North Dakota State vs Iowa State football: Five players to watch


Here are five players to keep your eyes on in Iowa State’s season opener against North Dakota State.

To look at all the players on North Dakota State, you can check our previews of them here on offense, defense, and special teams.

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Zach Vraa (NDSU wide receiver)

Vraa led the Bison in receiving catches (67), yards (1191), and touchdowns (15). He averaged nearly 80 yards a game and was the second-highest scorer on the team. He’ll be testing the Iowa State secondary right off the bat. He only had 20 yards on 3 catches in the opener against Kansas State last year, but I’d expect a little better output this time around.

Aaron Wimberly (ISU running back)

If Iowa State wants to gain control of this game early, they have to get Wimberly going immediately. You can’t simply pound up the middle — the weakest point of the NDSU defense — because Wimberly doesn’t have the durability to do that. I’ll be very interested to see what Mark Mangino has in place to utilize the running back that’s on various college football award watch lists.

Jan 5, 2013; Frisco, TX, USA; North Dakota State Bison running back John Crockett (23) runs the ball against the Sam Houston State Bearkats during the FCS Championship football game at FC Dallas Stadium. North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State 39-13. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

John Crockett (NDSU running back)

Opponent’s best running backs should always be highlighted until Iowa State can start shutting them down. Crockett only started one game last year but was part of a duo with Sam Ojuri, with only finishing 121 less yards on the season than the leader. He is now the leader, and just like the interior of their defensive line, the offensive line is the weakest part of the offense. Can the Cyclones’ defensive line get off to a much needed great start and keep Crockett from high production?

Brandon Jensen (ISU defensive tackle)

Speaking of the defensive line, all eyes will be on Cory Morrissey and the return of Jensen. They’re expected to lead a very young unit, and the team couldn’t be happier that Jensen is back. He was able to win the starting job despite stepping away from football for a large part of the offseason, and perhaps clearing his head was just what he needed to get better.

Christian Dudzik (NDSU safety)

Dudzik has the opportunity to make a big difference in two phases of the game: passing defense and the return game. The senior that started in every game last year was fifth on the team with 56 tackles and had 6 interceptions. On special teams, Dudzik picked up 22 of the team’s 30 punt returns and took two to the house. He also participated on 3 kick returns. Sam Richardson would be wise to not test him and avoid getting in a hole early by turning the ball over.