Perry ready to step up as a sophomoreFARGO — It was a position in the Tampa 2 defense that Warren Sapp made famous. At North Dakota State, Matt Gratzek played it like a Bison Hall of Famer last season.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — It was a position in the Tampa 2 defense that Warren Sapp made famous. At North Dakota State, Matt Gratzek played it like a Bison Hall of Famer last season.
He’s gone now, his four years of eligibility used up. This week, NDSU began the process of replacing Gratzek, and the title right now belongs to sophomore Leevon Perry.
“We no longer have a senior to take the lead,” Perry said. “We have to lead ourselves now.”
Perry, who redshirted as a freshman, started all 14 games at nose guard last season. He had 32 tackles with 5.5 for lost yardage, had three quarterback sacks, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
He played a lot of defensive tackle in his redshirt season, so he’s essentially doing more review work than anything this week.
“No doubt, it’s hard to replace a guy like Gratzek,” said defensive line coach Nick Goeser. “It’s hard to fill his shoes. We’ll do our best with Leevon, continue to grow and get better.”
Perry has physically grown to around 275 pounds, he said. He played at about 260 last fall.
Perry isn’t alone in replacing Gratzek. Sophomore Ryan Drevlow is also working at that spot, but he’ll also see time at noseguard.
Sophomore Justin Juckem and freshman Anthony LaVoy are at nose guard, but Goeser said eventually both will have to learn the tackle spot, too.
The tackle in the Tampa 2 is critical because it plays two run gaps and oftentimes has a good angle at rushing the quarterback.
“It’s the toughest position to play, but it’s a position where we need to have a guy step up and be a dominant football player for us,” Goeser said.
As the starting nose guard last year, Perry saw a lot of double teams. Gratzek did, too, but mainly on passing situations.
“He taught all of us that you have to work hard every play,” Perry said. “Any play could be your last one.”
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.