Did You Know?
In 2021, the NDSU defense ranked 1st in the FCS in scoring defense (11.13 ppg), 3rd in yards per game allowed (264.7 ypg), 6th in rushing defense (87.6 ypg) and 11th in passing defense (177.1 ypg).
David Braun’s Resume
Winona State – Graduate Assistant
Culver-Stockton – Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Winona State – Co Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
UC Davis – Defensive Line
Northern Iowa – Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line
Northern Iowa – Special Teams Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
North Dakota State – Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Who should the fans be watching out for this season? Who do you see really stepping forward?
I think Spencer Waege and Tony Pierce are two guys that have an opportunity to be really dynamic for us. James Kaczor at the Will Linebacker position is a really established player that has played a ton for us. He is coming off an injury in the spring but he played really well for us last year. I don’t know if there’s a better linebacker in the country right now. I really feel like James has an opportunity to be an impact player every single week for us. Then, there are so many guys in our back half right now that we are really excited about. Destin Talbert has really started to step up on a consistent basis and has the ability to play multiple positions for us. He can play the corner position but he will also be playing some nickel for us.
And I’m sure you have to love having a physical corner like that.
Absolutely and he’s such a student of the game. He always comes with so many questions. My role on defense right now has allowed me to almost kind of take that nickel position as my position group and do some extra pre-practice work with those guys. Between Talbert and Dom Jones and Michael Tutsie, these guys are just talking football on a totally different level.
With so many sixth-year guys on the roster, do you feel like you’re able to be more advanced this fall with your install? Obviously, you have to start from ground zero with the young guys, but how is all of that working out?
There’s so much balance there. You need to get the young guys up to speed. You need to retouch on the fundamentals of just the structure of the defense. But you also want to challenge the older guys. One way we’ve done that is by giving them opportunities to coach the young guys. Another way we’re doing that is by taking say a Michael Tutsie and putting him in Outside Linebacker install so he can see things from a different perspective.
Is that something you have done before or is that something you’re just starting to do now?
I think any defensive coordinator would hope to have that opportunity. However, I think it’s a reflection of how intelligent our guys are, how football motivated they are and how selfless they are. They’re willing to play different spots. To answer your question directly, I haven’t had that chance to do that other places. It’s just the group of guys that we have. It’s the coaching staff that we have. The coaches we have on both sides of the ball just do an amazing job.
There are obviously some big shoes to fill at the Linebacker spot with Jackson Hankey leaving. What have you seen from that group?
I’ve seen a lot of really good competition. There are days that Nick Kubitz shows up and can’t be blocked—he’s just flying around. I’ve seen both Kubitz and [Luke] Weerts really start to take command of the defense. That was Jackson’s greatest strength, commanding and getting everyone on the same page. Both guys have stepped up in that role. I think Nick is a space player and a blitzer. I think Luke is a run-fitter and an instinctual player. There may be a stretch where we use a committee of sorts and play to people’s strengths. Either way, I’ve seen dramatic growth over both players and I think that’s what competition does.
Is there anything else you would like to say that we haven’t touched on?
One thing I’d like to share with your readers is how much this program appreciates this fan base and this community. I’ve been fortunate and my family has been very fortunate to have the opportunity to mentor these young men at North Dakota State. I know a lot of coaches around the country that are envious of the position we are in.