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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 27 2013

Bison banged up as spring practice nears

FARGO – North Dakota State begins spring football next Monday with a scaled-back roster because of injuries and another couple of losses to the 2011 recruiting class.

Eight key contributors to the Division I Championship Football Subdivision national title will either have minimal participation or not play because they are rehabilitating various injuries. Linebacker Travis Beck, defensive linemen Leevon Perry and Ryan Drevlow, safety Colten Heagle, running back John Crockett, offensive guard Josh Colville, wide receiver Ryan Smith and tight end Kevin Vaadeland are all expected to be at full strength by the first day of practice next fall.

“We will be fortified in the fall but right now we’re still a banged-up football team,” said head coach Craig Bohl.

Bohl said backup tight end Derek Lee has decided to transfer and running back Matt Jones will give up the game because of concussion problems. Lee will return somewhere near his home in Wichita, Kan., Bohl said.

They are two more subtractions from the signing day class of 2011, which has only nine of 20 players remaining. It’s further proof on why Bohl said he’s continuing to evaluate how NDSU recruits while the team is in the FCS playoffs.

“You’re basically losing three primary weeks of recruiting,” he said. “You can slice and dice it anyway you want to, but you’re losing three primary weeks. For us, we have to get on the front side of that and I think we’re doing better. But for me to look you in the eye and say we’ve done a great job way back when; that wouldn’t be accurate.”

NDSU appears to be offering more players earlier. There’s also the task of identifying recruits and that’s never easy, Bohl said.

“I do think it’s surprising sometimes when you’re chasing championships at the level of commitment that is required to win championships,” he said. “It’s a high bar. And quite frankly, that’s not a price some guys are willing to pay. I know this: we can’t lower the bar. We cannot lower the bar and the bar will not be lowered.”

Lee played in 14 games last year starting two. He had two receptions for 24 yards. NDSU will still have depth without him with Vaadeland and veteran backup Taylor Nelson. Sophomore Lucas Albers will enter his third year in the program and fullback Andrew Bonnet can also play tight end, Bohl said.

Jones played in just three games last season, gaining 89 yards.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia