Run for the Ring 2018: Offense
Revolutionary comment coming in
The success of the teams offense starts and stops with the play of the quarterback.
That’s not a revolutionary comment or even remotely original?
I’m going with it anyway, even though it's actually a stretch.
Okay, let's get serious now. 😉
With the shenanigans that a few of the up & comers got into last season, the quarterback spot behind Easton Stick is VERY questionable and undeniably unproven. Fortunately for the team as the pursue their seventh title in eight year, QB1 has been the model of health during his time in Fargo. While he has surely experienced the cuts, bruises and minor pain that come with playing Football, he has yet to miss a game since Carson Wentz went down in 2015. It will be imperative for him to keep that zero in the missed game column for this team to do what it is capable of doing.
To be fair though, as history has demonstrated they can lose a game and still wind up with the #1 overall seed in the postseason. So if he does take an L and misses a game or two, I would give strong odds that the team could overcome it. And maybe whoever wins the battle for second would be ready to go if forced into action. Even though getting one or more of the young guys on the field would bare dividends for the future, I think it’s prudent to stay short-sighted with respect to the quarterback position and the team.
To sum up on the signal caller, while it is very important that Easton Stick plays from game 1 through Frisco for the Bison to achieve the goals that they should have, there are silver-linings to the possibility of missed time by number 12. Maybe it wouldn't make or break the season but there is a lot of unknown with the players behind him so let’s not test those waters just yet!
Moving forward and out from there, the offensive line once again lost a couple long time, big time performers. Here's a challenge: I’ll give a prize to anyone that can make a legitimate case for the last time that losing linemen to graduation and/or the NFL was actually detrimental to the dominance of the “Rams."
I’m expecting to hear crickets but maybe one of you will surprise me. Austin Kuhnert may be the most recognizable name on the list but he was flanked by three others on the way out of the Fargodome on grad day. In the truest sense of the words, the offensive line doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. It will surely help that Dillon Radunz seems on track to be back for September 1. Barring a setback or re-injury Radunz will be the anchor to the line's left side. The only potential weakness I can see is that the roster is a little light on guards. It’s nothing that I’m actually concerned about but if the injury bug starts biting again, it could become an issue
More likely than not is that the o-line will gel together like they always do. Be so well trained and conditioned that in each game they’ll dominate the second half, like they always seem to. And keep the quarterback(s) upright while also opening holes for each of the 79 running backs that the team has on roster. How’s that for a segway?
Of all the positions across the offense I would stamp the running backs as the deepest and best position this season. Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn will spearhead the attack but they will be complimented by Ty Brooks, Seth Wilson, Adam Cofield & Demaris Purifoy, along with the running threat of Stick & the occasional wide receiver gadget run. I joked about the number of backs on the roster but the truth is that there is no such thing as too many when it comes down to the most physically demanding position on the field.
What’s more, and to go back to the well, if there is an injury to the starting quarterback then it would be very likely that the coaching staff would do as they did in 2015 - simplify the playbook and depend on other strengths of the team to make sure that inexperience under center not derail the season. Add that as another check mark on the list of reasons why it's good that the coaching staff hasn't had drastic changes, yet!
Much of the simplification to the offense would fall on the legs of the six running backs. That’s far from a bad place to be in the grand scheme of the hypothetical injury. It would however change the season for each of the receivers on the roster though.
Darrius Shepherd, Dimitri Williams and Desmond Cain have the chance to do collectively what RJ Stickem had done during each of his four years - be a reliable and occasionally spectacular option for the quarterback. They’ll lead the baker’s dozen this year and make it even more difficult to play defense against the Bison. For the youngsters in that group to make an impact they will have to be special. Which could happen. There could be a special player amongst the freshman. I'd say the odds of it happening are somewhere between 0 - 100 but I would put it above 50%, even considering the numbers game. NDSU just recruits too well at this point to not have guys coming up that can come in and contribute, at least for four games!
But then again maybe the extra passing looks will go the way of the tight ends. Last year Ben Ellefson was a breakout candidate. 2017 may have been a year early but with Jeff Illies somewhere not on an NFL roster it could come true for the Nugget this time around. Whether Ellefson shows to be the next great tight end or not, what we know today is that the losses of Illies and Conner Wentz seem to have been well planned for. If you haven't peaked at the roster yet, there are nearly two handfuls of big bodies to block and catch on the list. Noah Gindorff & Josh Babicz maybe the headliners of the groups long term future but they are not alone as future contributors. So if you like big guys running down the field, the team will satisfy your desire a lot down the road!
The point of all of this is that the offense may have lost some long time great players from 2017's offense but it seems primed to be even better then before. It’s not without question marks or potential causes for concern but all we can really do is evaluate what is right now. Starting with Easton Stick and on through the offensive line, all the backs, receivers and tight ends, it isn’t just about defense anymore. For those who are resistant to change that may sound like nails on the chalkboard but it falls in line with the way that the game is going. Not to go full Big 12 on it and just forget about defense but you best embrace that the college game is offense first. And the NDSU offense seems primed for greatness this year, just in case that opinion hadn’t quite come through already!