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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 11 2013

Hinz hopes to earn job as Bison's starting center

FARGO – If the North Dakota State offense conducted exit interviews for the departing starters after last season, they wouldn’t have taken long. It would have been a matter of whatever Joe Lund wanted to say.

He was the center, but replacing him may not be easy. Lund won the Rimington Award that goes to the best center in FCS. The race to become his replacement will most likely come from three players: junior Jesse Hinz, sophomore Josh Colville or junior Adam Schueller.

“It’s a little bit up in the air,” said offensive line coach Scott Fuchs.

Colville was the starting left guard last season, but is getting a look at center with sophomore Zack Johnson continuing to progress from his true freshman season.

Hinz missed all of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle in summer workouts over a year ago. He recovered from that and appeared ready for spring football, but a ligament problem in his knee sidelined him for most of those practices.

Since Hinz played as a true freshman in 2010 – he started four games at center – taking the season off perhaps helped him in the physical maturity department. There were other benefits, too.

“You never want to have an injury obviously, but taking a year off gave me the ability to sit back and see the game from a different angle,” he said. “Maybe understanding it a little more.”

Hinz played in seven games as a sophomore in 2011, with one start.

He was 284 pounds as a freshman out of Beatrice, Neb. He’s 303 this month, which is about the weight Lund played at last season. But center is also a position that drives the offensive line.

NDSU led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in scoring and rushing. Nationally, the Bison led FCS in time of possession.

“The center is huge,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “We’re trying to sort things out there. I think we can come up with something.”

The tackle positions are set with returning starters Billy Turner on the left and Joe Haeg on the right. As for the interior, Lund may be the only departed starter but NDSU at least has the luxury of experienced players to fill his job.

“Joe Lund was a very good center and those are big shoes to fill,” Hinz said. “But I’m confident by the end of fall camp that I will be ready. I’ve been around a while.”

A year away, also, has provided more motivational fuel, he said.

“It makes it a lot sweeter to be back,” he 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