Klieman begins tenure with first practice
FARGO — North Dakota State conducted its first football practice of the season on Monday. And for the first time since 2003, somebody else blew the whistle signifying the beginning of the first drill.
Chris Klieman is not new to NDSU having been an assistant for three previous seasons. And he is not new to being a head coach having served that role at Loras College (Iowa) in 2005. But in the last several months, he has been new to the numerous responsibilities of a Division I head coach that routinely sells out its home field.
It’s a microscope — and then some.
“Yeah, it’s been quite a bit different as far as going different places and probably less of getting a playbook ready and some of those things,” he said.
As the former defensive coordinator, Klieman said he’ll probably be more hands-on during practice with the defense than his predecessor, Craig Bohl was. Bohl came to NDSU after being the defensive coordinator at the University of Nebraska.
But, he said, his assistant coaches are not rookies, either. Defensive coordinator Matt Entz held that same position at Western Illinois and Northern Iowa. After several years as a Bison assistant, offensive coordinator Tim Polasek returned to NDSU after coaching one year at Northern Illinois and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Jordan Lynch.
Quarterbacks assistant Randy Hedberg has been around the coaching game since the late 1970s with the last stop at Southern Illinois.
“There are high expectations for me and high expectations for the assistants,” Klieman said. “We’re at a place where winning is important, where you have to win. But every place you go you feel you have to win and our guys are excited about that challenge.”
Klieman takes over a team that has won 24 straight games and three FCS national titles. Pressure? No more than usual, he said.
Every college coach has pressure, he said. There was pressure in the three previous years. No nerves, he said, just an anxious feeling of getting started.
“I’ve just got to be myself,” Klieman said. “I’m not going to be Craig and Craig had a wonderful run here and provided me with a lot of opportunity. I’ll take each day as they come. Maybe a little difference is I’ll be more actively involved on the game planning and day-to-day drills because that’s still what I see myself doing is being a defensive coach.”
A defensive coach who will have the added elements of extensive media interviews, radio and television shows and a desk at the Fargodome football office where the buck stops. After Bohl left, he received a raise in pay and stature.