Bison may test their depth at running back this weekend
FARGO -- North Dakota State's top-ranked football team will have some decisions to make in the backfield this weekend when the Bison travel to Missouri State. It appears NDSU will take at least six running backs for the 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon game, Oct. 10, at Plaster Field in Springfield, Mo.
The question has more to do with who is healthy and who will be part of the new NCAA four-game eligibility rule.
Seniors Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson will most likely play. Junior Ty Brooks tweaked his ankle again against Youngstown State last Saturday and is questionable for the Bears.
Head coach Chris Klieman on Monday confirmed sophomore Seth Wilson, who has been sidelined all season with a hamstring injury, will play at most four games, thus preserving a year of eligibility. The rule allows players who haven’t redshirted not to lose a year if they play in four games or fewer.
“We elected to hold off another week,” Klieman said of Wilson. “Hopefully he’ll be able to give us something this week.”
Wilson played as a true freshman last year and emerged as one of the top threats with 194 yards rushing in the FCS semifinals against Sam Houston State.
Anderson returned to the lineup last Saturday from a hamstring injury in the 17-7 win over Youngstown. But he only played 10 snaps and did not carry the ball. Klieman said Anderson didn’t further aggravate his injury and was just pulled from the lineup after his hamstring “became fatigued.”
“We’re hopeful we’ll get more out of Bruce,” Klieman said.
If they don’t, the Bison can turn to sophomore Adam Cofield, who appears to be gaining the trust of his team as the season has gone along.
“He really has,” Klieman said. “I’m really pleased with Adam and I think Adam is going to see some significant time based on Bruce.”
True freshman Saybein Clark from Sioux City, Iowa, may also go on the trip. Clark has played in two games and will most likely be part of the NCAA four-game rule. Clark’s availability appears to be more of a safeguard.
“Just because I don’t know if I will be able to give anybody a definitive answer on Seth or Bruce by the time Saturday gets here,” Klieman said. “I also have a concern if it’s going to be 40 degrees and we have hamstring guys.”
In all, that’s six running backs that will probably make the trip.
The Bison retained their No. 1 ranking in both the FCS coaches and media polls on Monday. Kennesaw State (Ga.) is No. 2 in both polls. South Dakota State is the next Valley team at No. 6 in both rankings.
The Bison clinched at least a share of the Valley title with the win last Saturday. They can clinch it outright with a win on Saturday.
“We have to continue to focus on our play and our preparation,” Klieman said. “If we do that, we have a chance to be successful. If we take short cuts and flounder around on Tuesday and Wednesday, we won’t be ready to go.”