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Bulked up Williams answering the bell as Bison try to replace Tanguay

FARGO -- When defensive tackle Blake Williams first got to North Dakota State, he weighed 235 pounds. "You're not going to play in the Valley at that weight," he said. After his true freshman season, he came in for his second year weighing 260. "...

FARGO - When defensive tackle Blake Williams first got to North Dakota State, he weighed 235 pounds.

"You're not going to play in the Valley at that weight," he said.

After his true freshman season, he came in for his second year weighing 260.

"You're not going to play in the Valley at that weight either," Williams said.

Add to that issues with his knee such as a torn meniscus and just getting into position to get on the field was a chore for the once highly recruited Williams. He appeared in one game in 2015.

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Williams is expected to play a major role in the Bison defensive line Saturday, Nov. 19, when NDSU plays at the University of South Dakota. It's the last Missouri Valley Football Conference game for both teams.

His weight: 295.

"You can do all right in the Valley at 295," Williams said.

He did all right last week against Indiana State - NDSU's first full game without injured standout defensive tackle Nate Tanguay. Williams was second on the team in tackles with eight, which is a pretty good ratio of getting in on the action considering he played 31 snaps.

It was also a pretty good answer to the question: How will the Bison fare without Tanguay?

The defensive linemen talked about that the first time they got together after learning of Tanguay's ACL tear.

"We just all kind of sat down and said, OK, we need to elevate our level of play because when you're missing a guy like Tanguay, obviously that's something huge," Williams said. "So no one can just be the new Tanguay and take 60 snaps a game at an All-American caliber of level. You can play as well for Tanguay could for maybe 20 snaps. Then the other guy comes in for 20 snaps. Then you're at least holding up."

The 20-snap rotation so to speak is a mixture of Williams, who backs up starting defensive tackle Grant Morgan, and starting nose guard Aaron Steidl and his backup Jack Darnell. For Williams, in his third year of school, it's rewarding finally being in the mix.

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He had FBS offers from Miami (Ohio) and Eastern Michigan and a preferred walk-on offer from Michigan coming out of Romeo High School in Washington, Mich., located north of Detroit. He was a consensus all-state player who also was 38-1 and runner-up in the state wrestling tournament in 2011, and also was the center on a couple district basketball title teams.

The Eastern Michigan and Miami head coaches were fired during his recruiting period in 2013, which eliminated those schools without much further thought from Williams. When he arrived at NDSU, the strength and conditioning staff and its testing figured Williams could comfortably reach 305 pounds.

"So I bought in real quick," he said.

It just took awhile for him to get in the mix. There were some hard knocks playing defensive tackle at about 240 pounds.

"I remember one time I thought I had Jack Plankers beat on a spin move," he said of the Bison offensive lineman. "But then he reached back, grabbed me with one hand and just lifted me in the air and put me right back in front of him. He just threw me right over."

These days, Plankers may have a tougher time with that technique.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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