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Hawley's Ellefson making bid to see the Bison field as a freshman

FARGO--North Dakota State has 36 players from the state of Minnesota on its football roster, but only three are from a marathon distance from the Red River. In other words, there are probably more eyes on them than the others.

Ben Ellefeson goes through blocking drills during North Dakota State football practice on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.David Samson / The Forum
Ben Ellefeson goes through blocking drills during North Dakota State football practice on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-North Dakota State has 36 players from the state of Minnesota on its football roster, but only three are from a marathon distance from the Red River. In other words, there are probably more eyes on them than the others.

Freshman tight end Ben Ellefson from nearby Hawley is well aware of it and this year, those fans' eyes will be able to watch him in a game. He redshirted last year after a standout career with the Nuggets that saw him get scholarship offers from FBS schools Purdue, Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force.

He picked the local FCS club.

"It's a good feeling, but there's also some pressure there," Ellefson said. "I'm trying not to look at that. I'm just trying to go out there and do my thing and play my game."

He came into the tight-end fold at a good time. The Bison lost Andrew Bonnet and Luke Albers to graduation and will enter the season opener Aug. 27 against Charleston Southern largely untested at the position.

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Junior Jeff Illies is the most experienced with seven receptions and two touchdowns last season. Junior Connor Wentz had four catches and a TD and sophomore Nate Jenson has been working his way into the rotation.

"It's a good time to be a tight end at NDSU, just big shoes to fill," Ellefson said of Albers and Bonnet. "Those two played a lot of snaps so trying to learn from their film is something I'm trying to do right now."

Wentz is probably the most versatile of the lot in terms of blocking and receiving. Ellefson is a better point-of-attack blocker, head coach Chris Klieman said, than a receiver at this point.

"I'm trying to work on my routes better, getting in and out of breaks better," Ellefson said. "I'm up with the 1s and it's a different ballgame up there. Everything is a little faster, especially during practice. They're trying to speed us up to give us some pressure looks and I'm just trying to grasp that."

He has a grasp of the physical part, now up to 245 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. As of this week, Klieman foresees Ellefson seeing somewhere between 20 and 45 plays a game "depending on the game plan."

Ellefson was part of the 2015 recruiting class that in the early going is showing a lot of promise. Defensive back Tre Fort from Moorhead, who went to Fargo Shanley, is part of that class. The local veteran from the Minnesota side of the Red River Valley is senior running back Chase Morlock.

"You want to try and win your backyard and Hawley is in our backyard," Klieman said. "Ben had a lot of great offers and wanted to play for the Bison. You can tell in those players it means a lot to them."

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Ben Ellefeson goes through blocking drills during North Dakota State football practice on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.David Samson / The Forum
Ben Ellefeson grabs a pass on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, during North Dakota State football practice.David Samson / The Forum

Related Topics: CHRIS KLIEMAN
Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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