ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

No. 8 back on defense for NDSU: McNorton - wearing Joe Mays' old number - adjusts to life on defensive side

No. 8 has returned to linebacker at North Dakota State, although it's not a Joe Mays back-to-school reunion. It's Bison sophomore D.J. McNorton, who moved over from running back last week.

No. 8 has returned to linebacker at North Dakota State, although it's not a Joe Mays back-to-school reunion. It's Bison sophomore D.J. McNorton, who moved over from running back last week.

The transition went about as expected.

"It was a little struggle, but I think I can help out the team, so it's no big deal," McNorton said.

McNorton, who wears the same jersey number as the former Bison middle linebacker now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was moved when starting outside linebacker Matt Anderson was lost for the season with a neck injury. McNorton was credited with one assisted tackle in spot duty backing up true freshman Brandon Jemison in a 27-24 loss to Illinois State.

McNorton remains on the offensive depth chart, and it remains to be seen if the move to defense will be permanent or temporary.

ADVERTISEMENT

"At the end of the day, I want to be on the offensive side of the ball because it's more natural for me," McNorton said. "It's what I like to do."

McNorton said the last time he played defense was in junior high in Texas. Getting a grasp of the basics of defense came relatively easy last week, he said.

The technical packages like blitzes and pass coverage are much tougher to learn.

"He's never played defense in his life so I really appreciate what he's doing for the team," said Bison middle linebacker Preston Evans. "I have a lot of respect for him."

Head coach Craig Bohl said McNorton's football instincts and quick-learning ability made him a good candidate to help with defensive depth. Since the start of practice in August, the linebacker depth chart has undergone almost a total renovation including the starting three.

Middle linebacker Tyler Henry is out for the year with a knee injury. That prompted Evans to move from one outside spot to the middle with Matt Kittelson moving up to an outside linebacker starter.

Freshman Eddie Beson has overtaken senior Fred Bussey as the top backup in the middle. Bringing McNorton over from offense, however, was much more radical.

"I've always been an offensive player, I like to have the ball," McNorton said.

ADVERTISEMENT

McNorton wasn't the only backup running back to add a position. Sophomore Matt Voigtlander is listed as a No. 2 receiver for Saturday's Missouri Valley Football Conference game against Northern Iowa.

"You'll see him play a whole host of things," Bohl said. "He's a multi-faceted athlete and we're going to utilize him."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

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.
What To Read Next
Area recreation scores and schedules.
Regional and local scores and schedules.
The Black Hawks trailed by two goals with just over six minutes left to play but rallied and upended Fargo in overtime on Saturday.
South Dakota State running away with regular season title