FARGO, N.D. — Meaningful spring football is here, and Maryville fans will have a rooting interest in the best program playing this spring.
Each level of college football handled the uncertainty of this fall differently. While the Football Bowl Subdivision of Division-I pushed forward with its season and Division-II decided to focus on next fall, many in Division-I Football Championship Subdivision decided to play football in the spring.
Among those are North Dakota State and their new starting center Jalen Sundell. The Bison are the premier FCS program in the nation, having won eight of the last nine championships at the FCS level.
“It is definitely a different feeling,” Sundell said of starting. “I don’t really know how to explain it, but you are held to a higher standard — even more than I was before. It is certainly a different feeling.”
The season will be a new challenge for the Bison with the spring season and replacing several key players from last season’s national champions, including potential top-10 NFL Draft choice Trey Lance at quarterback and another potential high pick on the offensive line with left tackle Dillon Radunz.
“We’ve had a lot of practice so far,” Sundell said. “A lot of the communication stuff that was probably a little bit bumpy at the beginning is now getting worked out.
“... A lot of us are good friends and we hang out off the field, so I think that certainly helps with the on-field stuff as well.”
Sundell will also be facing a new challenge as he prepares to start for the first time in his career on Sunday when the Bison host Youngstown State at 2:30 p.m.
Sundell will be making his first start on the football field since 2017 when the Class 3 State Offensive Player of the Year led the Maryville Spoofhounds to a state championship victory over Mount Vernon.
The former Spoofhound left tackle has displayed his versatility over the last couple seasons in Fargo and is shifting to the interior of the line for this start and will be playing center.
“Center definitely takes a little bit to get used to,” Sundell said. “The snap count, the snap, ID’ing the box and then your actual assignment. There is definitely a lot going on mentally. I’d say some of the blocks are a little bit easier at center. So mentally, I’d say it is a little bit tougher, but from a physical standpoint, it came pretty natural.”
Without Lance, the Bison also have a first-team Bison starter at quarterback, but senior Zeb Noland joins the lineup with plenty of experience after transferring from Iowa State. As a sophomore for the Cyclones, Noland threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns against a top-5 ranked Oklahoma team.
“We’ve had a lot of practice and it is going to feel really good to be out there on game day, so I’m looking forward to it,” Sundell said.