FCS champ Bison set to replenish lineup
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By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Over two-thirds of its 2018 starters have to be replaced, but FCS dynasty North Dakota State hasn't lost its high level of confidence entering the start of spring practice Wednesday.
The Bison, who have won two straight and a record seven FCS titles in the last eight seasons, have made one big change already: defensive coordinator Matt Entz has replaced head coach Chris Klieman, who departed for Kansas State following the national championship game win over Eastern Washington.
While the Bison went 15-0 last season and are on a 21-game winning streak, they return only seven of their 22 starters.
"We've gotta stay hungry within this program. We've done an unbelievable job of avoiding feeling satisfactory about all these national championships," Entz said Tuesday at a campus news conference to preview the spring.
"The 2019 team hasn't done anything."
Much of the preseason focus will be at quarterback following the graduation of Easton Stick, a 3½-year starter who went 49-3, setting the FCS record for career wins by a signal caller. Redshirt freshman Trey Lance has been eyed as the possible replacement, but Iowa State junior transfer Zeb Noland came aboard in the signing class early last month. He made five starts in two seasons in Ames, including a 360-yard, two-touchdown performance against Oklahoma.
Other positions of need include wide receiver, the interior of the offensive line, the front seven of the vaunted defense and at place-kicker. The Bison figure to elevate a number of key reserves from recent seasons.
"We need to be able to adapt and adjust," Entz said. "With this young group, we need to throw a little adversity at them."
While the 46-year-old Entz is a head coach for the first time, he's spent the last five seasons as North Dakota State's defensive coordinator. During a 21-year career, he's also been a defensive coordinator in the Missouri Valley Football Conference at Northern Iowa and Western Illinois.
Bison spring practices will conclude with their annual green and gold game April 26 at the Fargodome. They will open the 2019 season against Butler Aug. 31 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Updated March 26, 2019