Horns & Rings 2017 - Offense
With only days remaining before the march to Frisco in on in earnest, it's about time to preview the once and future champions of the Football Championship Subdivision. Being that Football is king in Fargo, the names of the key figures will not surprise anyone, but maybe there is a surprise or two ahead - if you take the time to read it all
The defense will once again be the engine to this train to Texas but a train can't run without wheels. And the 2017 Bison Football team won't be lacking for offensive wheels.
We've seen Easton Stick for a year & a half now. Everyone who has tuned in to the games over that time frame has at least some idea what to expect from the guy with the Hockey name. But let's be honest, we're all still going to go crazy the first time he goes in a scramble drill for 25 - 40 yards or when he puts one on the money into the end zone. He's the latest in list of great quarterbacks that goes back to Steve Walker, and even further into the history books for those of you who have been watching since the D-2 days. But what's the back up plan if he doesn't play all the way through to Frisco?
The roster has Cole Davis & Henry Van Dellen listed as the other QB's on roster. In a 1 - 2 game fill in role I would say that Davis would be favored but if a Carson like injury happened that covered a majority of the season then I think they would go with a platoon and possibly even give the nod more to Van Dellen since he is in the teams future plans. BUT no one wants that to happen so I'm going to leave the injury discussion for now & hopefully not have to revisit it again this year!
Beyond the prohibitive offensive MVP, there are as many weapons to throw and hand off to as there have ever been for the team. Fingers crossed, RJ will be the featured weapon on offense. As a senior, with all the big catches he's made over the years I would love to see him get the most targets on the team. He would never say that. The coaches or other players probably wouldn't either but that's how I would like it to shake out for the future NFL training camp attendee.
But wait, there's more. Darrius Shepherd & Jeff Illies will also be back and deserve to see an uptick in their numbers. This begs the question, where do Chase Morlock's receiving yards go this year? 317 receiving yards can't just disappear, on the contrary I would say that they not only need to be transferred elsewhere but also need to be expanded. Urzendowski, Shepherd & Illies may all benefit from those yards being vacated. The name that I haven't yet mentioned may be the player most likely to get those yards and more.
He being Illinois transfer Desmond Cain. I haven't watched a minute of Illinois football...ever, that I can remember. Sure there are highlight videos of the junior but those are narrow casting. We won't really know about his usage until September 2. Sure there will be nuggets coming out via the media but again, I don't think the coaching staff are going to tip their hands too much with the new kid on the block. So he's the❓ on offense.
But none of these guys are the one I'm most excited to see in action. He of Chaska Minnesota gets that nod. I'm speaking of Sean Engel, for those who aren't familiar. It's pretty simple, NDSU has rarely had 6-5 receivers to utilize. They've had and do have tight ends that measure out that tall but few designated receivers have been that tall. He's my player to watch on offense purely for the jump ball possibilities.
And I haven't even gotten to the running back's yet.
They of the bread and butter on offense for the Bison. In contrast to last year, there aren't any seniors amongst this bunch. That's got to be a headache creator for the defensive coordinators amongst the rest of the MVFC. With Lance Dunn coming off a nearly 1,000 yard season and with over 1,200 yards opening up via the graduation of Morlock & King Frazier, LD should be prohibitively favored to lead the way from the backfield.
What's more, he could be the latest to crack 2,000 yards but that will all come down to offensive balance, and the number of snaps & carries. I think it's safe to say that Stick will run with it as much as he did last year. Bruce Anderson will also likely see a drastic increase in his playing time with the vacated field time. The dark horse from last year to this year may be the usage of Shepherd as a runner this year. He may have only gotten 12 rushes a season ago but turning that into over 100 yards could be a gadget that gets expanded in the 2017. Will there be the emergence of another running back or two this year? Almost assuredly. Taking into account the spring game, I would favor Ty Brooks and Demaris Purifoy to be the guys from which one may emerge to join the stable. Both may show enough to crowd the backfield. If it does become another 5 - 6 man stable then Dunn's chances of cracking 20 Benjamins would be near zero.
Let me make it clear, I want what's best for the whole offense and having that many deserving rushers would be good for it. But my rube perspective is that getting another 2,000+ yards from one guy would be tremendous.
In the same way that the receivers are secondary to the rushers for Bison offense, the defense takes center stage to the offense on a nearly yearly basis. But for the sake of length, I'll get to them in a second post.
But how can I talk any offense without mention the group that has been as stout as any over all the years that NDSU has been succeeding - the "Rams."
I still don't get that nickname but it's stuck so whatever. I know that I said that Desmond Cain is the quintessential question mark for the offense and I'm not backing off from that, but a good & possibly better case could be made for the offensive line getting that nod.
They've got size, like always. And they have some members with experience playing in big games but it's definitely more of a mystery how good they will be this year. Maybe there aren't any future Joe Haeg's amongst this group, but maybe there is. That's part of the beauty of it - we don't know.
And to reiterate, they have the advantage of a lot of talent around them to take some of the pressure off. Maybe a lot of the pressure in fact. If I were to pin down one position group to watch during the soon starting camp, offensive line would either be the choice or be a very narrow runner up.
Yeah, they're who I'm most interested in seeing and hearing about come Monday and beyond.
So that's the offense. If you got this far, you really are a part of Bison Nation. If you want to go even further, you can see my much shorter foray into the 2017 Bison defense right here.