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3 Players To Watch For

by Dan Gunderson

As we continue to countdown to the August 30th kickoff between Kansas State University and North Dakota State University, I have come up with three players to watch for on the NDSU football team this 2013 season.

Two of the players I will mention are based off what I am hearing from NDSU coaches. The third player is going to be based off what I saw in the spring game. The three players are MJ Stumpf, Esley Thorton and Carson Wentz.

MJ Stumpf – Redshirt Freshman Linebacker
This redshirt freshman from Harvey, N.D. impressed me during the Green and Gold game this spring. An all-state quarterback in high school, Stumpf will asked to help build the depth at linebacker for the Bison.

Much has been made about the fact that NDSU started the same three linebackers for all 15 games last year. The reason had more to do with lack of experience in the back-ups than lack of talent.

This year cannot be the same for last year’s starters Travis Beck, Carlton Littlejohn and Grant Olson. Stumpf appeared to be someone ready to step up and see significant time on the field. I am not looking for this player to challenge one of those three for a starting spot but at least a couple snaps in the fourth quarter of a close game.

Linebacker is the one position that was hard pressed to find players ready to play last year. With questions about Beck’s shoulder already coming up during fall camp, the time for younger linebackers to step up is now.

Esley Thorton – Redshirt Junior Linebacker
Speaking of the linebackers, this Bismarck native has received the most amount of praise from coaches during the fall camp.

“Esley Thorton has been playing pretty well,” said head coach Craig Bohl. Okay, so that is not something to “write home” about but I still find it intriguing Thorton was the only linebacker mentioned by name when Bohl was asked about depth at the position.

“We got Esley Thorton that we think is doing a really good job,” said defensive coordinator Chris Klieman when asked the same “depth at linebacker” question. Again, nothing really amazing being said about him but it is something to take away when coaches are noticing the player specifically.

Thorton is one of 12 back-up linebackers on the NDSU roster this season. That is a lot of competition for just an opportunity to standout to the coaches. If Thorton is doing things that coaches are saying even small praises about, I think he is warranted a player to watch for this season.

Carson Wentz – Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback
“GUNDERSON! WHY DO YOU HATE BROCK JENSEN?” The reason I have Wentz listed here has nothing to do with a non-existent hatred for Jensen. This has more to do with something people saw happen last year.

Wentz played a handful of snaps in eight games throughout the 2012 season. Much of those snaps were nothing more than Wentz taking snaps during garbage times in games that had already been decided but you could see the talent was there.

He has a solid arm and is quicker than his size would lead you to believe. “I feel very comfortable with Carson going in at any time during the ball game,” said coach Bohl about his back-up quarterback.

That might be the most telling sentence of this whole preview. He is coach Bohl’s back-up quarterback. Nobody for NDSU is thinking Wentz will start over Jensen this year but the confidence is high on the sophomore. Don’t be surprised if you see Wentz get snaps during meaningful parts of the game instead of the fourth quarter of a blow-out.