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An Unenviable Task

by Dan Gunderson

Carson Wentz stands six feet five inches and weighs in at 222 pounds. He has red hair, a big smile and has the most unenviable task on the North Dakota State University campus. He has to replace Brock Jensen at quarterback for the Bison football team.

The praises have already started for the redshirt junior from Bismarck, N.D.

"We're really excited about some of the tools that he has," said head coach Chris Klieman. "Being able to run the ball. Being able to throw the ball with his size. With his speed."

"He has a tremendous arm. He has a cannon," said senior defensive back Christian Dudzik. "We've liked what we've seen overall."

A listener of the Mike McFeely Show on KFGO made the comment that "Wentz is going to be one hell of a quarterback. His scrambling abilities are way more than Jensen's were. He has a cannon for an arm and he is incredibly fast."

At the Bison Showcase, defensive coordinator Matt Entz made mention of the fact that he felt Wentz was the real deal. You also heard several fans talking about Wentz, his skill set and how excited they were to see him on display come Saturday.

It appears many people have a short term memory. I know I don't.

Here is a refresher for everybody. Remember a guy name Steve Walker? Of course you do. One of the best quarterbacks in Bison history. Great run and finished it off with back-to-back 10-1 seasons.

Remember his back-up? Maybe you don't. Nick Mertens. The East Grand Forks, Minnesota product who was lauded as a better quarterback than Walker. He was more athletic, better arm and just overall a better player.

In his 20 games as a starter for NDSU between 2008 and 2009, the Bison went 8-12 as Mertens threw for 25 touchdowns and 23 interceptions while completing only 55 percent of his passes.

While the record wasn't all his fault, especially in 2009, Mertens took the brunt of the blame and did not start the last two games of the year in 2009.

Now, enter 2014 and the quarterback situation is starting to sound very similar to what happened in 2008. How does the famous saying go?Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?

One thing going for Wentz that Mertens didn't have was overall team expectations. In 2008, the Bison started the season as the number two team in the nation. Many people felt that NDSU was going to make the playoffs and possibly get to the national title.

They did not know the power of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

This season, Wentz will go in with team expectations somewhat tempered. Losing 24 seniors from the most dominating team in FCS history will do that to a fan base.

We shouldn't be putting Wentz on a pedestal before he actually plays in some meaningful games. Sure, he looks great in practice and in garbage time last year. It is a whole lot different when you are dealing with 55,000 screaming Iowa State fans on a third and five late in the fourth quarter.

We need to see how he will react, how his composure holds up in pressure situations and how good his decision making is. Big arm and great athleticism mean little if you are not making the right decisions on the field.

It is hard enough that you are the guy to replace the greatest quarterback in school history. Let us not make it any tougher on the guy by throwing out accolades prematurely.

"We're really excited about the potential and it is still potential," said Klieman. For right now, that is all it is. Potential.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called The Pinto and White Shadow Show. Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.