Bison center Volson saving his best season for last

FARGO — The awards have come at such a fast pace that Tanner Volson could probably hand one to everybody in his hometown of Balfour, N.D., and still keep a couple for himself. You name the offensive line honor and Volson is part of it. The biggest keeper is probably the Rimington Award, which goes to the top center in the Football Championship Subdivision. That came in mid-December.
Last week, it was being named the top offensive lineman by the FCS Athletic Directors Association. He was named to FCS American Football Coaches Association, STATS, HERO Sports and Associated Press All-American first teams.
They’re all fine and dandy, but Volson has something else on his mind: The NCAA Division I FCS national title game Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
“The main goal at the end is to win a championship,” he said. “All the awards, that’s a combination of the whole line and the whole offense working together. It’s a team effort.”
Volson is NDSU’s third Rimington winner, joining Rob Hunt in 2004 and Joe Lund in 2012. Volson has made 28 consecutive starts at center and will play in his 58th career game against Eastern Washington in the championship game.
The latter is a testament to staying relatively healthy, something the entire Bison offensive line has done this season. They’ll start the same five against the Eagles that they’ve started all season.
“It really helps the rhythm,” Volson said. “Just to be able to get everybody on the same page throughout the year and not having to sub in people, which makes for a little bit of a learning curve.”
Left tackle Dillon Radunz, left guard Colin Conner, right guard Luke Bacon and right tackle Zack Johnson have started all 14 games to this point. Last year, Radunz suffered an ACL injury to his knee in the first game and missed the rest of the season.
“It’s more of a blessing nobody has had any major injuries,” Volson said. “Maybe it’s the luck of the draw with major injuries. I feel like we’ve been close sometimes but somehow that has been avoided.”
Volson could be a key player in the Bison offense, especially if Eastern Washington nose guard Jay-Tee Tiuli returns from a suspension. He missed the semifinal victory over Maine after being charged with a felony assault.
Eagles head coach Aaron Best said the Tiuli situation is in the university’s hands.
Still, Bison quarterback Easton Stick said NDSU is preparing as if the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year will be in the lineup.
“I think you do,” Stick said. “He’s a really good player, the player of the year in their conference so we’ll have to know where he’s at. You can’t do much at practice to simulate it. You have to watch the tape and understand the type of player he is and other guys you potentially could go against. You watch the film and prepare that way.”
Stick may be the Bison signal caller, but NDSU head coach Chris Klieman calls Volson the “quarterback of our offensive line.”
“He makes all the calls,” Klieman said. “Really physical, athletic guy that has played his best football this year. He was dinged up a little bit last year; he’s been healthy this year. I just love watching what he’s become since he came here as a true freshman from a 9-man school to being one of the best linemen in all of the FCS.”