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Eric Peterson, Published August 24 2013

Young linebackers expected to see field for Bison at Kansas State

FARGO – Externally, Nick DeLuca didn’t look like a true freshman as he walked out of Dacotah Field on Saturday.

The 6-foot-3, 237-pound North Dakota State linebacker had the physical appearance of a veteran college player.

The game’s mental side is what DeLuca is working on mastering.

“It’s a pretty big learning curve, coming from high school to college,” said DeLuca, from Omaha, Neb. “It’s definitely tough at first. It’s starting to come along. I’m starting to grasp some things. It’s definitely a process.”

The on-the-job training starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday when the Bison open their season at Kansas State.

DeLuca and fellow true freshman linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker are expected to see playing time, meaning they won’t redshirt.

“They are big, strong guys who can make plays in open fields,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said of DeLuca and Gee-Tucker after Saturday’s closed scrimmage. “They’re pretty mature guys and we feel comfortable putting them out there.”

A third true freshman, running back Chase Morlock, will travel to Kansas State, Bohl said. Bohl has yet to make a decision on whether the former Moorhead High standout will play.

“He’s probably proved to be a better, more capable running back than what we thought,” said Bohl, who also likes Morlock’s value on special teams.

DeLuca and Gee-Tucker are expected to first contribute on special teams as they get more comfortable playing linebacker.

They will also provide depth behind a seasoned trio of starting linebackers. Juniors Travis Beck and Carlton Littlejohn man the outside spots. Senior Grant Olson anchors the middle.

“At first, my head was spinning, but now I’m starting to get used to everything,” said Gee-Tucker, who is from Belleville, Ill. “I’m starting to get the grasp of plays and everything.”

DeLuca said veteran players like Olson have helped him through fall camp.

“They call him ‘coach’ sometimes because he’s such a good mentor to the younger guys,” DeLuca said. “He really has a big impact.”

Bohl said his staff knew DeLuca and Gee-Tucker came out of high school with a lot of ability.

“But you never know how their emotional maturity is going to come into play,” Bohl said. “Linebacker in the Tampa 2 (defense) is a complicated position. For those guys to come in and work through that, they’re not up to speed yet on that, but certainly their value on special teams is huge.”

DeLuca and Gee-Tucker will be making their Bison debuts on a big stage. A member of the Big 12, Kansas State played in a BCS bowl game a season ago. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

“They say it’s one of the biggest games in history, so I’m looking forward to having fun and playing hard,” Gee-Tucker said. “I’ve been dreaming about playing D-I football since I was a kid.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com