FARGO — North Dakota State junior Destin Talbert quickly ascended to the seasoned veteran among cornerbacks on the Bison football roster.
Talbert took over that distinction earlier this week after senior Josh Hayes, multiple-year starter at cornerback who played 52 games at NDSU, entered the transfer portal.
“It’s crazy being the old man,” Talbert said with a laugh. “I’m so used to feeling like I’m the young guy looking up to people. I’m ready for this role. I’m ready to be the old guy and feel like I’m the old bones in the room.”
Talbert, who has played 33 games for the Bison, was elevated to start at a cornerback spot opposite sophomore Jayden Price with Hayes’ departure. NDSU, which hasn’t played the past two weekends due to COVID-19 test protocols, is scheduled to play Northern Iowa at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 10, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in a Missouri Valley Football Conference matchup.
The No. 2-ranked Bison (5-1, 4-1 MVFC) are in the mix for a conference championship, tied for first place in the standings with three other teams. The Division I FCS playoffs are set to start on the weekend of April 24.
“I think the biggest concern should be that we are too excited,” Talbert said of the Bison not playing since March 20. “We haven’t played in awhile so we might go out there and do too much. I think we will be able to numb that down enough to just play crazy enough.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Talbert has played in six games this season and has 11 tackles. He had one tackle and two pass breakups in the team’s 34-13 home victory against the University of North Dakota on March 20, the last game the Bison played.
“Destin is a very mature individual,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz. “I think he’s going to take a business approach to it. I know he’s going to be excited to have the opportunity to start. … I’m excited for him.”
Talbert said he’s ready to take on an expanded role in his third season in the program. He played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2018, primarily contributing on special teams. He played in all 16 games in 2019. Talbert said he’s learned from playing behind players like Hayes and former Bison cornerbacks Marquise Bridges and Jalen Allison.
“Guys like that have shown me how to be dominant and to trust that dominance,” said Talbert, who is from Darien, Ill. “All those guys showed me what it’s like to be a top corner, what it's like to be dominant and really trust your ability out there on the field.”
Bison junior defensive end Logan McCormick is confident that Talbert is going to deliver in an expanded role.
“I have a lot of trust in him. He’s played a long time here already,” McCormick said. “He’s got a lot of reps banked. I know the coaching staff really trusts him. … He’s proven to be a really reliable player for us.”
True freshman Courtney Eubanks and redshirt freshman Jenaro Wathum-Ocama are listed at the backup cornerbacks behind Talbert and Price for the Northern Iowa game. True freshman Marcus Sigle is another player who could also contribute in the secondary.
“Those young freshmen are going to need to step up,” Entz said. “Courtney Eubanks, Marques Sigle are two guys that need to step up and play soundly. They just need to play good football.”
Northern Iowa wide receiver Isaiah Weston in one of the top big-play threats in the Missouri Valley. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Weston had three catches for 96 yards and a touchdown the last time the Panthers (3-3, 3-3) played, a 34-20 road victory against Western Illinois.
“He’s very capable of explosive plays,” Talbert said of Weston.
Talbert added his mindset won’t change now that he’s been inserted into the starting lineup.
“The mentality is that you’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity, same as it’s always been,” Talbert said. “You always want to take advantage of an opportunity whether you are in a rotation or now having a full game potentially.”