#30 North Dakota FCS Football 2012 Preview

George Hammond

North Dakota Sioux

Overall Rank: #31
#4 Big Sky
North Dakota FCS College Football 2012 Team Preview
North Dakota Team Page


It’s been an interesting summer for North Dakota. First, it received the 2011 Division I FCS football championship banner by mistake when the NCAA sent the banner to the wrong North Dakota school. Of course, it was supposed to go to North Dakota State. Second, voters in the state cleared the way for the school to drop the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo from its athletic teams to avoid possible NCAA sanctions and penalties. Third, the Sioux are preparing for its first season in the Big Sky Conference against the likes of Montana, Eastern Washington and Montana State, just for starters. But UND made its final season in the Great West last year a memorable one as the team flipped from 2010, improving by five games to finish 8-3 overall. And UND is encouraged by the fact that it went 3-1 last year against Big Sky opponents.

2011 Record: (8-3, 3-1)
2011 Postseason: None
Coach: Chris Mussman (23-20 at UND, same overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Breitbach
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Mannausau

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jake MIller, RB, 942 yards
Passing: Joey Bradley, QB, 791 yards
Receiving: Greg Hardin, WR, 549 yards
Tackles: Ross Brenneman, DL, 32
Sacks: Jay Nelson, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Daryl Brown, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: OL Darren DeNeui, OL Joe Kleason, OL Emmertt Lynch, WR R.J. McGill, OL Ian McGurran, TE Seth Wisthoff, QB Joey Bradley, LB Damon Andrews, DL Devin Benjamin.

Key Losses: QB Brent Goska, LB Johnnie Daniels Jr., DB Dominique Hawkins, LB Dan Hendrickson, OT Connor McKendry, OG Brandon Quesenberry.

There are several, but one must start with the defensive line, which is anchored by preseason All-American Ross Brenneman. He had 8.5 sacks last year and needs 9.5 to break the school record. Also being counted on are end Jay Nelson and Devin Benjamin. Offensively, North Carolina quarterback transfer Braden Hanson figures to run the offense. He spent four seasons in Chapel Hill and he’ll have a strong target to throw to in junior wide receiver Greg Hardin. He has 84 career catches for 1,285 yards and 12 receiving TDs. And if the passing game slows, UND can still count on running back Jake Miller, who rushed for 942 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011. He should have holes to run through as four members of the interior offensive line return. North Dakota is in good shape with its kicking game as Zeb Miller returns as placekicker and Brett Cameron is back for his third season as the team’s punter.

There are five starters returning on defense and UND must find a replacement not only for linebacker Dan Hendrickson, who was the team’s top tackler the last two seasons as well as an all-conference performer, but linebacker Mitch Goertz, too. The other concern on defense is at safety where North Dakota needs to find two. Last year’s backups, Erik Mersereau and Baylee Carr, are slated to fill those spots. All eyes will be on the quarterback spot, too. North Dakota must replace Brent Gorska, who completed 59 percent of his passes last year for 999 yards. Returning is Joey Bradley, who attempted 149 passes last year, but all eyes are on Hanson. It should be an interesting story line.

The Bottom Line:
North Dakota showed it could win the close games last year when it won its last four games by a total of eight points. And no other team in the FCS had more blocked kicks during the 2011 regular season. The special teams unit blocked 10 kicks (six field goals and four extra points). Head coach Chris Mussman would love to repeat those numbers this year as the Sioux step up in class in the Big Sky. But North Dakota appears ready for the move as witnessed by its record against Big Sky opponents in 2011. The questions are: Can the defense hold up throughout an entire season? Does North Dakota have enough depth? And, can the North Carolina transfer Hanson be as good at quarterback as many expect him to be? The second half of the schedule is brutal when they visit Eastern Washington and Montana State and have home games against Montana and Southern Utah. A key contest could be the season’s second game when it hosts Portland State. A lot of the pieces are present for North Dakota, which is picked 10th in a poll by conference coaches, but it would be asking too much for the Sioux to be a conference contender in its first season in the Big Sky.

Projected Postseason: None

2011 Team Stats (no rankings, reclassifying/provisional)
Rushing Offense: 147.91
Passing Offense: 162.73
Total Offense: 310.64
Scoring Offense: 26.08
Rushing Defense: 80.64
Pass Defense: 246.09
Total Defense: 326.73
Scoring Defense: 20.36
Turnover Margin: .73
Sacks: 2.82
Sacks Allowed: 1.64

Madness 2012 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#59 Joe Mollberg
#167 Taj Rich
#171 Ryan Bartels