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All-American Hunter Luepke among players held out of Bison's first practice

NDSU head coach Matt Entz said fullback and other veterans will have workload cut short in fall camp

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North Dakota State defensive end Spencer Waege takes a break during the opening day of practice at Dacotah Field on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — All-American fullback Hunter Luepke was among some familiar and important players who didn't practice with North Dakota State on Thursday as the Bison opened fall training camp. Head coach Matt Entz said some were held out to manage their workload while others are working through injuries.

Fifth-year senior Luepke was among the former, according to Entz.

Luepke was the hero of the Bison's playoff run last season, catching two touchdown passes in the semifinals against James Madison before being named the most outstanding player of the Football Championship Subdivision title game victory over Montana State.

Luepke rushed 19 times for a season-high 110 yards against James Madison. He had 14 carries for 82 yards and three touchdowns against Montana State.

"Does he need to carry the ball 20 times a day right now? I don't think so," Entz said. "That's kind of my decision."

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Luepke joined senior tight end Noah Gindorff, senior receiver Zach Mathis, senior running back TaMerik Williams and junior linebacker Cole Wisniewski as players held out of practice. Most played key roles last season as the Bison won their ninth FCS title in 11 seasons.

Gindorff, expected to get a chance in the NFL, returned for a sixth season after breaking his leg in a playoff victory over Southern Illinois in December. The 6-foot-6, 268-pound tight end had 17 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns last season.

"He's a sixth-year player. Is there really a need for four weeks of fall camp leading up to Game 1? He's out here with the script locked into the details," Entz said. "We'll get them into camp when we feel like we need to start prepping for week one. Good players are healthy players."

Williams and Wisniewski are expected to be key contributors.

Wisniewski was slated as a starting linebacker, but tore his Achilles tendon in the spring. Entz said he will likely not practice during fall camp and might not be available until September.

Williams was the Bison's leading rusher last year with 772 yards, including 12 touchdowns. Entz said Williams is battling a lower body injury that bothered him last year.

"TaMerik hasn't practiced with us more than a handful of times since January," Entz said. "It's a frustrating injury. He's frustrated. We have to find a way to get him healthy and see how we can manage that through the season."

Mathis has battled injuries throughout his career, but was mostly healthy last season. He played in 12 games and finished with eight catches. He was expected to battle for playing time this season as the Bison are looking for a No. 1 receiver to replace Christian Watson, who was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers in April.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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