Concussion delays promising NDSU defensive linemanFARGO — Justin Juckem came to North Dakota State in 2009 as one of the top recruits in his class. He redshirted that season and spent last year in a reserve role.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — Justin Juckem came to North Dakota State in 2009 as one of the top recruits in his class. He redshirted that season and spent last year in a reserve role.
It was a time for growth, mentally with the college game and physically with his frame. A defensive end as a high school player in Chilton, Wis., he’s put on more than 50 pounds and is being counted on this season to plug the middle.
“All of us have amped up, because we know we were lacking in that last year,” Juckem said. “That was the first step. Getting on the field is the second step, so when I’m not there, it’s frustrating.”
The second step has been delayed.
A concussion sidelined Juckem indefinitely, although he hopes to get back on the field sooner than later. He has to be medically cleared by a doctor before he can resume running.
For now, Juckem spends his time standing and watching.
“Right now, just doing mental reps,” he said. “That’s the most I can do now.”
Juckem is expected to rotate with sophomore Ryan Drevlow at nos guard. Drevlow has grown to 6-foot-4 and 283 pounds, up from 252 at this time last year.
Sophomore Leevon Perry, the starting nose guard last year, was moved to defensive tackle, a spot occupied last season by Matt Gratzek, who graduated.
“We’re all stepping up our game because we know, we’re not oblivious to the fact Gratz is gone,” Juckem said. “We learned a lot from him, so we’re trying to do the same things he did and also do our own thing.”
Juckem said the hit he took in practice knocked him out. He doesn’t remember anything between the hit and one day prior to it.
It’s been an odd two weeks with concussions with running back Sam Ojuri, offensive linemen Austin Richard and Tyler Gimmestad and linebacker Grant Olson all being inflicted. All have returned to practice.
“We’ve had a rash of them, and sometimes it’s difficult to explain,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “We have the best gear that’s out there on the market, but I think we’re unusually snakebit right now. The guys are going to come back when they’re symptom free. Certainly, it’s hurting us as far as making progress.”
Juckem played in just two games last season getting one tackle. He said when he came to NDSU that he never thought he would get to 290 pounds.
“But when you get here, you conform to what you need to do to get on the field,” he said. “So that’s the price I paid. I know I have the capability to be there and I want to be there for the guys. … We’re all in it together and we’re all aiming for a great year. If one of us drops, especially myself, that’s very frustrating.”
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.