North Dakota State is one of the most complete teams in the FCS division. Every facet of the game is always ranked high every year. That’s especially true on the defense, but the offense has been helped with their most winningest quarterback in history, Brock Jensen.
Jensen is now gone, and the team also loses two key skill players on offense while suffering a couple of set backs on their offensive line before the season kicks off. But that doesn’t mean you can discount the offense — there’s still plenty of talent to watch out for.
- LT: Joe Haeg (59, Jr)
- LG: Adam Schueller (65, Sr)
- C: Jesse Hinz (76, Sr)
- RG: Jeremy Kelly (54, RJr)
- RT: Landon Lechler (78, So)
- QB: Carson Wentz (11, Jr)
- FB: Andrew Bonnet (46, Jr)
- RB: John Crockett (23, Sr)
- TE: Kevin Vaadeland (85, Sr)
- WR (X): Zach Vraa (82, Sr)
- WR (Z): Carey Woods (83, So)
The biggest impact in the transition to 2014 will be the quarterback position. Jensen is one of those quarterbacks you simply can’t replace, but the team hopes it has a system in place that will ease Wentz right into it.
They won’t be throwing a new quarterback right into the fire — Wentz has been around the program and played in 11 games last year. He hasn’t looked bad in his time on the field, but there’s just nothing concrete to take from it yet.
As Wentz eases into being the new starter at QB, Crockett will be the main guy at running back. Sam Ojuri and his 214 carries, 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns are gone, but he was part of a one-two punch with Crockett.
Crockett actually finished with more touchdowns (11) and was right up there in overall production with Ojuri (1,277 yards on 190 carries). The question will be if they can find the next guy to be Crockett’s Robin. Sophomores Chase Morlock and King Frazier are next on the depth chart, and Morlock could be the guy if he’s able to step up as he’s the only one that’s logged production (47 carries, 262 yards, two touchdowns).
At receiver, Ryan Smith is gone but the team still has their leading receiver, Vraa. He had nearly 1,200 yards and had 15 touchdowns while starting in nine of the team’s 15 games last season. There’s also Vaadeland, their 6-foot-4 tight end who is a threat in the endzone. He recorded 8 touchdowns on 20 catches last year.
The inexperience comes in the offensive line, which probably creates the most intriguing matchup of the game — what’s going to happen in the trenches? North Dakota State has to just about reload completely with new starters, and the defensive line for Iowa State could be the weakest aspect of the team.
Based on the expectation that the Cyclones were able to recruit better talent, will they be able to get pressure on the quarterback? Will the be able to slow down Crockett if they decide to focus more on the run? North Dakota State’s offense overall won’t be as threatening like it was last year, but the biggest challenge may lie ahead on the other side of the ball.