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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 07 2012

Bison punter has big shoes to fill

FARGO – Freshman punter Ben LeCompte has already passed one test. He aced the quiz on the importance of the position at North Dakota State.

He ripped off the names Mike Dragosavich, John Prelvitz and Matt Voigtlander and if pressed, could probably tell you their averages. They are NDSU’s last three punters, starting with Dragosavich in 2004.

“I know the history about it, I’ve heard about it from other guys,” LeCompte said. “That’s important to me and I feel like I owe it to the program. They recruit for one reason and that’s to go get the guy to do the job so I feel I should do that.”

LeCompte sat out last season as a redshirt. He was recruited out of the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill., with the vacancy this year in mind.

He said Eastern Illinois showed the most interest besides NDSU with Iowa State offering him a preferred walkon invite. But the Bison philosophy of offering their specialists some scholarship money was a commitment that LeCompte said was impressive.

“That meant a lot to me because you don’t get scholarships in a lot of other places for specialists,” he said.

Like Voigtlander a year about this time, there’s work to be done with the punting game. Head coach Craig Bohl said progress has been made “but we’re not where we need to be yet.”

Specifically, directional punting is the focus this spring. The key is to get the farthest punt as close to the out of bounds line as possible, which makes returns harder to come by.

Voigtlander finished 26th last year in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision statistics with a 41.0 yards per kick average. NDSU was 21st in net punting (punt minus returns), a category that it led for most of the 2010 season.

“I’m coming in here trying to do my best to fill big shoes from old NDSU specialists,” LeCompte said. “I need to take steps and focus on the little things so come fall camp and the opener against Robert Morris, I’ll be fully-fueled and ready to go.”

LeCompte may also get a chance at the kickoff duties. He did at the Saturday scrimmage because kicker Adam Keller is nursing a hamstring injury.

Injury may throw cog into backup QB battle

The battle for the No. 1 backup to starting quarterback Brock Jensen took a hit in Saturday’s scrimmage. Freshman Carson Wentz suffered a high ankle sprain and may be out for the rest of spring ball, Bohl said.

Wentz is battling sophomore Esley Thorton and freshman Ryan Stanford.

“That’s unfortunate for Carson, he was doing some very good things in practice,” Bohl said. “But I thought our young quarterbacks operated the offense well. There were not a lot of misreads.”

Starting running back Sam Ojuri sat out with a concussion, but is expected back next week. Freshman Matt Jones stepped in his place and delivered a few nice runs including a touchdown.

“He showed some promising things today,” Bohl said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia