Coach Bohl went to Wyoming and he called me to let me know Wyoming is FBS. That’s I-A football and that’s a little bigger, so that’s a plus.”

Winters’ commitment gives NDSU 18 reported verbals, with four of them coming over the weekend on their official campus visits. In addition to Winters, the list included: defensive tackle Blake Williams from Romeo, Mich., safety Dakota Reid from Chicago Morgan Park High School, and quarterback Easton Stick from Omaha, Neb.

Stick, who gave the Bison a verbal commitment in October but apparently had second thoughts with the coaching change from Bohl to new head coach Chris Klieman, re-affirmed his decision over the weekend. He was the subject of a social media prank on Monday when a post from his Twitter account said he gave Rutgers University a verbal commitment.

Stick later tweeted that his account was hacked.

Like Stick, the 6-foot, 185-pound Winters had plenty of attention, especially in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. He had offers from Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Indiana State, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Missouri State.

“(NDSU) lost two games in three years and they’ve only had three losing seasons since 1963,” Winters said. “That says a lot about the program. I had a lot of offers but I didn’t care for them because I already knew what I wanted to do.”

Grandview head coach Andy Leech said a concussion caused Winters to miss the last five games of his junior season, meaning there wasn’t a full season on his recruiting video. He played wide receiver, running back and free safety in addition to cornerback in high school.

“He showed what he can do his senior year,” Leech said. “His tape is outstanding. A lot of people are getting in late. Every coach that calls and sees the tape is kind of blown away. We’ve had everybody in the last few weeks at the FCS division, and now (FBS schools) are starting to notice as well.”

Leech said the fact NDSU stayed in-house with the hiring of Klieman, and with Klieman retaining two assistants, helped in the decision. Klieman was the lead recruiter for Winters all along.

“Having some of the staff stay intact was an important factor for him,” Leech said.

It was important for the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Williams, whose connections to NDSU offensive coordinator Tim Polasek and defensive coordinator Matt Entz started before both got their Bison positions. Polasek was at Northern Illinois when Williams was told the Huskies didn’t have a spot for him, so Polasek told him to look at NDSU as an option.

“He said you should talk to the coaches at North Dakota State,” Williams told WDAY’s Dom Izzo on his Monday radio show.

Entz was recruiting Williams when he was the defensive coordinator at Western Illinois before coming to Fargo.

“He was in my house two weeks before he got the NDSU job,” Williams said.

Williams said he had offers from FBS schools Eastern Michigan and Akron in addition to a host of FCS programs.

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Reid originally committed to Western Illinois, according to rivals.com. He also had an offer from South Dakota, according to the website.


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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia