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Next Man Up

by Dan Gunderson

On Sunday, December 15, it was officially confirmed that North Dakota State University would name current defensive coordinator Chris Klieman as the next head football coach. It was a hire that many fans and media members had believed would happen.

Klieman has only been a part of the NDSU program for three seasons but has been a figure in the coaching ranks for much longer. It was a good hire by Athletic Director Gene Taylor for a couple reasons.

One, hiring a guy from within means changes to the offensive and defensive schemes will be minimal. Klieman has seen what has worked for NDSU in the past three plus seasons. He is not going to come into this job and immediately make the Bison a spread offense type team. Why try and fix what is not broken.

Second, this means this season’s recruits have a similar face and name to go with a program they have already committed too. Instead of wondering who so-and-so is, they already know Klieman. Most have probably met with him face-to-face or talked with him over the phone.

Third, the area of recruiting that has paid off the most for NDSU is the Twin Cities. Klieman not only understands this from his time with NDSU, but also his from his time with the University of Northern Iowa. His name has recognition in the areas he will be recruiting the heaviest.

While all these things will most likely hold true with Klieman as the head coach, here some other things that need to continue for the NDSU football program to be successful.

Continue To Run The Ball

Seems like a pretty obvious answer but it needs to be said. The last time NDSU did not have a 1,000 yard runner was 2002, a year before Craig Bohl took over the program. Since then, it has been one 1,000 yard runner after another. The last two seasons have been especially successful for NDSU running backs as they have had two 1,000 yard rushers.

It is no coincidence, however, that the success at running back has been because of what Bohl has wanted his offense to be. Klieman needs to not only keep this offensive scheme but recruit running backs in bunches. Makes sure NDSU can continue to have a 1-2 punch in the back field.

Having Dynamic Safeties

A big part of being successful in a “Tampa 2” scheme on defense is having some athletically gifted and smart middle linebackers. Another thing is having safeties that can do several things extremely well.

Some safeties just hit hard or are really good at coverage. For NDSU, their safeties have been able to do several things well. Colten Heagle is essentially a fourth linebacker for the team. Christian Dudzik could be a cover corner with the ball skills he possesses.

Bryan Shepherd can both cover the pass and defend the run. These three safeties are unique in their abilities but great safety play for NDSU is not something new to this team. Think of the past safeties like Craig Dahl, Nick Schommer and even the hard hitting Daniel Eaves.

Those players set the standard very high for NDSU safeties and the likes of Dudzik, Heagle and Shepherd have maintained and even elevated it. Klieman will need to continue to bring in those types of players to play the safety position.

Line Of Scrimmage

NDSU’s ability to control both sides of the line of scrimmage has been the biggest reason behind Bohl’s success at NDSU. NDSU has recruited some spectacular offensive linemen and depth on the defensive line.

Both will be the biggest thing for Klieman to continue and one of his first jobs will be trying to replace nearly everyone on the defensive line next year as NDSU loses five lineman on the two deep depth chart, including three of the four starting lineman.

I think Klieman will do a good job of finding offensive lineman willing to buy into his offensive scheme. O-lineman love to hit guys and that is what Klieman is going to ask them to do. Be physical and get off the ball with speed.

The defensive line may a bit of a challenge because recruiting depth at this level is tough. I don’t know if people understand how amazing it is that NDSU is able to play eight men on the defensive line and not lose any quality in play. That is unheard of at the FCS level.

Even with that being said, Klieman should have at least a little time to find guys he can plug in behind the likes of Kyle Emanuel, Mike Hardie and Brian Schaetz while he gets to building depth on the line.

While these things are not news to anybody, it will be interesting to see if Klieman is able to continue the high level of success in these areas that NDSU has enjoyed over the past few seasons.

It goes without saying that Klieman steps into the best head coaching job at the FCS level. With the amount of talent coming back next year, the amount of talent coming in with the 2014 recruiting class and the amount of support he has behind him.

No question, NDSU made the right pick in choosing Klieman to be the program’s next head coach.

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.