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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 14 2012

NDSU's Wahlo elevated among receivers this spring

FARGO – If Warren Holloway was the old car, as he once described himself last year, then Cooper Wahlo Jr. is the brand new model that has been on the lot for a couple of years. No more test drives.

It’s time for the multi-lane, high-speed highway.

At least that’s the hope of the North Dakota State receiver, who will be a junior this fall. With Holloway and his productive four-year career over, the Bison are looking for another deep threat besides returning starter Ryan Smith.

Wahlo could be the guy, said head coach Craig Bohl.

“Hopefully, we’ll see,” Wahlo said. “I just have to keep working and get better every practice”

Wahlo’s physical skills have never been questioned. He’s one of the fastest players on the team, running the 40-yard dash in about 4.4 seconds. He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with a healthy vertical jump.

He had just three catches for 27 yards last year. Holloway was far and away the leader with 77 receptions for 1,003 yards.

“I’m not trying to replace Warren Holloway,” said Bison receivers coach Kenni Burns. “I want a collective group effort to replace him. If four or five guys can make up the balls that he caught, then we’ll be fine.”

Wahlo, who earned a No. 1 spot on this spring’s depth chart to date, saw the most experience of his career in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last year, a time that Bohl said Wahlo improved the most. He had one carry on a receiver sweep for 9 yards in the semifinals against Georgia Southern and took another carry against Lehigh in the quarterfinals for 18 yards.

“It was good just getting out there and knowing what the competition is like,” Wahlo said. “Everyone is pretty good, and that experience helped me a lot.”

With regular players Zach Vraa and Trevor Gebhart out with injuries, NDSU was looking for any depth it could find. Gebhart had a couple receptions for first downs Saturday in an intrasquad scrimmage at Dacotah Field, the last one before the annual Spring Game next Saturday.

But that was about it for the No. 1 offense in the passing game.

“We had a really good pass rush,” Bohl said, “but I know this: Our completion percentage has got to improve if we’re going to stay on the field.”

Wahlo said offseason work with former Bison receiver Titus Mack has helped. The biggest area of improvement, he said, is getting off the line of scrimmage.

He doesn’t have to go far for advice: Holloway is his roommate.

“He’s looking faster, he’s looking more athletic and he’s definitely looking more confident,” Burns said of Wahlo. “At the same time, he has a ways to go.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

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