Keller steps up as kicker for BisonFARGO — It’s not unheard of for a college football player to miss most of his first two seasons because of injuries. But a kicker?
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications
FARGO — It’s not unheard of for a college football player to miss most of his first two seasons because of injuries. But a kicker?
That’s precisely what Adam Keller dealt with and it wasn’t easy getting through it. He admits that his position, not the most physical of spots on the field, gets a ribbing for that simple fact.
Nagging quadricep injuries prevented him from challenging Ryan Jastram for the starting job in his true freshman season. A groin injury hampered him the following spring football season. Last spring, he hurt his hamstring running 40-yard sprints and spent spring ball doing limited work.
Moreover, Jastram excelled as the starter the last two years sending Keller to the sideline for good.
But on Monday in practice, it was Keller — now a sophomore — who provided a calming performance during a workout that was littered with mistakes. He nailed a 40-yard field goal that hit the top of the old Dacotah Field scoreboard on the west side of the practice facility.
He hit one from 45 yards with no problem.
Head coach Craig Bohl said right now he would have no problem letting Keller attempt a field goal from 48 yards and in at the Fargodome.
“I just think it’s me being healthy and being able to get a good leg on the ball now,” Keller said.
It’s translated to a higher confidence level, both with himself and with his teammates.
“You start to get a little more respect from the guys,” he said. “The jokes still come our way but that’s part of the position.”
Keller had high marks coming out of Lewisberry, Pa. NDSU saw him in a kicking camp and tabbed him to be the successor to four-year starter Shawn Bibeau beginning in 2010.
The plan, Keller said, was for him to play right away.
“But Ryan had two good years and obviously I had to pay my dues,” Keller said. “Now it’s my time to step up. It just feels good to be out here and healthy for once.”
Keller has already won the job from two walkon kickers. Freshman Sam Koenig from Dubuque, Iowa, was the backup in Monday’s practice.
“He’s been really consistent and has had pretty good range,” Bohl said of Keller.
Receiver Gray lone freshman to get look
The list of true freshmen making a bid to play in their first year at NDSU was extensive two years ago. As of Monday, it’s short and sweet.
The receiver from Aurora, Ill., is getting a strong look from the Bison coaching staff not to redshirt. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he’s already looks the part physically.
“Outside of him, nothing right now,” said head coach Craig Bohl.
Gray was rated the third-best prospect in the state of Illinois before his senior season. He picked NDSU over offers from Missouri Valley Football Conference schools Illinois State and Indiana State.
He had 19 receptions for 366 yards, a 19.3 per catch average, his senior year. Six of those were touchdowns.
Bohl said linebacker Matt Larson, a walkon freshman from Rosemount, Minn., has left the team.
Bison No. 2 behind Sam in Sports Network poll
Sam Houston State grabbed the pre-season favorite nod in The Sports Network top 25 pre-season poll. The Bearkats received 79 first place votes and No. 2 NDSU got 59.
The rest of the top 10 is Georgia Southern, Montana State, James Madison, Appalachian State, Towson State, Old Dominion, Northern Iowa and Wofford.
The TSN poll is made up of a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters and sportswriters.