FARGO — The position group with the spotlight on it the most this month for the North Dakota State football team is the one that generally does its work incognito. So far, the offensive line has been a work in progress.
That’s nothing new in Bison camp, which every year finds itself replacing one or two starters up front. For one, it’s a spot usually manned by upperclassmen who needed a couple of years to develop.
Second, with five positions available, the odds of one or two senior starters are pretty good. And last year, the Bison were very good, especially late in the year.
But the departures of All-American Paul Cornick at right tackle and four-year starter Austin Richard at left guard have left perhaps the two biggest holes in the NDSU lineup. The potential to reload is there, said head coach Craig Bohl. It’s just taking longer than hoped.
Progress, he said, has been incremental, not exponential.
“But we’re going in the right direction,” Bohl said.
That includes Josh Colville, who at this rate will be a rare freshman starter on a team full of experience. When junior Anthony LaVoy was sidelined for a few weeks with a wrist injury, it opened a spot at left guard.
“I’ve had some good days and I’ve had some bad days,” Colville said. “I’m just working on learning and improving every day. I get a lot of leadership from the older guys. They look after me, so I think it’s been a good process so far.”
Listed at 279 pounds, Colville could be the lightest Bison starting offensive lineman in quite some time. Last year, Richard played at around 315.
Not a big concern, said offensive line coach Scott Fuchs, because of the way Colville plays. He’s physical.
“I believe this: It doesn’t matter how big you are,” Fuchs said. “It’s how big you play. It’s a cliché but it’s true. Josh will hit people and he will finish them off. He has a real nice mentality for it.”
Colville, from Deephaven, Minn., who played at Minnetonka High School, said he spent last year studying Richard, both on film and on the field. The same can be said for the three players vying to replace Cornick.
Junior Jeff Jerve, who at one time was considered the sure-bet replacement, continues to battle injuries. He had a procedure done to his knee “meant to inject some stuff into his knee,” Bohl said. He’s expected to be out another week.
Meanwhile, sophomore Jason Pomerenke and freshman Joe Haeg are the leading contenders. Today’s scrimmage, which is closed to the public, could provide further insight, Fuchs said.
“It will be a huge day for us up front,” Fuchs said. “It may not finalize what happens at right tackle, but I think we’re going to have a pretty clear picture of what that will be.”
Fuchs said true freshman Zack Johnson from Apple Valley, Minn., may get a look at contributing immediately.
“We’re trying to force feed him some plays and get him to know the offense quicker than normal,” Fuchs said.Talk about it