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Sioux linemen will lead the charge

For three seasons, center Mitch Braegelmann has been at the focal point of UND's high-powered offense. The senior also was at the center of UND's football media day Monday, conducting interviews with teammates and first-year coach Chris Mussman f...

For three seasons, center Mitch Braegelmann has been at the focal point of UND's high-powered offense.

The senior also was at the center of UND's football media day Monday, conducting interviews with teammates and first-year coach Chris Mussman for the school's athletic department Web site.

When Braegelmann wasn't interviewing players, he was being interviewed by the local media.

Braegelmann -- along with fellow offensive lineman Brian Troen -- likely will be at the center of UND's first Division I Football Championship Subdivision season.

The two experienced offensive linemen have played more football than any of their teammates. Braeglemann has started all 39 games he's played in, while Troen has started 36 of 37.

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"I don't know where we'd be without those two guys," Mussman said.

Set the tone

Braegelmann and Troen both know their final season could help set a successful tone for UND's move to Division I FCS football.

"Everyone on this team feels responsible for the years after we're gone," Braegelmann said. "We want to get us off on the right foot as far as the future of this program is concerned."

UND is entering uncharted waters in its Division I move. The Sioux will play six Division I FCS teams this season, including a showdown with FCS power Southern Illinois -- coached by former UND coach Dale Lennon -- on Nov. 1 in Carbondale.

Troen said UND is ready for its new era.

"The NCC was a great league and had great players, but to see new teams and new players will be pretty exciting for me," said Troen, a senior. "We really want to set the tone for this university. We're definitely looking at this season as a challenge."

UND's challenge will be for a successful first season in Division I FCS play.

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For the past decade, the Division II playoffs and a run at a national championship were staples of UND football. But the Sioux now won't be eligible for Division I FCS postseason play until 2012. However, there still is plenty on the line, Braegelmann said.

"People will still care whether we're in the playoffs or not," Braegelmann said. "Our incentive is to just go out and compete. The mentality to compete is what has driven this team for many years.

Mussman agreed.

"This is the first Division I football program in university history and we take that very seriously," Mussman said. "We take that challenge with a lot of pride and energy."

Questions linger

UND enters its first Division I season with some question marks.

Its biggest concern will be who will supply the offensive firepower. Receiver Weston Dressler, who graduated and moved on to the Canadian Football League, and running back Ryan Chappell, who is academically ineligible, combined for 4,239 all-purpose yards last season.

Those losses have been offset in part by the return of Braegelmann and Troen, however, players who have had a major impact on the program.

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This season's offensive line will have three new starters and will be different in another aspect as well.

The Hogs, as Sioux linemen are called, will be a leaner bunch this season.

"You noticed," Braegelmann said with a smile. "We're going to have to rely more on technique this season."

Braegelmann, who will play at 279 pounds, will be joined on the line by Troen (284), Kyle Bondy (294), Creighton Schroyer (265) and Keith Queoff (264).

A smaller offensive line isn't necessarily a bad thing, Mussman said, especially when his top two players are versatile and quick.

"Brian can play guard or tackle and Mitch started out at guard," Mussman said. "They aren't that big, but they move well and they're aggressive. They're so quick and they get to the second level so fast."

Last year's UND offensive line averaged 292 pounds. This season, it will average 277 pounds.

"We don't have the 300-pound guys like we used to have," Mussman said. "But for some of the zone (blocking) schemes and screens we're going to run, they fit the mold perfectly."

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Braegelmann and Troen also hope UND will fit the Division I FCS mold.

Both played a big role in UND's two wins against FCS teams while the Sioux still were in Division II.

UND's 2006 win at Northern Iowa, which was coming off an appearance in the FCS national title game the year before, ranks as one of the best in recent Sioux history.

"That changed the mindset of a lot of people," Braegelmann said. "Regardless of what division you play in, you have to come out and play hard.

"We went down there knowing it would be a challenge to win that game and it was. That will be our mentality this year."

Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to wnelson@gfherald.com .

2008 UND schedule

Aug. 28 -- Texas A&M-Kingsville, 7 p.m.

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Sept. 6 -- St. Cloud State, 1 p.m..

Sept. 13 -- Wisconsin-LaCrosse, 1 p.m.

Sept. 18 -- at Idaho State, 7:35 p.m.

Sept. 27 -- at Southeast Louisiana, 6 p.m.

Oct. 18 -- Western Washington, 1 p.m.

Oct. 25 -- at UC Davis, 8 p.m.

Nov. 1 -- at Southern Illinois, 1 p.m.

Nov. 8 Southern Utah, 7 p.m.

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Nov. 22 -- at South Dakota, noon.

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