Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Featured photo:#71 Luke Bacon, #74 Tanner Volson, #64 Colin Conner#, 67 Cordell Volson, #75 Dillon Radunz and #68 Zack Johnson
The most underrated and overlooked link in the chain that is North Dakota State’s dominance is the offensive line. For years, the Bison have trotted well-known names like Volson and Johnson out to protect Easton Stick and Carson Wentz. It goes without saying that these individuals are what make the Bison offense work, they are the lifeblood. However, they continue to be taken for granted by the general fan or media member. For the Bison offensive line, they would actually prefer it that way.
“Know your role and you fill it,” said senior Tanner Volson when asked about the lack of attention put upon the line. Dillon Radunz, who went down with a knee injury 15 snaps into 2017, says offensive linemen hold a very unique skill set. “I read an article this summer that said that the offensive line is the only position in any sport where you’re protecting another player,” he said. “We can use that trait and the other guys can have the glory. I am blessed to be a part of the line.”
Radunz had plenty of eyes upon him heading into last season. Coming in as a redshirt freshman, he helped the Bison rush for 175 yards against Mississippi Valley State in those 15 snaps he was a part of. So when he returned to the team after extensive rehab, fans and teammates were geared up for a breakout year from the sophomore. “I am super excited. Very fired up. I’m thanking everyone for the opportunity I’m in,” he said.
Compared to other players across all levels of football, Radunz avoided setbacks in his recovery. Some of this has to do with the fact that he was able to rehab throughout the rest of 2017 and into the offseason. “The rehab process went very well. I have a lot of people to thank for that, people on the training staff helped me out with that,” he said. “Everything happened as it was supposed to and I was cleared to play for fall camp. We let it heal up to 100 percent all summer, now I’m ready to go and it feels good.”
The sophomore from Becker, Minnesota, is not the only Bison offensive lineman garnering attention. Junior offensive tackle Zack Johnson was named a preseason All-Missouri Valley selection. After playing in all 15 games in 2017, Johnson was noted as an honorable mention on the All-Missouri Valley team last season. The 6-foot-6, 312 pound Johnson was also named a preseason Third Team All-American.
What keeps the Bison offensive line intact on a consistent basis is their familiarity with one another. While this is the case throughout the NDSU roster, regardless of position, it is most glaringly clear on the offensive line. “Chemistry is big on the offensive line because we’re basically just one big chain,” Tanner Volson said. “One broken link can ruin the play so it’s important we’re on the same page.”
Along with Volson, NDSU has two other seniors on the line, Luke Bacon and Colin Conner. While Johnson is the only junior, both Radunz and Cordell Volson played valuable minutes last season as freshmen, even if it was limited in Radunz’s case. The line also features nine players that are either freshmen or sophomores. This means that not only are the Bison loaded up on the line this season, but for years to come as well. Their constant stockpiling of offensive linemen has become a vital recruiting tactic in recent years.
With a strong roster full of capable offensive linemen, NDSU quarterbacks can continue to sleep well at night. As Radunz indicated, they are the only athletes protecting another athlete across any sport. The Bison linemen do it willingly, and they see it as a pleasure to serve and protect whoever is receiving the snap.
NDSU’s Offensive Line Experience
Career Games Played
- Tanner Volson: 44
- Colin Conner: 36
- Luke Bacon: 27
- Zack Johnson: 23
- Cordell Volson: 9
- Dillon Radunz: 1
- Karson Schoening: 8
- Zach Kubas: 9
- Jack Albrecht: 2
- Ben Hecht: 2
- Josh Howieson: 2
- Total: 163 Games