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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 24 2012

Young linebackers turn to Evans as Bison spring football begins

FARGO – Preston Evans took freshman linebacker Nick Scoliere to the side of the Dacotah Field practice surface and explained a few details of the game. If you didn’t know football, it would be like going to advanced algebra class without a math background.

That’s what North Dakota State had last year with Evans, who carried a master’s degree at middle linebacker.

Evans is not playing anymore, instead turning his four years of eligibility and applying it as a student coach this spring. The heir apparent to his spot has spent the last two years as Evans’ understudy.

Grant Olson said he’s ready to assume the reins now.

It’s the middle linebacker’s job to call the defensive alignments and get players in the right spots. It was something Evans rarely fumbled.

“He definitely taught me a lot, and I know I have to step up and be a leader for the younger guys,” Olson said. “It’s partly my job to help the younger guys and help them grow.”

NDSU opened spring practice on Saturday with what head coach Craig Bohl called a pleasing practice. He said his team looked athletic and in good shape for an introductory practice.

“It’s a new year, and we have the makings of a good football team,” Bohl said.

The makings at linebacker center on Olson and sophomores Carlton Littlejohn and Travis Beck. They were the starting three. Senior Brandon Jemison is sitting out this spring because of minor scope surgery to his hip, Bohl said.

Olson was part of a regular rotation last year, finishing with 44 tackles and five quarterback hurries.

“Now we need to increase the intensity, the preparation and be more focused,” Olson said. “It’s a tall task, but as a linebacking corps overall, I think we’re up to it.”

Olson also played a lot as a true freshman out of Wayzata, Minn., which essentially is the same route that Evans took coming out of Sioux Falls, S.D.

“He taught me about effort, playing with physicality and learning the defense,” Olson said. “And also how to approach a game and how to approach practice. That stuff has been passed down for a real long time now and it’s our turn now that we know it.”

Bohl said offensive tackle Jeff Jerve will miss the entire spring to deal with microfracture surgery to his knee. Fullback Andrew Grothmann and tight end Garrett Bruhn sat out practice, but are expected back next week.

Kicker Adam Keller is also out with a pulled hamstring.

“I think we just need to understand what we’re doing and sort out positions,” Bohl said. “We need a lot of activity.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia