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Plenty of options on Bison defense to replace Tre Dempsey's leadership

North Dakota State University strong safety Robbie Grimsley gives a signal during the first day of Bison football practice on August 3, 2018. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO—The unquestioned leader on the North Dakota State defense last year was free safety Tre Dempsey, who could be quiet and unassuming off the field but vocal between the lines. Dempsey has since graduated, taking his skillset to another facet of life.

The issue of his replacement this fall will not be a matter of finding a list of candidates. There are plenty.

"Defensively, we have to find that vocal-type guy, that Tre Dempsey-type guy that will emerge," said head coach Chris Klieman. "We have a lot of quiet leaders on defense, but they hold each other accountable. I'm excited about that side of the ball."

There's nothing that says a quiet leader can't get the job done. Collectively, you can find experience at every position on defense and in most cases players that have been there for a few years.

"I'm not going to change how I lead just to be like Tre," said senior strong safety Robbie Grimsley. "But I think I'm going to do what I can do for my part and we'll see who all steps up for that."

Grimsley's name was a common sight on preseason football teams across the country. He was named to the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award "Watch List," which goes to the best defensive player in the subdivision. STATS also put him on its preseason All-American first team as well as the Missouri Valley preseason first team.

It's a familiar honor to him—he's been an all-league first team selection in each of the last two seasons.

The Bison also welcomed back senior defensive end Greg Menard, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the first week of practice. He was also named to the Buchanan Award Watch List.

Cornerback Jalen Allison is entering his fourth year as a starter. Safety/cornerback Jaylaan Wimbush will be on his third year of starting. Two starting linebackers, seniors Levi Jordheim and Dan Marlette, are in their fifth year in the program with plenty of games played between them.

Besides Menard, defensive ends Stanley Jones and Caleb Butler, noseguard Aaron Steidl and defensive tackle Blake Williams carry a senior veteran presence. All totaled, the seniors have played a combined 399 games. Grimsley, Allison, Wimbush, Steidl, Jones, Butler and Menard have all played between 40 and 44 games.

"We have a number of guys who have played an awful lot of snaps who, as they move forward, will be holding everybody accountable," Klieman said.

Dempsey just happened to be very good at it.

"I tried to adapt to a bigger leadership role last year but I had Tre to help me with the DB group," Grimsley said of the defensive backs. "This year it will be us seniors leading and I think I'll have to take another step in that leadership role."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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