NDSU to put injuries aside against Furman
FARGO — It hasn’t been the senior year to remember for two of North Dakota State’s high-profile football players. Linebacker Grant Olson saw his season end with a knee injury.
Cornerback Marcus Williams, meanwhile, has seen the Bison medical staff about as much as he’s seen the coaches. It’s been one problem after another.
Still, like Olson, he hasn’t been a potted plant on the bench. Olson is wearing a visor like an assistant coach.
“It’s like he’s Steve Spurrier out there,” said head coach Craig Bohl.
Unlike Olson, Williams is hoping to make the most of a second chance in rebounding from a sprained MCL. He’s expected to start Saturday against Furman University (S.C.) in the FCS second round game at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
He said he’s at full speed and his lateral quickness has returned. At the least, he’s mentally all there because he’s been a player-assistant coach of sorts since he left the Illinois State game almost a month ago.
“It’s been tough, but I just had to handle it by having the opportunity to help others and watch them grow,” Williams said. “It’s been an honor to see that. I just try to keep my head up, stay positive, keep working out, rehab, do the treatments and make sure I can get back in time to play.”
Williams dealt with back problems in fall camp in August. He suffered a broken hand against Missouri State in mid-October, although he played with a cast the following week at Southern Illinois.
“He’s done a great job of being a captain and a leader,” said defensive coordinator Chris Klieman.
Klieman said Williams was fortunate his injury wasn’t season-ending after reviewing the play on tape. His status in the final two regular season games was listed as a game-time decision, but the reality was he was going to be used only in an emergency.
Besides, his backup, sophomore Jordan Champion, played well in Williams’ absence, leading the team in tackles against Youngstown State. Champion and Williams had conversations after almost every defensive series.
“He’d ask me what I saw out there,” Williams said, “So I would give him my feedback and how I felt he did. I just kept telling those guys you have to play in the moment, play each play and if something bad happened to flush it down the drain.”
Williams, a top kickoff returner the last two years, will not be in that role Saturday. But it will take a lot to keep the team’s all-time leader in interceptions from playing cornerback. His total of 20 career interceptions is third-best all-time in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
“I know this: Marcus Williams is going to make plays for us in the playoffs,” Klieman said. “There are some things we think he’ll do really well, and some things we may have to keep him off the field for. But big-time players make big plays, and he’s one of those players.”