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North Dakota State Bison weather FCS reputation with 26-player recruiting class

FARGO -- Another year of coming off an FCS national title, another year of trying to hold on to verbal commitments for North Dakota State. That's the life the Bison live these days on the college football recruiting trail.NDSU had to sweat some l...

FARGO - Another year of coming off an FCS national title, another year of trying to hold on to verbal commitments for North Dakota State. That’s the life the Bison live these days on the college football recruiting trail.
NDSU had to sweat some late calls by FBS schools and announced a class of 26 recruits on Wednesday. Some of those had other options late in the process.
Offensive tackle Dillon Radunz from Becker, Minn., for example, took a call from the University of Missouri as late as Tuesday, offering a full ride to a Southeastern Conference school. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Radunz said thanks, but no thanks.
“It was a little late to think about anything,” Radunz said. “NDSU had my interest.”
Radunz had already turned down FBS offers from Northern Illinois and Wyoming earlier in the recruiting process. He said Missouri tried to convince him not to sign on Wednesday and he eventually had to turn off his phone in case anybody else called.
Predictably, NDSU lost a handful of verbal commitments. Tight end Gabe Lloyd from Green Bay took a preferred walk-on offer from the University of Wisconsin on Tuesday. Last week, running back Bryce Torneden took a later offer from the University of Kansas, which is in his hometown of Lawrence. So NDSU took that opportunity to offer running back Adam Cofield from Lee’s Summit, Mo., who had previously committed to Missouri State.
NDSU also lost a linebacker to Iowa and a defensive end to Minnesota in the last couple of months. But NDSU head coach Chris Klieman wasn’t dwelling on the recruits his team didn’t get.
“I worry about the guys on this sheet,” Klieman said referring to his list of commitments. “That’s who I’m excited about. We have a bunch of guys who had FBS offers and they said, ‘No, I’m going to be a Bison.’”
Receiver Sean Engel from Chaska, Minn., for instance, had Wyoming on his plate and preferred walk-on offers from the University of Minnesota and Wisconsin, but kept his September Bison commitment intact. Safety Darren Kelley from the North Dakota State College of Science turned down Toledo.
“It always gets harder, because people are looking at who the Bison are recruiting,” Klieman said. “We’re having success. People sometimes look at our class and say let’s make a run at this kid. North Dakota State sees something in this guy and that happened with a couple of these guys.”
On the flipside, quarterback Henry Van Dellen from Providence Academy in the Twin Cities said he had no interest in looking elsewhere after he verbally committed.
“I honestly don’t think any school would have changed my mind,” Van Dellen said. “I was trying to find a college that felt like home and I had gone all over the country looking for places.”
Wednesday’s signing day class was the first for NDSU in offering cost of attendance, the recently NCAA-approved measure that allows schools to give student-athletes financial assistance above the standard scholarship. It also allowed the Bison to stay on par with the FBS schools, Klieman said.
“It was a huge factor for us,” he said. “I know some schools are starting to push the envelope to try to do it. It’s extra money in their pockets. ... It doesn’t matter if it’s a full scholarship or a partial, you get a piece of that.”
The class had six from North Dakota, eight from Minnesota including Radunz’s teammate Beau Pauly, five from Wisconsin, two from Missouri and one each from Florida, Iowa and Kansas. Two transfers made it official in Kelley and punter Jackson Koonce from SMU. NDSU did not have a player from Nebraska for the first time in several years.
“There wasn’t any reason for that, it’s just how it landed this year,” Klieman said.
A few family connections may have helped land NDSU a few players. Offensive lineman Zach Kubas from Dickinson Trinity is the son of former Bison defensive lineman Monte Kubas, offensive lineman Cordell Volson from Balfour, N.D., is the younger brother of Bison offensive lineman Tanner Volson and offensive lineman Josh Howieson from Baxter, Minn., is the cousin of former Bison defensive back and defensive assistant coach Joey Blackmore.
Also of note, Tim Cofield, Adam Cofield’s father, played four years in the NFL and was a three-time CFL all-star in his six years in that league.

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