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Herder’s Hunches

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HED: Coaching staff stability has kept Bison consistent

Sam Herder

Many factors can be attributed to the NDSU football team’s two-year run of trophies and rings. Loyal boosters, a rabid fan base, attractive facilities and of course, a roster as stacked as Floyd Mayweather’s wallet have vaulted the Bison atop the FCS world.

But another factor that is often overlooked are the orchestrators of the 28-2 record and two national championships in the last two years: the coaching staff. Not just the ability of the NDSU coaching staff, because every Bison fan is aware of the FCS Coach of the Year Craig Bohl, but also the stability.

The Bison have been fortunate to keep their coaching staff intact for the most part since NDSU became contenders in the 2010 season. With the recent success, NDSU has become an appetizing market for other programs in need of a hole to fill in their own coaching staff. USC picked up Scottie Hazelton after his No. 1 ranked Bison defense won the national championship in 2011. Fortunately, the Bison didn’t miss a beat with Chris Klieman, who kept the successful Tampa 2 scheme.

Tim Polasek left to a FBS school in Northern Illinois after last season. This was a big loss considering Polasek recruited Wisconsin as good as Colonel Sanders cooked chicken. But other than those two coaches, the Bison hasn’t had much change to its staff in the past five years. And that pays dividends not only on the field, but off the field.

The constant rotating and departing of coordinators and assistants can cause insecurities for players. Look at freshman linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker, who was recruited by every Missouri Valley team and switched his commitment at the last second to NDSU from rival Northern Iowa. Gee-Tucker said his final decision was swayed after UNI made some changes to its coaching staff and he saw more stability at NDSU.

Look at Indiana State’s stud running back Shakir Bell. The Sycamores were concerned for a while that the talented Bell, the greased pig who wears number 22, was looking to play his senior year elsewhere when head coach Trent Miles switched schools. Bell decided to stay put.

An assistant coach moving on to a different program can easily lose a team a big recruit. High school players don’t want to go to a school that a coach convincingly praises, only later to accept a job elsewhere. That’s like telling someone Jimmy Johns is great, but only to have that person see you stuffing your face with a Subway cold cut combo later that day.

NDSU hasn’t had that problem. Looking at the coaching staff, seven coaches have been on the staff for four years or longer while four coaches have played ball at NDSU (Brent Vigen, AJ Cooper, Scott Fuchs and John Richardson). Having the ability to realistically tell your recruits the kind of experience playing for the Bison is a great tool in the recruiting game.

And let’s not forget about the man who holds this staff steady. Craig Bohl, the vanilla-answering head coach who says an eye-opening statement to the media as often as SpongeBob Squarepants changes his attire. But that’s just what the Bison need this year as expectations are as high as they come. A Rex Ryan-like coach going for a three peat is a recipe for disaster.

Bohl and his staff do a terrific job keeping their players humble and hungry. The players know how to answer questions. You ask them about a record-breaking performance, they will give credit to their teammates and coaches. You ask them about a great sandwich they made at lunch, they will say the ingredients did all the work.

It is the job of these coaches to groom high school standouts into successful Division I football players and into men. They have done both, and the stability they have provided to the players should be credited as the main reason why.

For most of the 25 seniors on the roster, they have had the same position coach, offensive coordinator and head coach for all their years at NDSU. A lot of collegiate players at any level can’t say that.

And while the Bison roster has been blessed with more talent than today’s hip hop industry, and maybe with a little help from Tim Brewster, the coaching staff at NDSU has been just as crucial in this historic run.

Herder’s Hunches
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