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Position shuffle continues for UND football

Offensive lineman Mat Cox, left, and defensive lineman Alex Carrothers tangle during a live drill on Tuesday. Cox formerly played on the defensive line. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS – Instead of settling into a fifth season at the same position, North Dakota senior Ben Henson remains on the move.

When head coach Bubba Schweigert and his new coaching staff took over last winter, Henson was moved from nose guard – where he was a three-year regular and the 2013 starter – to offensive center.

Now to open fall camp, Henson is making changes again. This time, the Buffalo, Minn., native is playing right guard and taking a majority of the snaps with the top unit.

“Whatever the team needs, I’m willing to do,” Henson said. “You have to put the team first. If they think I help most at right guard, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Schweigert’s staff made a handful of position changes last spring and this fall, although Henson was the most proven at his previous position.

The 6-foot-1, 290-pounder has played in all 33 games in his career, starting two as a sophomore and all 11 last season. He has 69 total career tackles.

But with depth concerns along the offensive line, UND moved both Henson and former defensive end Mat Cox to the offensive side of the ball.

Henson initially took snaps at center, but when junior college transfer Brendan Slaight didn’t arrive for fall camp, UND had to scramble a bit.

UND moved Sean Meehan, who started at right guard last season, to right tackle and shifted Henson from center to guard.

“Ben is smart and knows the assignments,” UND first-year offensive line coach Luke Knauf said. “He comes with positive energy. He picks everybody up because he has that leadership role.”

Henson said the transition to guard was easier because as a center he had to learn everyone else’s job for play-calling purposes.

Henson, who added that Meehan has been a helpful resource at guard, said the top offensive line unit’s off-the-field bond has helped make strides on the field.

“We’re all buds and hang out together … most of us live together,” Henson said. “We’ve done a good job sorting through things. The No. 1s have done a good job communicating.”

Although UND hasn’t released an official depth chart, the team’s starting unit at this point appears to be left tackle Devin Barton, left guard Brandon Anderson, center Jace Hellman, Henson at right guard and Meehan at right tackle.

Knauf, who played collegiately on the offensive line at Wisconsin, said the team is focused on developing depth, as well.

“We’re trying to find our top eight,” he said. “It’s a competition every day with those guys.”

Knauf said the staff will learn a little more about the line, especially the true freshmen, when the team goes full contact during scrimmages.

“Live bullets are a lot different than practice bullets,” he said.

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald