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NDSU cornerback Marcus Williams hopes to return Saturday after minor surgery

FARGO -- North Dakota State may see a shift in its starting two cornerbacks on Saturday at a position that is one of the deepest on the team. Translation: it may be hard to notice.

Junior Marcus Williams had a successful scope procedure done to meniscus fibers in his knee, said head coach Craig Bohl. The injury happened sometime during the 22-7 win at Colorado State, a game in which Williams finished.

Bohl said he found out about it the next day.

"It was a pretty minor procedure," he said. "It's amazing what they can do with modern medicine."

NDSU remained No. 1 on Monday in both The Sports Network media poll and the Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll. Montana State moved up to second in both, replacing Sam Houston State, which lost to Baylor over the weekend.

Williams is slated to start Saturday against Prairie View A&M (Texas), although Bohl said the team was "cautious" with him last week and he had yet to be officially cleared as of Monday. What is certain is Andre Martin will be the other starting cornerback for the first time this season, ahead of senior Aireal Boyd and promising freshman C.J. Smith.

Martin, a senior transfer from Northern Iowa, was moved ahead of junior Brendin Pierre. He played most of the Colorado State game in a reserve role.

"His challenge was just getting to know our system," Bohl said. "There are some different nuances with our system. He had been doing very well in practice and came in against Colorado State and played well."

The Bison are coming off a bye week where one of the concerns was to address the loss of junior standout strong safety Colten Heagle, who tore his ACL against the Rams.

"The strong safety position in the Tampa 2 does so much," Bohl said. "You can slice and dice it and cut it up anyway you want to, a lot of people said he was a pre-season All-American. Developing another player that can do all the things that Colten can do is a real challenge."

Senior Bobby Ollman will start in his place, but Ollman was also a backup outside linebacker. Junior Bryan Shepherd, the backup to Christian Dudzik at free safety, will also be the backup at strong safety, too.

"Sometimes those assignments at the free safety and strong safety positions are mirrored and sometimes they're significantly different," Bohl said. "We're trying to get him up to speed (at strong safety."

Ollman's departure at linebacker, meanwhile, could put more emphasis on converted quarterback Esley Thorton being an effective backup at linebacker.

On that matter, last week was a big week for a lot of backups.

"Another thing as a head coach you always get concerned about with a week off is it's not an off week," Bohl said. "It's a week to get better, and whether the players are focused or determined to move forward as a team. Signs that I've seen have been very positive, but I think we'll find out a lot more come Saturday at 3 o'clock."