#2 North Dakota State FCS Football 2017 Preview

North Dakota State Bison
Overall Rank: #2
#1 Missouri Valley
It has been a while since North Dakota State is not the #1 team heading into the season. It has also been a while since they have not been the reigning champions. The Bison lost a regular season game at home to South Dakota State, but got their revenge against the Jackrabbits in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Of course the season was not a success though due to losing 27-17 to James Madison the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
2016 Record: 12-2, 7-1
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Chris Klieman (40-5 at North Dakota State, 43-12 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Courtney Messingham
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Entz
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Lance Dunn, RB, 996 yards
Passing: Easton Stick, QB, 2,331 yards
Receiving: Darrius Shepherd, WR, 642 yards
Tackles: Robbie Grimsley, S, 84
Sacks: Greg Menard, DE, 11.0
Interceptions: Tre Dempsey, S, 6
Other Key Returnees: WR RJ Urzendowski, TE Jeff Illies, OL Austin Kuhnert, CB Jalen Allison, CB Jaylaan Wimbush, DE Caleb Butler, DT Nate Tanguay, LB Nick DeLuca
Key Losses: RB King Frazier, FB Chase Morlock, OL Zack Johnson, OL Landon Lechler, OL Jack Plankers, LB MJ Stumpf, LB Pierre Gee-Tucker, DE Brad Ambrosius
Quarterback Easton Stick is 20-2 as a starter. Last year he threw for 2,331 yards and 19 touchdowns and that was just as a sophomore. Stick, who also rushed for 685 yards and seven touchdowns, is developing as a quarterback. With the return of RJ Urzendowski and Darrius Shepherd, who led the team with 45 receptions for 642 yards and five touchdowns, Stick will have plenty of proven options. The passing game is not going to be explosive, but it will be solid. Illinois transfer Desmond Cain could help make the unit a little more explosive. Two years ago he was a dangerous receiver in the Big Ten. But as usual North Dakota State will grind out wins on the ground. Lance Dunn returns after rushing for 996 yards and six touchdowns. Starter King Frazier needs to be replaced though after adding 879 yards and 11 scores. Junior Bruce Anderson figures to step into a backup role after showing some promise last season, especially during the playoffs.
The defense will again be one of the best in the FCS, if not the best. Greg Menard and Nate Tanguay highlight a magnificent defensive line. Menard tallied 11.0 sacks last year while Tanguay is a beast in the middle of the line. He missed the playoffs due to injury and the Bison really felt his loss. Linebacker Nick DeLuca missed nearly all of last season and his absence certainly hit NDSU hard too. Two years ago he recorded 135 tackles. With his return, the linebackers are in good shape even while losing MJ Stumpf and Pierre Gee-Tucker. The secondary is stacked with experience. Tre Dempsey, who intercepted six passes, is the star of the unit. Fellow safety Robbie Grimsley added five interceptions and was second on the team with 84 tackles in 2016. Cornerbacks Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush are returning starters as well and that gives North Dakota State a superb secondary that was already pretty good last season.
The Bottom Line:
This is not the end of the North Dakota State dynasty. Last season was just the rest of the FCS elite finally catching up with the Bison. That will lead to more parity in the FCS as more and more programs begin to believe they can beat NDSU. Sometimes it will happen and sometimes it won’t. One thing that is for sure is that North Dakota State will be among the favorites for years to come.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 240.9 (11th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 167.1 (98, 10)
Total Offense: 407.9 (37, 5)
Scoring Offense: 29.1 (39, 4)
Rushing Defense: 106.4 (13, 1)
Pass Defense: 213.2 (54, 3)
Total Defense: 319.6 (13, 2)
Scoring Defense: 16.6 (5, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.79 (14, 1)
Sacks: 2.64 (17, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.07 (10, 1)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#29      Noah Gindorff
#48      Holden Hotchkiss
#148    Tanner Sundt 
#170    Spencer Waege
#179    Nash Jensen
#197    Zach Willis
#220    Jack Begley
#247    Logan McCormick