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Bison get Rock solid play from redshirt freshman offensive lineman

North Dakota State redshirt freshman Jake Rock made his first start in the opening round of the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs and helped the Bison rush for more than 400 yards.

North Dakota State redshirt freshman Jake Rock plays right tackle against Eastern Washington on April 24, 2021, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — For most of his high school career, North Dakota State redshirt freshman Jake Rock was a pass catcher, playing tight end for Kettle Moraine High School in Wales, Wis.

Rock made a position switch for his senior season with the Lasers.

“I’d always wanted to catch passes and be the guy that runs in touchdowns who more people would know about, more than an offensive lineman maybe is what my initial thoughts were,” said Rock, who is from Delafield, Wis.

It didn’t take long to embrace playing on the offensive line.

“I really developed a passion and love for the position, just how much hard work and determination and dedication goes into it,” Rock said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”


North Dakota State redshirt freshman offensive tackle Jake Rock, right, helped clear running lanes for Bison running back Hunter Luepke (44) against Eastern Washington during the first round of the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs. Rock made his first career collegiate start against the Eagles. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The 6-foot-6, 297-pound Rock made his first career start for the Bison last weekend against Eastern Washington in the opening round of the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs. He’s likely to see extended playing time again at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2, when the Bison (7-2) played No. 2-seeded Sam Houston State (7-0) in the FCS quarterfinals in Huntsville, Texas.

“He played hard. He tried to move people, he got after people,” Bison head coach Matt Entz said of Rock’s first start. “When a guy can get out there and play as hard as he did, you know you have a chance.”

Rock helped solidify the right side of the Bison offensive line, which has recently been beset by injuries. True freshman right guard Grey Zabel suffered a season-ending leg injury against South Dakota State. Senior right guard Zach Kubas missed the Eastern Washington game with an ankle injury.

The Bison moved senior right tackle Cordell Volson to right guard and started Rock at right tackle for the Eastern Washington game. NDSU responded by rushing for 422 yards on 57 attempts to fuel a 42-20 victory against the Eagles.

Rock said he was nervous for his first start, but said the support he received from coaches and teammates was unbelievable, especially Volson.

“Having a guy like Cordell next to me has helped me tremendously,” Rock said.


The 6-foot-7, 310-pound Volson has been a mainstay on the Bison offensive line during his career, playing in 49 games. He’s started at three different positions this spring — left tackle, right tackle and right guard.

“Jake played fast. He knew he had to, he’s next to Cordell,” Entz said. “If he didn’t, Cordell was going to give him an earful.”

The Bison have played four different offensive line combinations this spring. Left guard Nash Jensen and center Jalen Sundell are the only two players who have started at the same spot along the line for all eight games during the spring.

North Dakota State assistant coach Dan Larson is in his first season as the team's offensive line coach. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Entz said first-year Bison offensive line coach Dan Larson, who was the team’s running backs coach for the 2019 season, has been “extremely valuable” as NDSU has had to deal with injuries and youth along the offensive line.

Prior to the spring season, Larson took over for AJ Blazek, who is now the offensive line coach at Vanderbilt. Blazek was preceded by Conor Riley, who is now the offensive line coach at Kansas State.

“Coach Larson is a super sharp football mind,” Entz said. “He’s probably a great combination of coach Riley and coach Blazek. He probably falls somewhere right in the middle and I think that is a positive. He can connect with about every kid in that room, very detail oriented in his teaching. A very fired up individual as well and will get after the guys.”


The Bison are set to face a stingy Sam Houston defense, which is limiting opponents to around 60 rushing yards per game this spring.

Bearkats defensive end Jahari Kay, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior, has been a disruptive player this spring with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks in seven games. As a team, Sam Houston has 77 tackles for a loss and 31 sacks. If the Bison are able to establish a running game, that could help limit the Bearkats’ penchant for negative-yardage defensive plays. NDSU is averaging 227.1 rushing yards per game this season.

“I think they’ve made people one dimensional and then they pin their ears back and get after the quarterback,” Entz said.

"Things are definitely going to be more challenging up front," Rock added.

Related Topics: MATT ENTZ
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