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Bison redshirts coming along fine

FARGO -- North Dakota State took the redshirts off seven freshmen in August. Slowly, but surely, all seven are easing into the rigors of Division I football.

FARGO -- North Dakota State took the redshirts off seven freshmen in August. Slowly, but surely, all seven are easing into the rigors of Division I football.

They're part of a freshman class that is considered to be one of the best in Craig Bohl's eight years at NDSU. Right tackle Billy Turner, long snapper Michael Murphy and punt returner Ryan Smith have started since mid-September.

Backup safety Colten Heagle has been one of the team's best special teams players. Last week, linebacker Grant Olson played 20 snaps against Illinois State -- 17 more than his previous high against Morgan State.

"That was my first real action," Olson said. "It felt good to finally be able to play and contribute a lot more defensively. I thought it was going to be maybe a little more difficult than what it was, but just being with the older guys had a calming presence."

The starting three linebackers are all banged up in some form. Matt Anderson is out another week. Preston Evans practiced just once last week, but played against the Redbirds.

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Olson, a middle linebacker, is also being groomed as a backup outside linebacker.

"That's what the No. 2s job is, you have to prepare like you're a starter every week," he said. "I think we've all done a pretty good job of that."

It may be just a matter of time before true freshman linebacker Don Carter plays more. Like Heagle, he's been noticeable on special teams.

Heagle admits to his "head spinning" during fall practice when he was trying to learn the strong safety position behind senior Cyrus Lemon.

As the season has progressed, the increased contributions of the true freshmen are what they had in mind when they talked about it in August. In reality, starting freshman cornerback Marcus Williams is a true rookie since he didn't play last year.

"Everybody comes from a different background and it was cool how we all came together," Heagle said.

Said Olson: "I think we have something special going on here and I think we have a bright future."

But the future, for now, is Saturday against Indiana State. The Sycamores took their lumps playing true freshmen in the past, but have grown up this year. They're second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference at 2-1.

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"We kind of joke about it, wishing we would get a team with somebody that wasn't so good," Olson said.

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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