Ben Klinger knew at an early age he wanted to be a coach.
Now 26 and married to his wife Rachel, Klinger has helped coach the North Dakota State University Bison to two straight national championship victories.
The Brainerd High School graduate took time from celebrating to what he’s been up to.
Q: You’re the offensive quality control for the North Dakota State University Bison
football program. What does that job entail?
BK: I handle a lot of behind-the-scenes things on the offensive side of the ball. Film breakdown of opposing defenses, organizing the defensive scout team, making practice scripts, creating a call card for coach (Tyler) Roehl, making the quarterback wristbands that have all of our plays. I also handle all of our self-scouting where I look at our tendencies and analytics on offense. I try to handle everything that I can and keep everything on offense organized so that our position coaches on offense can focus on game-planning and coaching and not have to worry about anything else.
Q: I’m sure that question was a bit broad so let’s break it down into what your
responsibilities were leading up to the FCS Championship game against James
BK: First was having all of the James Madison defensive film broken down and organized so we could get to work as a staff the day after the semifinal game. Labeling everything like coverages, defensive fronts, blitzes and alignments and making sure the film cutups are organized the way we want for game-planning and watching film as an offensive staff. Throughout the weeks leading up to the game, I organized the defensive scout team who tried to mimic the look that JMU was going to give and I thought they did a great job of helping to prepare our offense. As we got closer to the game, I started to organize our game plans and coach Roehl’s play call card.
When we went down to Texas, I had to basically pack up our offensive staff room and bring it down to Frisco so that while we were down there we had the same supplies and could do the same things we would normally do from our offices in the Fargodome. On game day I was up in the coaches’ box with coach Roehl and coach (Randy) Hedberg where I watched James Madison’s defense, focusing on their front seven and charted fronts and blitzes and communicated any tendencies I was seeing.
Q: You started coaching at NDSU in 2018 and NDSU hasn’t lost since. Is that just a
coincidence or are you really good at your job?
BK: That is absolutely crazy to think about. Definitely a coincidence. I just make sure that I do my job and don’t screw it up.
Q: NDSU entered the season with a new head coach in Matt Entz. It’s a new
quarterback in Trey Lance. Lots of moving parts with the program, but the team hasn’t
missed a beat. Why is that?
BK: It’s a testament to the culture at NDSU. Coach Entz always says that NDSU football is bigger than any coach or player. The culture and tradition has been around since before any of us got to Fargo going back to the first national championship in 1965. Coach Entz has obviously done an unbelievable job and I love working for him.
As far as Trey goes, everyone had complete trust in him when he won the job. He had
an unbelievable mentor in Easton Stick. He has an unbelievable QBs coach in Randy
Hedberg. He is also extremely intelligent and picked up our offense quickly, works his
tail off, and as we’ve seen on Saturdays he is a pretty good athlete too. Zeb Noland and
Noah Sanders (Bison backup quarterbacks) are also a big part of Trey’s success as well. He is only going to get better.
Q: When you look at guys like Carson Wentz and Joe Haeg that are playing in the NFL
or maybe Easton Stick with the Chargers and you helped them get to the top level of
football, how satisfying is that?
BK: I was only around Easton for one year and I certainly don’t take any credit for his success, but anytime you see a former Bison make it to the NFL it is satisfying to know that all their hard work paid off. It’s a lot of fun to watch them on Sundays.
Q: Which leads me to my next question, what’s your dream job?
BK: That’s a tough one. I’ve been fortunate to be at NDSU for two years now and we’ve won two national championships, so this has already been a dream job for me. It’s hard to say what the future holds, but I love it here.
Q: I’m always bragging about the Bison as a former alum, but I always hear, ‘Well they
should move up to the next level.’ What are your thoughts on NDSU moving up to the
FBS and maybe joining the Big 12 or something?
BK: I guess I don’t really think about that. I do know that the FCS is high-level football and we feel we play in the best conference in the FCS in the Missouri Valley.
Q: NDSU has done well against the larger D1 programs in recent history. Could they
sustain that level of success for a full season?
BK: We just worry about the next team on our schedule. I know our guys embrace competition but no matter who is on our schedule we take it one week at a time.
Q: What was the atmosphere like leading up to a national championship game?
BK: I’ve been fortunate to be down in Frisco the last two years and the atmosphere is
awesome. Bison Nation absolutely takes over down there. Both times have been a
home-field advantage for us and it is awesome seeing the sea of green and gold at
Q: You’re becoming a veteran at this now, but how much more pressure is it preparing
for a national championship than say Week 3 of the regular season?
BK: We treat it just like another game. That sounds cliché, but it’s not at NDSU, and the
players would tell you that as well. We have our schedule and process that we feel
works. We aren’t going to change what we do and you can’t put more pressure on
yourself because it’s the national championship. You have to trust everything that got
you to that point. I think keeping that same routine is very important to our players.
Q: Before you arrived at NDSU you were an assistant at Augustana and St. Cloud
State. SCSU announced it is cutting the football program. Did you see that as a
possibility when you were at the university or were you as shocked as most people?
BK: It was a complete shock. Really disappointing. I really enjoyed my short time there and loved coaching the wide receivers. I wouldn’t be at NDSU without people like Scott
Underwood, Doug Patterson and Chris Mussman. They are great coaches and better
Q: Do you see more colleges dropping football and why?
BK: I really hope not.
Q: You graduated from the University of Minnesota and were able to work with Jerry Kill
while you were there. I know everyone is rowing the boat now, but how good of a coach
BK: I hope Minnesota fans appreciate what coach Kill was able to do at Minnesota. Not only for what he accomplished on the field, but everything he did off the field for the
community and for his players. He’s a great man who has overcome a ton of adversity and had success everywhere he’s been. I have an immense amount of respect for him and all of the coaches who were on staff with him. I am not at NDSU without those guys.
Q: How did you get into coaching? When did you know that was a passion of yours?
BK: I’ve wanted to coach for a long time. I remember writing a career essay in middle school about it. Coach Stolski had a big impact on me at Brainerd and he’s a big reason I got into the profession. Being around coach Kill at Minnesota solidified it for me.
Q: Brainerd’s Josh Howieson is on NDSU’s roster. How is the former Warrior
BK: Howie has done a great job not only on the scout team but also providing depth on our offensive line. He will have an opportunity to make a bigger impact next year in his
Q: Crosby-Ironton’s Noah Gindorff is on the NDSU roster. It seemed like all he was
doing for your guys was catching touchdowns. How is he developing?
BK: The sky is the limit for Noah. He’s a great athlete and a very intelligent player. He’s made a lot of big-time plays so far in his career and he’s only going to get better.