#3 North Dakota State FCS Football 2014 Preview

North Dakota State Bison

Overall Rank: #3
#1 Missouri Valley

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North Dakota State won yet another FCS title in 2013. They began the year by beating Kansas State in week one and cruised to 14 more wins to end a perfect 15-0. The Bison rarely had close games and they outscored their opponents 173 to 42 during their four playoff games. That was against the best the FCS had to offer and NDSU blew through them all. However, it is the beginning of a new era for the Bison with a new coach Chris Klieman taking over and a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

2013 Record: 15-0, 8-0
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Chris Klieman (0-0 at North Dakota State, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Polasek
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Entz

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: John Crockett, RB, 1,277 yards
Passing: Carson Wentz, QB, 209 yards
Receiving: Zach Vraa, WR, 1,191 yards
Tackles: Carlton Littlejohn, LB, 89
Sacks: Kyle Emanuel, DE, 7.5
Interceptions: Christian Dudzik, S, 6

Other Key Returnees: TE Kevin Vaadeland, OL Zack Johnson, S Colten Heagle, LB Travis Beck, CB C.J. Smith, P Ben LeCompte

Key Losses: QB Brock Jensen, RB Sam Ojuri, WR Ryan Smith, OL Billy Turner, OL Tyler Gimmestad, LB Grant Olson, DB Bryan Shepherd, DL Cole Jirik, DB Marcus Williams, DL Danny Luecke, DL Ryan Drevlow, DL Leevon Perry

Seven starters are back on a defense that led the FCS by allowing just 11.3 points per game. The front line will now be directed by Kyle Emanuel. He totaled a team high 7.5 sacks and 10.0 tackles-for-loss. Also back are linebackers Carlton Littlejohn and Travis Beck. Littlejohn led the Bison with 89 tackles and can get into the backfield and help out Emanuel in the sack department. The secondary could turn into the team’s defensive strength in 2014. Safety Christian Dudzik is a ball hawk who picked off six passes in 2013. Fellow safety Colten Heagle is a solid tackler and a great help in run support. Cornerback C.J. Smith may not be Marcus Williams, but he should be able to turn into the team’s shutdown corner. Defensive coordinator Matt Entz has some big holes to fill and many of those holes have to be filled by younger or less experienced players, but there are some great pieces to build around.

North Dakota State wants to run the ball and have a quarterback who can be efficient passing the ball. Sam Ojuri and Brock Jensen certainly played that game perfectly. Ojuri rushed for 1,398 yards and ten touchdowns during his senior season, while quarterback Jensen threw for 2,793 yards and 34 touchdowns. Jensen completed 66.3 percent of his attempts and also rushed for 479 yards and ten more scores. Replacing those two may not be as difficult as it sounds. Running back John Crockett was more than a backup to Ojuri at running back. He rushed for 1,277 yards and 11 scores. However, NDSU will need another back to step up and support Crockett. Carson Wentz has been patiently waiting behind Jensen for a couple years and is ready to step into a starting role. Wentz will get to work with wide receiver Zach Vraa, who caught 67 passes for 1,191 yards and 15 touchdowns. The biggest problem on offense could be on the line where four starters need to be replaced, including Billy Turner and Tyler Gimmestad.

The Bottom Line:
North Dakota State will put their 24 game winning streak on the line in Ames against Iowa State. The Bison will also be seriously tested by Montana in Fargo before entering MVFC play. And, of course, there are many opportunities in conference play for North Dakota State to lose a game. While this team almost has to take a step back, it remains to be seen what a step back really means to a program that has dominated the competition for three years. A step back may mean the Bison win their fourth straight title with a few more close calls.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 257.3 (7th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 200.1 (73, 4)
Total Offense: 457.5 (14, 1)
Scoring Offense: 38.7 (10, 1)
Rushing Defense: 91.3 (3, 1)
Pass Defense: 164.6 (8, 2)
Total Defense: 255.9 (3, 1)
Scoring Defense: 11.3 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.30 (40, 6)
Sacks: 2.93 (12, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.20 (24, 2)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#20 Marcus Collins
#53 Easton Stick
#135 Jalen Allison
#151 R.J. Urzendowski
#158 Isaiah Lesure


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