Falling into the right hands: NDSU lifts redshirt off Urzendowski, Wentz solid in scrimmage
FARGO — North Dakota State freshman receiver R.J. Urzendowski had a lot thrown at him in the first two weeks of fall practicing. He rarely dropped anything — including the playbook.
That is why the Bison coaches made the decision to lift his redshirt and he will be part of the rotation when NDSU travels to Iowa State for the Aug. 30 opener. To date, he’s the only true freshman who is slated to play right away.
Urzendowski took advantage of some minor injuries to other Bison receivers getting a lot more practice time than anticipated.
“He got an awful lot of snaps and proved to us he could pick up the offense and you just didn’t see him drop any balls,” said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. “He found ways to get open and made plays. He made plays on (cornerbacks) that have played a lot of games for us and we thought he was mentally ready.”
Senior receivers Zach Vraa, Trevor Gebhart and Nate Moody all missed practice time with various ailments. All have since returned.
Urzendowski called the first two weeks tough, but said those older receivers were a big help.
“The first week was huge on install,” he said. “They threw a ton at you and I got some of that stuff down, I started playing faster and getting it a lot quicker.”
Klieman said two other players could possibly have their redshirts lifted in cornerback Jalen Allison and receiver Khayvon Hawkins. That decision will most likely not be made until the season gets going.
He said those two and true freshman quarterback Easton Stick will probably make one or both of the first two travel squads to ISU and Weber State (Utah).
“We need to play the situation out and see where our depth leads us after the first three or four games,” Klieman said.
Wentz solid in first intrasquad scrimmage
NDSU held its first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday, although most of the veteran defensive players did not participate. Everybody played on offense.
Starting quarterback Carson Wentz threw touchdown passes to Carey Woods and Demitrius Gray and backup Derek McGinnis connected with tight end Lucas Albers for a 50-yard scoring play. The scrimmage was closed to the media and public but the sports information office did release a recap.
“I think Carson is a real special player for us at quarterback,” Klieman said. “Lucas Albers made some good plays and he’s a role player that needs to really elevate his play. Those are the things in guys we were looking for, those role players who potentially are going to be impact guys.”
Kurt Mattox, a redshirt freshman walk-on linebacker, led the defense with seven tackles including one quarterback sack.
Klieman said starting nose guard Brian Schaetz has returned to practice and was scheduled to participate in his first contact practice on Monday afternoon. He’s been out with a broken foot and a blood clot.
“He’s moving around exceptionally well,” Klieman said. “He’s further along than what I anticipated – he’s got to be a guy that can play 50 snaps or so in another two weeks.”