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Defensive shifts stick Robbie Grimsley into NDSU lineup

FARGO -- Perhaps the defensive backfield picture for North Dakota State's football team is starting to show signs of stability. At the least, the personnel moves the Bison made last week appear to be the direction the team is headed for the rest ...

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North Dakota State’s Robbie Grimsley (35) intercepts a pass against South Dakota Oct.17 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. (FNS Photo by David Samson)

FARGO - Perhaps the defensive backfield picture for North Dakota State’s football team is starting to show signs of stability. At the least, the personnel moves the Bison made last week appear to be the direction the team is headed for the rest of the season.
Robbie Grimsley is now the starter at strong safety and the true freshman played the entire way against Southern Illinois. That’s not expected to change Saturday when the Bison host Western Illinois at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
“It’s a lot better adjustment-wise,” Grimsley said. “You don’t have to come in and out and it just seems like an easier flow for me.”
Grimsley took the spot of sophomore Chris Board, who was moved to outside linebacker last week. Board’s size and physical nature against the run made him seem more like a linebacker anyway and, like Esley Thorton of a few years ago, is now taking a crash course in learning the linebacker spot. Thorton successfully made the switch from quarterback.
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Board is backing up outside linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker and said he’s still getting accustomed to the move. Asked how he took the news, he said, “I don’t know, I’m just getting used to it. I just want to help out the defense as much as I can. With my size, it’s probably better I’m in the box and around the action.”
Plus, head coach Chris Klieman said, with so many teams going to the spread offense with multiple receivers, it helps having a linebacker who has extensive experience in pass coverage.

“I think this is a better opportunity for Chris,” Klieman said. “The box mentality just fits his skill set better.”
Grimsley had his redshirt lifted in fall camp because the Bison were in need of a backup to Board. There have been moments of learning on the job and like all true freshmen, adjusting to the quickness of Division I FCS receivers from high school is not easy.
Not only that, with sophomore Tre Dempsey moving from a backup cornerback to the starting free safety this year, there was always the difficulty of replacing four-year starters in safeties Colten Heagle and Christian Dudzik.
“There was a lot of comparing,” Grimsley said, “a lot of seeing if we could replace what they did.”
With the Board move, redshirt freshman Jaylaan Wimbush moved into the two-deep chart at strong safety and played a lot against Southern Illinois when Dempsey left the game with concussion symptoms. Junior Andrew Smith is the top backup to Dempsey
“Not having the experience is what worries most people,” Wimbush said, “but I feel like we’re doing an amazing job of adjusting and learning the game and performing to the best of our abilities.”

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