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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 14 2013

Bison put depth to test in first football spring scrimmage

FARGO – It’s becoming Spring Football Lite when it comes to the stars of the North Dakota State football team. As expected, the first scrimmage on Saturday was heavy on the backups.

Quarterback Brock Jensen took a few snaps. Cornerback Marcus Williams didn’t play at all. Left tackle Billy Turner spent more time sarcastically jawing with offensive players across the field.

“It’s a give-and-take,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “You go, ‘How much do you expose your football team to injury when you go

11-on-11 live work?’ We’re probably being more cautious than what we’ve been before with some guys. If there’s a four-year starter, how many reps do they need?”

With eight regulars out with injuries, and a few others not playing much, the roughly 35 plays of full contact provided a good exercise in checking the roster.

“It’s really great for the young guys to get out there and compete,” said middle linebacker Grant Olson, a senior whose work on Saturday was composed of just a few plays. Senior Antonio Rodgers is getting a strong look to be Olson’s primary backup.

Bohl admitted it’s a challenge to keep the older players progressing at an acceptable pace. So far, he said, mission accomplished with most of it getting done at practice during the week.

“It’s hard right now with so many injuries,” Olson said. “It’s hard to have everybody on edge all the time with so many guys that have played being out. When the backups are in, it’s not quite the same. Once everybody gets back, we can start molding everything and get everything ready to go.”

About the only play of significance was a long pass from Jensen to receiver Zach Vraa. Freshman linebacker M.J. Stumpf recovered a fumble. On defense, freshman safety Bo Liekhus and defensive tackle Anthony LaVoy had back-to-back quarterback sacks.

At cornerback, not many receivers got open against sophomores C.J. Smith and Jordan Champion, who along with senior Brendin Pierre, are battling for a starting spot opposite Williams.

“The coaches and players are getting me ready,” Smith said.

Bohl said sophomore running back Darius Anderson broke his hand in practice on Friday. His status for the remainder of spring football is unknown. There were no other known injuries, Bohl said.

That was promising news for a team that won’t have many available players for the Spring Game on April 27 at the Fargodome. Olson said veteran players are stressing to the younger players “how to play Bison football.”

“I think everybody has a job,” he said. “The first job is to lead yourself. After that, you need to be able to influence people and influence them the right way. As a senior, that’s one thing I know I try to do and lot of other guys try to as well.”

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