Bison tight ends, fullbacks create options for Stick

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -- The Bison are notorious for pounding home the run game. But for as transparant as they seem to be, they have a tool belt full of weapons.

Particularly when they do go to the air.

Again, it isn't the dominating choice. So perhaps it is the selective nature that adds to the drama.

Either way, when they do opt to pass. They aren't just looking at the wide receivers. They have running backs, fullbacks and tight ends that all have hands at the ready.

Both Connor Wentz and Jeff Illies were weapons for Easton Stick last season. They combined for eight total touchdowns between them.

They both graduated.

Now the tight end group will need some new faces to emerge.

Getting a healthy Nate Jensen, who is coming off hip surgery, is an instant boost. Plus head coach Chris Klieman said redshirt freshmen Noah Gindorff and Josh Babicz are also coming along.

But the guy that Klieman talked at length about is Hawley, Minn. native Ben Ellefson.

Calling the junior, 'as good of an on the ball tight end' that the Bison have had.

"Ben is a dominant blocker improving in the pass game. But he's going against the best defensive ends, I think, in the league and he's doing a great job."

Ellefson caught three touchdown passes last season. In all the tight ends caught 12 of the 29 touchdowns in 2017.

Alongside the tight ends at practice are the fullbacks. Another group often forgotten in the college games these days with a focus on spread offense and run pass read options dominating the national landscape.

Not in Fargo though.

North Dakota State continues to keep the classic spot in use and use it to their advantage.

The Bison combine their fullbacks and tight ends in practice and with an offense that ran the ball 70-percent of the time last season, having a lead blocker in the back field is a nice plus.

But it is more than just paving the way for running backs. The Bison also like to get the fullbacks involved in catching passes.

Klieman identified juniors Garret Malstrom and Brock Robbins as two players he hopes to get more involved this season. Even moving Robbins to differeent spots in order to be sure they get him on the field more.

"Brock's a great athlete that we have to find the way to get the football to and not play just 10 plays, 15 plays at fullback because we also have Malstrom there. So we have good depth there," Klieman said. "So we have to find ways to get all those guys involved and see where they best fit in the passing game."

Klieman also said he expects to have the running backs get more involved in the pass game. All in an effort to give Easton Stick as many weapons as possible.