Ready to roll
Upbeat MSU football opens fall camp
Optimism in the air, the Minot State football team opened its fall camp Monday with conditioning in the morning and the first preseason practice in the afternoon.
After an unrelenting one-win season a year ago, nothing quite beats having a fresh, clean slate to begin a new campaign.
“We want to start turning heads,” senior wide receiver Lavante Bushnell said. “We want other teams to realize they are playing Minot State now. Not just a team they can beat any week.”
MSU has taken its fair share of beatdowns since joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Last year, eight of MSU’s 10 losses were by 21 points or more, including a 69-7 defeat in the snow at Bemidji State to close out the season.
The Beavers haven’t had a winning season since 2010 when the program was a part of the NAIA Dakota Athletic Conference.
But now, on the brink of a new season, none of that matters.
The past can’t be changed. The focus is on the future.
“We aren’t a group that is going to give up, just because we went 1-10,” MSU junior quarterback Ben Bolinske said. “That’s in the past. That’s passed us. We are moving forward. We have to string some wins together this year and get Minot State (football) back on the right track.”
The rest of the conference isn’t expecting a bounce-back season from the Beavers. MSU was ranked 15th out of 16 teams in the NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
This is nothing new. Recognition is earned in the win column.
Third-year head coach Mike Aldrich is well aware. Tasked with changing the culture of the program, Aldrich believes his team took a much-needed step in the right direction this offseason.
“I think there is a general air of togetherness that we were lacking,” he said. “We have started to see a lot more leadership emerge on the team that, again, we were lacking last year. Whether it was the formation of our leadership council or our younger guys who have played a lot are maturing and growing, there has been a natural progression and you can see that change of culture. It’s everywhere, and it’s really hard to explain. But, you just see it constantly.”
Current team captains include senior offensive lineman Parker Franzen, senior wide receiver Lane Torgerson, senior defensive lineman Ellis Parr and junior defensive lineman Jordan Will.
“It’s an exciting experience to be someone that guys can look up,” said Will, a former Bishop Ryan standout. “I know I have to hold myself to a high standard and always following a path that if others follow, it’s going to lead them to success. To be able to do so in my hometown of Minot and change the culture of Minot State football has been great so far.”
Other news and tidbits from the first day of fall camp:
Junior Humboldt State transfer Isaiah Hall has hit the ground running, making a solid first impression both on and off the field.
“(Hall) has been phenomenal with not only his leadership with guys in his group, but also some of the other guys around him,” Aldrich said. “We were really impressed with him in the spring. He definitely showed that he could be an every-down player and fit into that starting role.”
The main concern with Hall in the spring was his physique. He needed to gain some weight back after recovering from an injury.
Hall stuck around Minot this summer and made that happen.
“He has gotten so much bigger and so much stronger,” Aldrich said. “Obviously, when you stick around all summer, that’s where gains are made. Now, he is more of a physical presence that wasn’t even here when we had him in the spring.”
The depth chart for the quarterback position has shrunk considerably. Kylar Sharp and Scott Fallers have both quit the team, which leaves Bolinske, sophomore Sean Kuenzinger and a couple of freshmen who had to be brought into the mix earlier than expected.
“As of now, it’s Sean (Kuenzinger) and I,” Bolinske said. “Each of us is competing for that starting job every single day. Whether it’s a competition or not, I got to prove myself still and Sean is going to try and prove himself. And we have to bring these freshmen along as well.”
Return of Roma’n
Moving back and forth between his home state of Florida and North Dakota, defensive back Roma’n Grissett rejoins the Beavers after sitting out last season due to transfer rules.
Grissett started his collegiate career with MSU in 2016 before transferring out to Florida Tech. He transferred back to MSU the following season and rejoined the team this season.
Grissett, listed as a sophomore, finds himself in the conversation to fulfill a starting role in the secondary.
“He is somebody that we are hoping can step into one of the starting corner spots,” Aldrich said. “Then, the second safety is the complete unknown. We have Ivan Avalos and a bunch of freshmen. So, we will see how that goes.”
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.