Photo By J. Alan Paul Photography
Perhaps no one is asked to do more on the football field for North Dakota State than the tight ends. Along with the fullbacks, the two positions form the nickname “Crew Chiefs.”
The Crew Chiefs have no shortage of responsibilities. As tight ends, they provide matchup problems in the passing game on the line of scrimmage or flexed out away from the offensive tackles. And with the Bison’s offensive system where they want to establish the run, tight ends are most often used as blockers to take on a defensive end or motion into the backfield as a fullback.
Crew Chiefs are a different breed at NDSU. We asked them just what it takes to be one.
JEFF ILLIES #86
NATE JENSON #85
CONNOR WENTZ #87
Would you rather catch a touchdown pass or get a pancake block?
JEFF ILLIES: “There’s nothing like catching a touchdown pass at the Fargodome, so I would rather do that.”
CONNOR WENTZ: “Pancake block. That’s what I do. I don’t catch touchdowns. I don’t catch the ball. I just block.”
NATE JENSON: “As much as I’d love to say a pancake block, everybody wants to score a touchdown.”
How would you describe what it’s like to be a “Crew Chief” at NDSU?
JEFF ILLIES: “You have to be a little bit different than the rest of the guys. You have to be athletic and you have to be mean at the same time. You have to be physical and get dirty a little too.”
CONNOR WENTZ: “You have to be mean. You have to be willing to do stuff nobody else is willing to do. You gotta throw your body in there and put your body on
NATE JENSON: “You have to be willing to work hard. It’s all about being a part of the team when you’re in our room. Some guys need to learn sometimes, but everybody gets an idea after a while and once that’s out of the way, it’s a lot easier from there.”
What can you guys do to keep on improving the passing game?
JEFF ILLIES: “We’re big targets, so we just have to make sure we’re on our spots on
time and running the right routes.”
CONNOR WENTZ: “For tight ends, we just need to be better in man coverage. We have to get off if anyone is holding us. We’re going to get held. We have to get off of that and get open.”
NATE JENSON: “Just being sound on our assignments, being on the same page with the quarterbacks and doing what we need to be doing. Just letting people know that we’ll be in
the right place at the right time.”
You guys are a huge part of the run game as well. Do you take just as much pride in that as being effective in the passing attack?
JEFF ILLIES: “Definitely. We have a lot of pride in our room overall. We probably take more pride in the run game than we do in the pass game actually. It’s a big part of our offense.”
CONNOR WENTZ: “For sure. If I have a kick out block that is perfect, knocking a guy over and getting him out of the way, I take just as much pride in that as I do catching the ball. We’re known for our run game and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
NATE JENSON: “Absolutely. We do like touchdowns, but we like to get pancake blocks and get after it in the run game. It’s always been a big part for us as tight ends here and that’s not going anywhere.”