Photo by Kirby Lee / USA Today
Oregon Football

Spring Preview: North Dakota State Defense

April 9, 2020

I know it’s still April and it's five months until Oregon runs out of the tunnel and takes to Rich Brooks Field. But it’s never too early to start learning about who the Ducks will be taking the field against.

Oregon kicks off its best home schedule in years with an incredibly fun Week 1 matchup against the Alabama of the FCS: North Dakota State.

The Bison finished 2019 a perfect 16-0 to win their third consecutive title. They haven’t lost a game since November 4, 2017. To say they’re a powerhouse at their level is an understatement. Mario Cristobal and Co. must have their team ready to compete -- and not looking ahead at the Week 2 intersectional against Ohio State.

NDSU transitioned to a new coach last season for the first time in five years. Matt Entz did a tremendous job, as he had big shoes to fill after Chris Klieman left for Kansas State.

Entz was the defensive coordinator for the Bison for five seasons. He filled that position with David Braun, who spent the last two seasons with Bison. Braun was the special teams coordinator as well as the outside linebackers coach.

There also was an opening at offensive coordinator, and Entz hired Tyler Roehl. Roehl had spent the past five seasons in Fargo coaching the tight ends and fullbacks.

Those hires were fantastic, as both units were phenomenal the whole season. Braun led a stout defense that allowed only 12.3 points a game -- which led the FCS. They also tied for first with a plus-17 turnover margin.

The Bison weren’t the best pass rushing unit, finishing with 44 sacks -- 19th in the division. They allowed 274.7 yards a game, which was second. In fact, the Bison finished in the top 20 in most defensive metrics.

I didn’t watch as much game film as I would’ve liked, but they run a 4-3 as their base defense. They did have other packages, but a lot of their blitzes would come out of their base package.

It really wasn’t a special scheme or anything;  they simply line up with better athletes relative to most teams at that level. Without that athletic edge, they’ll have to shake things up against Oregon if they want to confuse whichever quarterback is under center. I’ll try to watch more film here soon and get you guys a better breakdown on the defense.

The Bison lost some of their top players on defense this off-season.

Derrek Tuszka led the team in sacks with 13.5, and he’s hoping to hear his name called during the draft. Jabril Cox decided to become a grad transfer, and he’ll be suiting up for the LSU Tigers on Saturdays. James Hendricks also graduated after earning first-team all-conference honors.

However,  the Bison do have a bunch of guys returning who had fantastic 2019 campaigns.

Michael Tutsie (25), Strong Safety

The 5-10, 197-pounder was an absolute ballhawk, recording 7 interceptions and 9 pass deflections. He also had 105 total tackles and 1 forced fumble.

Tutsie is an all-around great player, even if he doesn’t have ideal size for his position. He’s great at playing the deep ball; the Oregon quarterback will have to make sure he knows where Tutsie at all times.

Jackson Hankey (52), Linebacker

The 6-1, 220-pounder was a tackling machine, leading the team with 127. He also snagged 1 interception and he had 2 pass deflections.

Hankey is a high motor player who has a nose for the football. He seems to be involved in almost every play. He can stop the run well and drop back into coverage.

Now, how will he fare going up against the Oregon offensive line? The Ducks offer a big upgrade in both size and athleticism.

Josh Hayes (14), Cornerback

The 5-11, 186-pounder was a stud, earning second team all-conference and snagging 2 interceptions. He recorded 59 tackles as well as 12 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble.

Hayes wasn’t necessarily a lock-down corner, but he played a huge part in a secondary that basically dominated the opposition. While just a one-year starter, the senior brings a strong veteran presence to the secondary. He isn’t small for his position, but he definitely isn’t pushing receivers off their routes.

This defensive unit was really strong, but it is losing three of its top four players. They’re going to have to reload, and a lot of guys will see snaps in Eugene who don’t have a ton of experience.

However, the Bison obviously know how to recruit, as year after year they dominate the FCS. They’ll have guys who are hungry and ready to make a name for themselves as they take on a high-level FBS program.

The Bison pride themselves on knocking down FBS teams, and they’ll be confident they are ready to pull off the upset. It’s going to be a fantastic way to start the season.

September 5 can’t get here soon enough.

Tags: Football, Oregon
Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.