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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 19 2014

Bison relying on Colvin

FARGO – North Dakota State cornerback Zach Colvin will be going into his fifth year with the Bison in a career that started so slow you wondered if it would ever get going. Now, they really need him to get going.

There’s no better time to prove that he’s capable of regular duty than spring football. And so far, the senior from Superior, Wis., is not disappointing the coaches.

“We need to rely on Zach,” said defensive coordinator Matt Entz. “The expectations are he needs to be prepared and play a lot.”

With one week left of spring workouts, he may not leave the field. NDSU is razor thin at cornerback with starters C.J. Smith and Jordan Champion sidelined with injuries. In addition, redshirt freshman Tre Dempsey left Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage with a shoulder injury. Smith is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and Champion will miss the rest of spring with a foot sprain.

It’s a position that was led for the last four years by Marcus Williams, meaning there’s an opening for a cornerback leader.

“He paved the way for all of us DBs,” Colvin said of Williams. “We call ourselves the wolfpack because we hunt together. You could say our leader is gone but a new leader has to step up. It’s open for the taking but we have to compete every day. That’s what’s best about our defense; the best man gets it.”

Colvin is a statistical oddity so far. He has two career interceptions, but he returned both for touchdowns. The first came two years ago against South Dakota when he returned a pick 12 yards for a score. Last year, he returned one 44 yards against Ferris State (Mich.).

He’s also had a hard time staying out of the training room.

“I guess you could say I was injury-prone for a while,” he said. “I’m just trying to get stronger and faster so I can eliminate all those injuries.”

A broken leg sidelined him his redshirt freshman season, meaning he went two full seasons without playing a game. He played in 28 games the last two seasons, although he’s battled hamstring issues that have slowed him down. He has 31 career tackles with two for lost yardage.

After a so-so performance in the first scrimmage, the Bison defense came to play late Saturday morning at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Entz said fundamental breakdowns like poor tackling and bad pursuit angles cost the defense a week ago.

“Part of it is we have some young kids and they’re just a week farther along now and they feel more comfortable with the calls and the tempo of the game,” he said.

Linebacker Esley Thorton returned a Carson Wentz interception for a touchdown. It came one play after Wentz missed tight end Justin Arp open down the middle.

But the offense rebounded with a 58-yard scoring play, where Arp, a sophomore from Cogswell, N.D., showed some speed in outrunning the Bison secondary on a pass from backup quarterback Cole Davis. Later, Wentz connected with running back Chase Morlock on a 30-yard scoring play on a screen pass.

NDSU will complete spring practice on Saturday with the annual Green vs. Gold game. When it comes to cornerback, there won’t be many substitutions. Colvin, for one, has seen enough of the sideline.

“The defense played physical and with emotion today,” he said. “We played fast, so we’re getting there.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia