Tremendous hype surrounded the decision by Zach Vraa to return for a sixth year at NDSU, and for good reason, but he isn’t the only weapon Carson Wentz will have at his disposal this season.
Vraa has inherited the “grandpa” title on the team from Kevin Vaadeland when the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility due to a medical hardship earlier in his career. But don’t mistake his title for what he still means for the Bison offense.
“I was ecstatic when I heard he was coming back,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “I was in his ear quite awhile, then I kind of just let him do his thing and it worked out.”
Even with the starting quarterback lobbying him to come back, it was never a guarantee Vraa would return for another year in a Bison uniform. Wide receivers coach Atif Austin struggled during the course of last season on gathering a sense of where Vraa was with the idea of going through another year of offseason workouts and another fall camp.
“He was really down the middle on whether he wanted to come back or not,” Austin said after Vraa announced he was returning. “I tell you what though, I’m excited to have him back. He was a great leader for us this year, but he’s always been that leader by example.”
Vraa highlights a long list of skill position players that are returning to the Bison offense. Even with Trevor Gebhart graduating and Carey Woods leaving the team, freshman standout RJ Urzendowski, senior Nate Moody and sophomore Isaiah Frandsen are returning at the wide receiver position.[/text_output]
[image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3716″ alt=”running back King Frazier North Dakota State University Bison football” link=”true”]
[text_output]Redshirt freshmen Darius Shepherd and Khayvon Hawkins attracted a lot of attention this spring with their speed and ability to get open against the Bison secondary in practice. But it’s been a learning experience trying to catch up to the guys that have already amassed playing time.
“When guys get out here, especially for the rookies, they realize that this is a lot harder than anything they’ve done in the past,” Vraa said, explaining what summer conditioning is like for the freshmen. “They can see that this is what we do and this is how we’ve won all these national championships over the years. That’s how they really buy into the program and how we keep it going.”
Wentz will also have targets in the interior that aren’t strangers to the big stage. Preseason all-American fullback Andrew Bonnet and tight end Luke Albers will lead the Crew Chiefs and be key targets for Wentz. Albers is coming off a breakout year in 2014 where he caught 13 passes for four touchdowns while backing up Vaadeland.
The biggest question mark on the offense coming into fall camp will be who’s going to be the man to replace the single season record-holder in rushing yards at NDSU, John Crockett.
The answer won’t be A, B or C. It’s shaping up to be D, all the above, with King Frazier, Chase Morlock and redshirt freshman burner Lance Dunn.
Dunn’s speed was on display in the Spring Game when he ran for 76 yards on six carries and scored two touchdowns.
Wentz, a member of the FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List, will have a lot to choose from this season while dropping back to pass. Surrounded with returning talent in Vraa and Urzendoski, 2015 could be a year for the record books for the Bison offense.[/text_output]