Despite leading Bison to FCS title, QB Jensen still faces challenges
FARGO -- Brock Jensen has the experience -- 22 career starts -- and the hardware -- a Division I FCS national title.
That doesn't mean there aren't new challenges for the North Dakota State starting quarterback as he enters his junior season.
"We have a new team this year," said Jensen, who started all 15 games for NDSU last season en route to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision national title. "We have a bunch of new faces. In that sense, it's a lot different."
Gone are three valuable skill players -- running back D.J. McNorton (who rushed for over 1,000 yards); wide receiver Warren Holloway (who had over 1,000 yards receiving); and Matt Veldman, the team's top receiving threat at tight end last season.
The Bison lost two key starters on the offensive line, including an All-American in Paul Cornick.
"He's made 22 starts, but the guys around him have changed," NDSU offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said of Jensen. "That's been part of the challenge this fall. ... 'Who are those guys who I can really lean on?' "
Bison head coach Craig Bohl said Jensen has thrown the ball well to this point of fall camp.
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Jensen, from Waupaca, Wis., is hoping to build off a breakout sophomore season. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,524 yards last fall. He threw 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Accuracy was one area in which Jensen improved dramatically from his first to second season. As a freshman, he completed 45 percent of his throws and played in nine games, making seven starts.
The Bison are hoping Jensen can continue that upward development trend.
"A week in (to fall camp), I think he's taken a step forward," said Vigen.
"Has he taken, all the steps necessary? 'No.' "
Jensen said he's faster, stronger and quicker than he was a season ago. Bohl said as Jensen continues to mature at his position, he'll rely less on those physical attributes.
"The game slows down a bit and you start getting into that second and third read," Bohl said. "He is able to use his head along with his athleticism."
Jensen feels he's making strides in the way he thinks the game. "In the mental game aspect, I feel much improved," he said.
Jensen's leadership role is also likely to expand this fall. The Bison have seven seniors on the roster.
"When you hit that junior and senior year ... you are one of the leaders," Jensen said. "I understand that this is a year for me where I can step up in one of those leadership roles and make the best of that opportunity."
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