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Jordheim trying to make most of opportunity with the Bison

FARGO --- The kid packed his bags in the fall of 2014 to play football for North Dakota State, and not many people probably expected Levi Jordheim, a walk-on from Dickinson, N.D., to make much noise during his first season. The number of scholars...

FARGO ­-- The kid packed his bags in the fall of 2014 to play football for North Dakota State, and not many people probably expected Levi Jordheim, a walk-on from Dickinson, N.D., to make much noise during his first season. The number of scholarship offers he got out of high school, after all, probably equaled Bison expectations this year: zero.

But the NDSU coaching staff knew better. They liked him during summer camp before Jordheim's junior year of high school. They liked him even better the following year and offered him a preferred walk-on status. Jordheim didn't have to think about it.

"I took it before I even heard of anything else," he said. "Flying under the radar isn't that bad. I knew I wanted to come here, and if I got that opportunity, I sure was going to take it."

He thinks Minnesota State Moorhead was going to offer something, but his verbal commitment ended any speculation of another school coming in. The way he's progressed this year, it probably won't be long before scholarship dollars start coming his way. He's been mentioned by Bison coaches as being in the mix for playing time at outside linebacker more than once and it happened again Saturday after NDSU's first intrasquad scrimmage of spring ball.

Head coach Chris Klieman said he liked the way Jordheim and freshman Dan Marlette "did some things." On the flipside, there were some plays that will go down as teaching moments, and that probably went for the entire defense. Running back Lance Dunn, for instance, scored on a 98-yard touchdown run, while quarterback Carson Wentz was near perfect going 10-for-12 for 158 yards and three touchdowns.

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"I was a little disappointed our overall performance, but we knew there would be some growing pains and they hit us today," said defensive coordinator Matt Entz. "We'll continue to get better, I promise you that."

Where Jordheim improve the most during the fall and winter workouts was simple growth. He probably looked more like a safety coming in, but has gained about 25 pounds, and is currently 6-foot-1 and around 205 pounds.

"That whole freshman class last fall just really progressed better than any class we've had here," said strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer, before talking about Jordheim, "and he was leading the way."

Junior Pierre Gee-Tucker is the unquestioned starter at this point at that outside linebacker position and junior Bo Liekhus is his top backup. Jordheim admitted the Saturday scrimmage was played at a faster pace than practice and learning the mental and physical aspects of the Tampa 2 defense is not easy.

"He's hungry and that's what we really like about Levi in general," Klieman said. "He's a hungry guy that knows he has an opportunity and he's going to make the best of it."

Said Entz: "I tell you what, every school in the Missouri Valley would wish they had Levi on their team. I totally believe that. He's a great football player, comes to meetings writing notes, does everything that is asked of him and he wants to be really good."

Jordheim and freshman safety Isaac Cenescar led the Bison in the scrimmage with five tackles each.

Klieman said there were no injuries of significance in one of the longer, full contact spring scrimmages the Bison have had in recent years. Defensive tackle Nate Tanguay and offensive tackle Landon Lechler will probably be held out the rest of spring with sprained ankles.

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"We have a long ways to go," Klieman said, "but I was particularly pleased offensively with our crispness. You have a lot of guys out there who have not played any football, so we're looking at each day-how are we growing? We're not going to look like the 2013 and 2014 Bison defense throughout spring, we're just not. We're looking to see how much progress we make in the spring because in the fall, we get to do this all over again, starting from scratch Aug. 2 with the first part of the playbook."

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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