The Relentless Pursuit of Recruiting

Total Red

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If you want to know why the Dakota States are where they are, you have to know it all starts with recruiting and recruiting starts with the attitude of never being satisfied.

In 2020 North Dakota St. was enjoying their usual perch on top of the FCS world with star QB Trey Lance. But Covid dealt everyone a cruel blow and NDSU/Lance only played one football game in the fall of 2020. After that Lance elected to prepare for the NFL draft. As a 1st rounder and the overall #3 pick, it is hard to second guess that decision. NDSU appeared ready to attack the spring with 3-star Iowa St. transfer QB - Zeb Noland. But to the surprise of many, true freshman Cam Miller eventually surpassed Noland, and he became the starter. Most schools would be happy with the season the Bison had in the spring. They won 7 of 10 games and made it to the 2nd round of the FCS playoffs. In Fargo winning 70% of your games is considered a crime against humanity and it induces a depression usually reserved for the closing of oil pipelines. Even though both Miller and Noland return, and even though either QB would likely produce a playoff participant, the Bison chose to fortify the position with the addition of FBS transfer Quincy Patterson. Patterson is a robust 235 lb. 4-star dual-threat QB from Virginia Tech. "Win the Portal" is the new rallying cry of the Fargoians. The Bison are set to win more than 70% of their games in the fall and a return to Frisco, TX appears quite possible.

Meanwhile, down south, South Dakota St. to be exact, the Jackbunnies just got back from a trip to Frisco. The Jacks made it to the National Championship game led by wunderkind QB Mark Gronowski a true freshman. The youthful Gronowski stuffed the trophy case in the spring - Newcomer of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, you name it. If the Valley awarded it, then Gronowski got it. I thought SDSU would win the Championship, and maybe they would have, but Gronowski was injured early in the game and Keaton Heide had to come on in relief. Even playing with a backup QB, SDSU was in the game all the way losing a 23-21 heartbreaker. Heide is a sophomore in eligibility, so even if Gronowski misses the entire fall 2021 season you would think that SDSU is still in good shape. Heide is a capable QB, the defense is solid and the RB position has the best 1-2 punch in the league. I say that knowing that the MVFC is a conference that always has excellent RB's. North Dakota and NDSU will be strong at RB, but I don't think anyone can match Isaiah Davis and Pierre Strong. So Heide at QB with a possibility of Gronowski returning for the playoffs? That might be a plan at some schools but SDSU Coach Stiegelmeier moved quickly to improve the quarterback position. Chris Oladokun was a 3-star recruit out of Tampa. He held offers from Nebraska and Iowa St. out of HS but he elected to stay home and play for Charlie Strong at South Florida. Oladokun filled in as a starter at USF for a couple of games, but he sought a full-time starting position, so he transferred to FCS Samford. Oladokun enjoyed a stellar 2019 season at Samford receiving the SoConn player of the week award 3 times. As a grad transfer Oladokun flirted with Florida A&M before changing his mind and accepting an offer from South Dakota St. for 2021 fall season. Heide? Oladokun? Gronowski? We're not sure who will be behind center for the Jacks, but I am confident that Coach Stig will contend for the Valley title and the Jacks will be back in the playoffs.

Good is never good enough for the Dakota States
 
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Virginia Redbird

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Aggressive, particularly at the most critical position on a football team. But the edge is with ISU because those teams don't really recruit QBs with an eye towards playing them at DB or LB. :)
 

Redbirdwarrior

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If I were a high end QB prospect, I'd have NDSU on my list above Bama, Penn State, Michigan, Florida, Florida State and almost any other college not named Clemson in the country.

Think about it: NDSU now has just as many scouts watching them as almost any SEC team. Wentz and Lance have Now gone 1 and 2. There are THREE active QBs in the NFL from NDSU, two of them starting and one with a $128,000,000 contract. Also, you are often times playing schools you should mollywop and put up video game numbers. NDSU QBs will put up 4-6 TD against teams like SEMO or Western IL while 4 star QBs at Auburn are putting up 175 yards and 2 picks vs South Carolina or someone every week.

NDSU is going to continue to pull in NFL Starter level players and the rest of the FCS needs to be worried about that.
 

Total Red

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NDSU lost to 3 different FCS teams this past season so they aren't invincible. It's true that they will continue to recruit outstanding players including NFL level QB's. But even when the Bison had one of the best QB's in FCS history in Carson Wentz the Redbirds were able to match them. Tre Roberson matched the productivity of Wentz in the National Championship game and our offense averaged more than 2 yards per play above that of the Bison. Tre had 1 int in that game and the shame of it was that it was one of his best passes. Starting TE James O' Shaughnessy was injured while tackling on kickoff return coverage in the 4th quarter. The intercepted pass was thrown to his replacement. The pass hit the receiver in the chest but a NDSU defender stripped him of the ball. If O'Shaun was in the game I predict he would have held on to that pass and the Redbirds would have finished the drive with a winning FG.

That's all ancient history but my point is this. Yes the Bison are going to get "theirs" but they won't get all the good players. When they get theirs we need to get ours. If they get a Wentz then we need a Roberson. Redbird Football has fielded talent capable of beating the Bison before and Redbird Football can do it again.
 

fourthandshort

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Good offseason post topic. Couple observations:

1. our players do just as well at next level as NDSU, and I believe better than any other Dakota. Given how many titles Bison have won versus Redbirds, our shortcoming as far as next level is not in area of recruiting and developing good players .. other than the aforementioned QB disadvantages.
2. NDSU's recent success at QB position is not their norm .. it all started with Wentz, who looked like a stud very early on. Stick developed into a stud, so credit to NDSU for developing him. Then clearly Lance looked like a stud from day one. But the guy prior, who I felt was over-rated was Brock Jensen. He had one good senior season in 2013, which as most Bison fans will agree was their best team ever .. they had so many all americans/conference players surrounding Jensen that year. Our own Matt Brown was clearly a better QB than Jensen. And Bison were very good in every phase of game that year .. moreso than any other Bison team per their own fans - so that was Jensen's only good season. And he had no shot at next level.
3. I and others have said before ... Spack does a good to great job recruiting in every other position group. As is, ISUr reloads as well as most teams, not named NDSU, SDSU, and JMU .. putting aside QB position, we are very close to those programs, but you can't put aside QBs. But we are right there with next tier of programs like EWU, UNH, UNI, SHSU, JSU etc .. in terms of regularly competing in top 10 and making quarterfinals, and puttting players in NFL, etc. Many other teams come and go, but those seem to be the top 8 programs since 2010 .. we are right there and would be higher if we ever solved QB position and pass game. That and we can be inconsistent at times .. though most good teams will lay an egg once in a while.

We're just so close to being top 5 most years ... just a QB away most seasons.
 
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MadBird

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All good points, fourth.

Spack has been coach for 12 seasons. His main QB's have been:

2009-Matt Brown
2010-Matt Brown
2011-Matt Brown
2012-Matt Brown
2013-Blake Winkler (RS Fr)
2014-Tre Roberson
2015-Tre Roberson
2016-Jake Kolbe
2017-Jake Kolbe
2018-Brady Davis
2019-Brady Davis
2020-Bryce Jefferson

Jake Kolbe had the 3rd most completions and 4th most TD's in ISU history in 2016, and is 5th all-time in career pass completions. We can debate what might have happened if he'd been given his senior season instead of Davis.

So, we can probably all agree in 6 of those seasons, the "Brown years" and the "Tre Years", there was no need for a change at QB. I pointed out some of Kolbe's stats because I always believe he was a "worthy" QB and could've gotten the job done in 2018, his senior year, if he'd been given the chance. So for me, those two years, I don't make a change - 2016 was a playoff year and beat Northwestern. Altho for sure the season records were not our best.

So you're left with 4 out of 12 years that QB play might have warranted a change - Winkler, 2 Davis years, and Jefferson's "spring season". Winkler was the Gatorade HS player of the year before he came to ISU, so you might have to give them a mulligan - they probably thought he was gonna get the job done. Jefferson, God bless him, last year was not so good. Davis, I was not a fan, but he came here with some fanfare.

My point is, while there have been some seasons where QB recruiting and development have hurt, I don't think it's quite as bad as it seems sometimes, especially in the off-season when you can sit back and analyze and take a deep breath. Sigh. :rolleyes:
 

cubird

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So who is the QB on the roster that will challenge Jefferson this year? Saw that IL just got a preferred walk on that had a nice career at Div II.
 

fourthandshort

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All good points, fourth.

Spack has been coach for 12 seasons. His main QB's have been:

2009-Matt Brown
2010-Matt Brown
2011-Matt Brown
2012-Matt Brown
2013-Blake Winkler (RS Fr)
2014-Tre Roberson
2015-Tre Roberson
2016-Jake Kolbe
2017-Jake Kolbe
2018-Brady Davis
2019-Brady Davis
2020-Bryce Jefferson

Jake Kolbe had the 3rd most completions and 4th most TD's in ISU history in 2016, and is 5th all-time in career pass completions. We can debate what might have happened if he'd been given his senior season instead of Davis.

So, we can probably all agree in 6 of those seasons, the "Brown years" and the "Tre Years", there was no need for a change at QB. I pointed out some of Kolbe's stats because I always believe he was a "worthy" QB and could've gotten the job done in 2018, his senior year, if he'd been given the chance. So for me, those two years, I don't make a change - 2016 was a playoff year and beat Northwestern. Altho for sure the season records were not our best.

So you're left with 4 out of 12 years that QB play might have warranted a change - Winkler, 2 Davis years, and Jefferson's "spring season". Winkler was the Gatorade HS player of the year before he came to ISU, so you might have to give them a mulligan - they probably thought he was gonna get the job done. Jefferson, God bless him, last year was not so good. Davis, I was not a fan, but he came here with some fanfare.

My point is, while there have been some seasons where QB recruiting and development have hurt, I don't think it's quite as bad as it seems sometimes, especially in the off-season when you can sit back and analyze and take a deep breath. Sigh. :rolleyes:
agree with your primary point .. it hasn't always hurt us on the field, But I would argue it hurt us on the field in 2015 after Tre injury), and then every year since 2017. But even in years it didn't hurt us .. when have ever had a #2 we could have put into the game with most of the playbook. Our QB depth chart has always been very weak under Spack. Can't believe it is all recruiting. I think it is partly development and philosophy. It is very hard to succeed at ISU at QB position with Spack's approach to football. Don't get me wrong, Spack is 100% responsible for our unprecedented success this last decade. But the only thing that holds us back from more top 5 level success and longer more consistent runs in playoffs is the QB position and pass game.

I don't want Spack to leave at all. I want him to open his mind some and bring in an OC and truly give him the reins over offense and QB recruitment and development. This is only thing keeping us behind NDSU and SDSU most years. Same could be said for UNI by the way.

It's the difference between being a top 8-16 program most years, versus being a top 4-8 program most years. And while he knows to build every other phase, pass game is no small thing in todays game. he needs to adapt.

That said, if he doesn't change his approach at all ... he's still our guy. Redbird football is respected everywhere because of Spack. Teams know they are in for a very physical hard fought game .. more old school than new school, but still very respected.

Ask Fitzgerald at NW what he thinks of ISUr football .. playing us after Roberson/Coprich were gone (albeit not in NFL) and Meredith, O'Shaughnessy, and Liedtke were in NFL .. and we still beat them and outplayed them in a strong year for them on their field.
 
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MadBird

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agree with your primary point .. it hasn't always hurt us on the field, But I would argue it hurt us on the field in 2015 after Tre injury), and then every year since 2017. But even in years it didn't hurt us .. when have ever had a #2 we could have put into the game with most of the playbook. Our QB depth chart has always been very weak under Spack. Can't believe it is all recruiting. I think it is partly development and philosophy. It is very hard to succeed at ISU at QB position with Spack's approach to football. Don't get me wrong, Spack is 100% responsible for our unprecedented success this last decade. But the only thing that holds us back from more top 5 level success and longer more consistent runs in playoffs is the QB position and pass game.

I don't want Spack to leave at all. I want him to open his mind some and bring in an OC and truly give him the reins over offense and QB recruitment and development. This is only thing keeping us behind NDSU and SDSU most years. Same could be said for UNI by the way.

It's the difference between being a top 8-16 program most years, versus being a top 4-8 program most years. And while he knows to build every other phase, pass game is no small thing in todays game. he needs to adapt.

That said, if he doesn't change his approach at all ... he's still our guy. Redbird football is respected everywhere because of Spack. Teams know they are in for a very physical hard fought game .. more old school than new school, but still very respected.

Ask Fitzgerald at NW what he thinks of ISUr football .. playing us after Roberson/Coprich were gone (albeit not in NFL) and Meredith, O'Shaughnessy, and Liedtke were in NFL .. and we still beat them and outplayed them in a strong year for them on their field.
All true.

What I don't get, and I've mentioned it before -- if Spack's "mentor" is Joe Tiller, if Spack is from the Joe Tiller "coaching tree", why doesn't he embrace (and put the emphasis on it in recruiting) the wide open O that was that the mark of Tiller? Never have figgered that out. Maybe Coach Beathard was "the guy", but somehow we've never had an OC who has put it all together over time and stayed here and solidified an offensive scheme and brought in the QB's to run it, etc. etc. Where's Matt Brown or Tre?? Can they come back and take over?
 

fourthandshort

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All true.

What I don't get, and I've mentioned it before -- if Spack's "mentor" is Joe Tiller, if Spack is from the Joe Tiller "coaching tree", why doesn't he embrace (and put the emphasis on it in recruiting) the wide open O that was that the mark of Tiller? Never have figgered that out. Maybe Coach Beathard was "the guy", but somehow we've never had an OC who has put it all together over time and stayed here and solidified an offensive scheme and brought in the QB's to run it, etc. etc. Where's Matt Brown or Tre?? Can they come back and take over?

The recruiting pitch for an up and comer OC is easy ... I promise you a strong defense and run game, you need to bring me a pass game. That and I (Spack) will let you run this offense and develop our QBs. Lose him after 2 or 3 years, rinse repeat .. guaranteed defense and run game .. what OC wouldn't want to walk into that situation .. except for fact that we have demonstrated the opposite and our reputation precedes us. Spack alone can change this ... time to adapt our culture IMHO.
 

MadBird

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Interesting story about former foe Eastern Washington considering dropping down a division or two, or dropping FB. Generally related to the topic at hand so won't start another thread. Ultimately decided to stay where they are, for now.


“Moving to a lower divisions or association or eliminated some sports does not align with the vision that EWU has created. That vision reads in part, ‘Eastern Washington university is a driving force for the culture, economy, workforce, and vitality of Washington state,'" May said in his presentation last month.

The thinking was similar to that of other universities that think about leaving D1 but ultimately stay: whatever savings the school would gain by cutting scholarships, travel and other D1-associated costs would be offset, and then some, by the drop in revenue the university as a whole would incur by moving to a lower level. The athletics department would lose ticket sales and sponsorship money, but the university as a whole would also lose by attracting a smaller, less diverse student body.
 

fourthandshort

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Interesting story about former foe Eastern Washington considering dropping down a division or two, or dropping FB. Generally related to the topic at hand so won't start another thread. Ultimately decided to stay where they are, for now.

Ive heard they have wrestled with this for years. But the idea that a perennial FCS football power like EWU would do this is mind blowing. In the end, it is about budgets and sustainability ... would be a shame if it ever happens.
 
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