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Eric Peterson, Published August 22 2013

Bison football cornerback job still up for grabs

FARGO – It’s a three-player competition that is going down to the wire at North Dakota State football camp.

C.J. Smith, Jordan Champion and Brendin Pierre remain in the mix to start at cornerback, opposite All-American Marcus Williams.

“We’ll have a decision coming this next Monday,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said after Thursday’s practice.

The Bison are a week away from their highly anticipated season opener, which is next Friday at Kansas State. The two-time defending FCS champion Bison are playing a Kansas State team that played in a BCS bowl game last season.

Smith, Champion and Pierre are trying to earn the only spot on the Bison defense that doesn’t return significant starting experience.

“It’s been a great camp overall,” said Smith, who started one game last season. “I’ve learned a lot. The coaches do a great job of teaching us. Marcus does an excellent job of teaching us, too. He’s like an extra coach.”

Smith, Champion and Pierre feature different strengths, Bohl said.

The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Smith, a sophomore from Savage, Minn., has “great leaping ability” and runs well.

Champion, a 5-9, 185-pound sophomore from Avondale, Ariz., is the best tackler in the group.

Pierre, a 5-9, 167-pound senior from Miramar, Fla., brings experience to the position. However, he’s been slowed by a hamstring injury during fall camp.

“It’s a heated battle,” Champion said. “We are out here every day competing for the spot. We say, ‘The best man will win,’ so we’ll see how it goes.”

Even after a starter is named at that corner spot, Bohl said it’s likely the other two would still see playing time.

“A lot of those guys on defense will split some reps,” Bohl said. “We’ve done that a lot in the past. I think Marcus will play a lot, but the opposite guy, we’ll see.”

Williams is doing his best to help all three get ready for the start of the season. He is entering his fourth season as a starter.

“It’s a good competition going on,” Williams said. “I try to tell them as much as I can, as many tips as I can give them.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com