The time is now for Bison redshirt freshmen Jaxon Duttenhefer, Kody Huisman
Both players will be counted on to fill the void after standout Eli Mostaert went down with an injury
FARGO — When Eli Mostaert got an unexpected ride in a cart off Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome last Saturday, so too went an experienced North Dakota State defensive tackle with all-American accolades. The next man up is actually two men up.
Redshirt freshmen Jaxon Duttenhefer and Kody Huisman will share Mostaert’s former playing time when the Bison travel to the University of Arizona for a Saturday night clash for an FCS power vs. a Pac-12 Conference FBS program. But neither Duttenhefer or Huisman appear to be focused on the size of the stage.
“You never know when your name is going to get called,” Duttenhefer said. “But when it does, you just have to make sure you’re ready and prepared and that includes whether you’re a true freshman, whether it’s your second year or even your fourth or fifth year. You just continue to prepare like it’s any other week.”
Mostaert suffered a broken fibula against North Carolina A&T and is expected to be sidelined 10 weeks.
The 6-foot-1, 280-pound Duttenhefer, from Mandan, N.D., played in two games as a true freshman, enough to get a feel for game-day atmospheres. The 6-4, 279-pound Huisman, from Pella, Iowa, did not see his first action until the first two games of this season.
Both players have similar backgrounds in terms of all-around athletic ability. Duttenhefer was a state runner-up in the shot put in track and field and was the most valuable player for his American Legion baseball team.
Huisman was the Iowa Class AAA state champ in the shot put. In wrestling, he was a state placer at 285 pounds his senior year. Now he’ll be grappling with FBS offensive linemen.
“I’m really excited to get the opportunity, but at the same time, looking back at the game last week is pretty sad seeing a big guy like Eli go down,” Huisman said. “He’s a great mentor to me and helped me along the way, as well as every other young guy. So I’m going to go in there and play for him and do the best I can do at my job.”
The impetus of replacing Mostaert in the middle will most likely fall on Will Mostaert, Eli’s twin brother who will get the start in his place. Huisman will back him up. Duttenhefer is the top backup for starting nose guard Javier Derritt with both tackle and nose guard being rotated frequently.
It’s not Drake or North Carolina A&T anymore, like the first two Bison opponents, but that’s the hand NDSU was dealt in the wake of Eli Mostaert’s injury.
“It’s just another team, another offensive line,” Duttenhefer said. “You never go into the week like, oh my gosh, it’s an FBS team. It’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter what the names are on paper, whoever it is, you’re going to prepare and you just know you have to go play your game.”
Both players, naturally, credit head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer in getting them ready to play at a physical position in just their second year of college. Huisman said being on the scout team as a true freshman and going against the Bison offensive line, specifically NFL draft pick Cordell Volson, was an educational experience.
“Oh yeah, a real big eye opener,” he said. “There were a couple of moments where it was like, welcome to college football.”
With Arizona Stadium’s capacity of 50,782, there may be more welcome to college football moments on Saturday.
“I can’t wait, it’s going to be a great experience,” Huisman said. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to go out there and play against a school like Arizona and go on that field. It’s something I always wanted to do in high school and now I’m getting the opportunity.”