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Eric Peterson, Published August 06 2012

NDSU looks to returning receivers to replace Holloway

FARGO – Wide receiver Zach Vraa nabbed a pass from quarterback Brock Jensen near the back of the end zone. Vraa made the contested touchdown catch after beating a defender on a quick slant.

“Having Zach back, he’s made some acrobatic catches,” said North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl after Monday’s fall practice.

Monday marked the first time NDSU was in full pads for fall camp, which started late last week. The practice session ended with a brief live scrimmage of goal-line situations.

“We had a spirited practice,” Bohl said.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Vraa made his catch on a third-and-goal situation from the 5-yard line. Vraa is in a group of returning receivers who are expected to play larger roles in the offense this fall.

NDSU needs to replace the 77 catches and 1,003 receiving yards Warren Holloway had last season as a senior.

Now a sophomore, Vraa played in just one game last season due to injury.

Junior Ryan Smith is the one proven commodity coming back at receiver. The 5-7, 175-pound Smith had 44 catches for 531 yards last fall, averaging 12.1 yards per reception.

Vraa, junior Cooper Wahlo and sophomores Trevor Gebhart and Nate Moody are the targets the Bison are hoping will emerge.

“We’re pleased with the competition,” Bohl said. “We’re encouraged by what we are seeing, but we’re not where we need to be right now.”

Defensive tackle Perry shows off his hands

Sophomore defensive tackle Leevon Perry flashed his hands during Monday’s practice, intercepting a batted pass as he rushed the passer.

Perry got a loud cheer and was mobbed by his defensive teammates after the play.

“Coach always talks about us big, clumsy guys not being able to catch it,” Perry said with a smile. “I tried to run with it, but I got tripped up. I was excited I saw the end zone.”

The defensive line is expected to be an area of strength for the Bison. Perry and fellow defensive tackles Ryan Drevlow and Justin Juckem, also juniors, give NDSU strength in the middle.

Drevlow and Juckem both sat out practice on Monday for precautionary reasons. Drevlow has a shoulder injury that will keep him at least a week.

“It’s frustrating,” said Drevlow. “You always want to be healthy.”

Juckem was out for “maintenance” reasons to help manage tendonitis in his knees, Bohl said.

“If you are good on the defensive line, you have an opportunity to control a football game,” Bohl said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com