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FNS Photo by Carrie Snyder North Dakota State defensive end Mike Hardie works on blocking during practice on Tuesday in Fargo.

Hardie seeks bigger role on Bison’s defensive line

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FARGO — A few North Dakota State football players took to Twitter to have a little fun when the Bison said safety Christian Dudzik may also play some wide receiver this season. They wondered why defensive end Mike Hardie wasn’t in the mix for a receiver spot.

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It was Hardie, after all, who caught a 2-point conversion in the 2012 FCS national championship game when the center snap was botched and a desperation pass landed in Hardie’s arms. He was asked this week if that play is still in the playbook.

“Not yet, but I’ve been trying to get that in,” he joked Monday.

Sarcasm aside, Hardie may be asked to play more than his defensive end spot this season. Cole Jirik and Kyle Emanuel may have been the starters last season, but Hardie was more like a third starter than a reserve. With Jirik gone, he’ll be needed more than ever at defensive end.

He may also be needed at defensive tackle, nose guard, or wherever NDSU needs him in the line.

“He’s going to have to do a little of everything,” said Bison assistant coach Nick Goeser, who handles the defensive interior. “He jokes all the time that we might need him at quarterback or cornerback or something like that, but he’s going to have to be a guy that can go inside.”

He saw some action last year at tackle in passing situations, usually on third down. This year, Goeser said that could change to second down and “if we have some issues possibly first down.”

The main issues would be injuries or if the younger Bison tackles and nose guards are not doing the job.

Redshirt freshman Nathan Tanguay is expected to start at tackle and junior Brian Schaetz is expected to return from a broken foot and start practicing next week. Redshirt freshmen Austin Farnlof and Grant Morgan are also expected to see a lot of time up front.

“I think our young tackles are coming along just fine, and they’re going to hold their own,” Hardie said.

Said Goeser: “We’re a work in progress. One thing I’ve been pleased though with those kids is they’ve been practicing hard and competing hard. Are we ready to go? Not even close yet but I think in another two weeks as we continue to progress, we could be pretty good inside.”

Hardie started two games last season finishing with 22 tackles, three for lost yardage, and 2.5 quarterback sacks. Emanuel has been getting most of the preseason accolades, but a lot of NDSU’s defensive success the last few years has been attributed to depth.

That includes on and off the field, Hardie said. When he was a freshman, it was Coulter Boyer and Scott Stoczynski who were the position leaders. Then it was Jirik and Ricky Hagen. Now the baton has been passed to Hardie and Emanuel.

“Leadership is one of those staples at NDSU,” Hardie said. “We’ve always had good senior leadership, and that’s the one thing I want to bring on these young guys.”

They helped Hardie progress. He said he wouldn’t even want to look at a game film of him as a freshman for fear of it not being very good. There wasn’t much to see — he played in only four games.

That changed the following year when he played in all 15 games getting three quarterback sacks and recovering three fumbles.

“When he first got here, he was one of those guys that you said has a long way to go,” Goeser said. “But Mike has worked as hard as anybody on this team. He does a great job on the run, and he’s gotten to be a heck of a pass rusher.”

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Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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