Last year, it was Kyle Emanuel and Mike Hardie at defensive end and that was about it — until Hardie was injured and Brad Ambrosius developed into a dependable backup. Later in the season, the Bison brought true freshman Greg Menard up to standards and he contributed in the playoff run. This year? With Emanuel and Hardie gone, it will be back to more of a four-, or possibly a five-, player rotation. Ambrosius and Menard are the starters and that will probably hold serve until the season opener. But a couple of young players have entered the picture in sophomore Jarrod Tuszka and redshirt freshman Caleb Butler. Moreover, the Bison coaches are anxiously awaiting to see Stanley Jones return from an injury and see what he has. The word on Jones is he’s made positive weight gains to go with his athletic frame. Sophomore Alex Hahn, once listed as the backup to Ambrosius, has fallen out of the picture.
Defensive ends coach Jamar Cain said he also would have no problem playing a true freshman if needed, much like the BIson did with Menard last season. NDSU signed Cole Karsz from Germantown, Wis., and Derrek Tuszka, Jarrod’s brother, from Warner, S.D., at that position. Jarrod Tuszka, by the way, has come miles from having to sit out his first season with an Achilles tendon injury suffered in a high school track meet and adapting to the 11-man FCS game from 9-man high school ball.
Also in spring ball:
- Head coach Chris Klieman said the depth chart didn’t move much after last Saturday’s first scrimmage. The Bison will do it again this Saturday with the final test the annual Spring Game on April 25.
- Klieman said he’s pleased with the development of sophomore strong safety Chris Board. “He was a concern for me,” he said. “Chris and I talked about it — talked about his knowledge of the game so he can play fast. It never clicked for Chris up until this spring and it’s not all clicked but he’s understanding it much better.” Klieman said Board spent a lot of time over the winter watching cutup clips of departed Bison safeties Colten Heagle and Christian Dudzik.
- Klieman said he was impressed with his wide receivers, including in drills that didn’t involve catching the ball. Darrius Shepherd, for instance, may see time on special teams. “We wanted some wide outs to portray that role on a kickoff or punt and he came up and stroked some guys,” he said. “We’re trying to find some ways to get some wide receivers on the field even if it’s on a punt, punt defense or kickoff and some of those guys showed up today.”
- Klieman said the kicker job will go into the fall between junior Tom Barneson, redshirt freshman walkon Ian Gallagher and preferred walkon recruit Cam Pedersen from Eau Claire, Wis. Klieman said punter Ben LeCompte hasn’t been ruled out of doing the kicking, either.