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NDSU's Zack Johnson to miss season due to knee surgery

FARGO – Zack Johnson will redshirt after all. It’s just not the way North Dakota State would have preferred.

The Bison offensive lineman will miss this season after undergoing knee surgery this week.

NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said what was expected to be a routine scope surgery turned out worse than doctors thought, and the 6-foot-4, 317-pound junior-to-be underwent microfracture surgery. It will put him out at least four months, and Klieman said the decision was made this week to “most likely” shelve his season rather than try to return sometime in the latter half of the year.

“I’d rather have this happen on June 24 than Aug. 14,” Klieman said. “At least we’re prepared for it. Now we have to plug the next guy in.”

Who will that be?

Johnson’s injury combined with the decision of sophomore starting center Josh Colville to give up the game because of chronic injuries leaves NDSU thin on experience along the offensive line heading into fall camp. Joe Haeg is the sole returning starter and he’s moving from right tackle to left tackle.

Senior Jesse Hinz will start at center. Klieman is high on Jeremy Kelly, a junior transfer from Minnesota-Crookston who sat out last season as a Bison redshirt. Senior Zac Johnson, sophomores Jack Plankers and Landon Lechler and redshirt freshmen Austin Kuhnert and Zack Ziemer will have to play prominent roles.

“We have eight or nine guys who will have to learn multiple positions,” Klieman said.

Zack Johnson played as a true freshman in 2012, starting one game. He emerged last year as a valuable starter at left guard and was a second team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference pick.

He missed spring football after undergoing shoulder surgery the week after NDSU won a FCS national title in early January.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.