The North Dakota State University football team has reached a level of popularity never reached before. Because of this, their 2014 recruiting class is garnering more attention than any other recruiting class before it. Fans are more interested about incoming classes because they want to know if a certain recruit will become the next Brock Jensen or Nick Mertens.
While only time will reveal those type of answers, it still creates good fodder between fans. While the list of verbals NDSU commits is out there, they do not become official future Bison until they sign their National Letter of Intent. This can make for some drama, which NDSU and Missouri Valley rival Northern Iowa were apart of last season.
Highly sought after linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker went to bed the night before signing his letter of intent believing he would be a Panther. The next morning, he decided to sign with NDSU.
With this year's class, more attention is being paid to NDSU recruits possibly signing with Wyoming University. Ryon'e Winters was a verbal commit to NDSU before he visited the University of Wyoming and switched his commit to the Cowboys.
Instead of going through all the verbal commits out there for NDSU, I want to concentrate on three verbal commits that I find intriguing. Easton Stick, a quarterback from Creighton-Prep in Omaha, Nebraska, Darrius Shepherd, a wide receiver from Blue Springs High School in Blue Springs, Missouri and Nate Jenson, a tight end from Waupaca High School in Waupaca, Wisconsin.
The reason this guy is on the list is simple; he is the crown jewel of the 2014 NDSU recruiting class. Stick was recruited by schools like Akron and Rutgers but decided on NDSU in the end. Listed at 6'2" and 205 pounds, Stick would benefit from a year of redshirting and allowing the strength and conditioning at NDSU to fill him out.
Stick's arm strength is his best asset but he will have to learn when he can and when he cannot try and fit the ball into a tight window, something he struggled with in high school. He also could make plays on the run because he was simply a better athlete than most of the players on the field. He will not be able to get away with that in college.
The one thing that does stand out about Stick is his leadership qualities. He is routinely reaching out to new NDSU verbal commits on Twitter (@Easton_Stick) and those things have not gone unnoticed by NDSU. A critical way to look at this is to say, "Sure, anybody can be positive while things are going well. It is all about how you handle adversity."
Stick may get his shot in the spotlight sooner than later. If all goes accordingly, Stick could be competing for the starting spot as soon as the 2016 season.
The wide receiver position has been somewhat hit or miss for NDSU the last four years. With Warren Holloway, it was a hit. With Zach Vraa, when healthy, it has definitely been a hit. A guy like Ryan Smith ended up showing many flashes of greatness but his inability to stay healthy for an entire season left us wondering just how good he might have been.
More so than anything, the depth at wide out has been a miss. Past NDSU's top receivers, the number two and three options for NDSU have been largely ineffective. That is why a guy like Shepherd intrigues me if for no other reason than he could step onto campus right away and play.
NDSU already has some receivers with potential, but nobody from the last two classes has come out and made a statement. You also have a need at the slot receiver position since Smith has since graduated. Eric Perkins got his shot at that position last year but you cannot assume to just pencil him in at that position.
Shepherd, who is listed at 5'11", is very fast and a two time All-State selection in the state of Missouri. As is usually the case with most FCS recruits, Shepherd was overlooked by bigger schools because of his size. A big-play type player, he can also return punts and just may be good enough to push for playing time right away.
Nate Jenson is from the same high school as Brock Jensen. No, he is not related to NDSU's outgoing quarterback but if you watch his highlight tape, you can tell his style of running from the quarterback position is similar to Brock's.
Now, as you can see, he is playing quarterback in the video. However, Jenson will be looked at to play tight end due to his size, he is listed at 6'6", and athleticism. It would appear that he may become more involved in the passing game than past tight ends.
In the game of football, the blocking tight end who acts like another lineman, is going by the wayside. NDSU's game is to make the tight end an extension of the offensive line but having an athletic tight end who could out jump smaller corners and out run linebackers is never a bad thing.
Jenson is a skilled basketball player as well and he will look to use those skills as a tight end for NDSU. This is exciting from the standpoint that the Bison are looking to become more athletic at a position that has lacked athleticism for the past two years.
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.