Klieman caps first class
There were no surprises Wednesday when all was said and done with the North Dakota State football recruiting class. Considering a head coaching change and dealing with recruiting during an FCS playoff run, that was a good thing for new head coach Chris Klieman.
The Bison announced the signing of 21 players and eight preferred walk-ons on the first day they could sign an NCAA letter of intent. It included the much-heralded duo of quarterback Easton Stick and wide receiver R.J. Urzendowski from Creighton Prep High School in Omaha. Urzendowski set a Nebraska high school record for career receptions with 156 and receiving yards with 2,592. Stick was NDSU’s No. 1 recruiting target behind center.
“That was a no-brainer for our staff at the quarterback position,” Klieman said. “He has great leadership skills and great character.”
Klieman was promoted from defensive coordinator to the Bison head coach in December after Craig Bohl announced he took the University of Wyoming head coaching job. Both kept their NDSU positions through the school’s third straight FCS title in early January. It also led to an apparent struggle, with NDSU hoping to keep some of its commitments from following Bohl to Wyoming.
The conflict reached the NDSU athletic director’s office — Gene Taylor said the week after the title game that he and Bohl agreed that Wyoming would not contact any of NDSU’s committed recruits. In his Wednesday news conference in Wyoming, Bohl said he lived up to his end of the contract.
The Bison had one verbal commitment — cornerback Ryon’e Winters — decommit to the Cowboys, although Winters said he was going to attend NDSU after Bohl had left for Laramie. Meanwhile, through all the change, Klieman said his staff had to “re-recruit” all of the players that originally committed to NDSU with Bohl as the head coach.
“We took nothing for granted,” Klieman said. “Everybody knows in this profession that a verbal commitment means something, but not everything. Even if we felt solid about somebody, we re-recruited them.”
“I think we got the kids we wanted,” Klieman said. “This group of guys – they all wanted to be here. They’re all talented kids, but there are two things we look for: One, great character. We lost 24 seniors with unbelievable character, so these kids have to have great character and a great work ethic. We know we have that with these guys.”
The class includes six players from North Dakota: strong safety Eric Bachmeier from Kindred, defensive end Stanley Jones from Bismarck, offensive linemen Luke Bacon from Towner-Granville-Upham and Tanner Volson from Drake-Anamoose, defensive lineman Levi Hoiby from Powers Lake and linebacker Levi Jordheim from Dickinson.
“We need to make sure we get North Dakota kids to come to NDSU to play football,” Klieman said.
NDSU landed four players from Minnesota – all from the Twin Cities area. They are running back Eji Ejiya from Spring Lake Park, wide receiver Khayvon Hawkins from Robbinsdale Cooper, defensive end Greg Menard from Lakeville North and offensive lineman Christian Triplett from Delano. Klieman said Ejiya and Hawkins are potentially good linebacker prospects, but both will start their NDSU careers on offense.
“We always bring them in and let them play the position they want to start with,” Klieman said. “If there is good athleticism and good speed, there may be a case where somebody moves around.”
All of NDSU’s announced recruits had already made their intentions known. Klieman said the Bison may add another player or two to the class but “the core of the group is done.”