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Craig Bagnell was very familiar with Noah Krebs long before returning to Bismarck.

The first-year head football coach at the University of Mary knew exactly what he had in the former St. Mary’s standout.

“I got a chance to watch Noah the last couple of years and to evaluate him on film and he’s a kid that sticks out. He’s one of those players that you have to know where he’s at,” said Bagnell, who was calling the plays for Bemidji State’s high-scoring offense the past two seasons. “He’s so physical and he’s a relentless-energy guy.”

Krebs was the Marauders’ leading tackler from his safety position as a sophomore, but when spring practice rolled around Krebs found himself in a new spot. It’s been a learning curve, but the hard-hitting Krebs has embraced his new role at linebacker.

“Playing safety, you’re the last line of defense. You can’t let anybody get behind you,” Krebs said. “Now, I’ve moved up five yards. It’s a new challenge and I’m enjoying it.”

Some positive reinforcement from a very familiar face helped, too.

“My high school coach (Dan Smrekar) was at practice one day and he told me I look more comfortable at linebacker,” Krebs said. “If he thinks that I’m going to take it and run with it.”

Krebs and the Marauders play their spring game on Saturday, set for 2:30 p.m. at the MDU Resources Community Bowl, weather permitting. The game is open to the public.

The unseasonable weather conditions have kept the Marauders cooped up inside for the most part, like everybody else, but that hasn’t dampened spirits.

“Everything has been very positive despite the weather,” Krebs said. “Team demeanor and attitude is very high.

“I couldn’t be more complimentary of the coaches and the teammates I’m going through this with. This is my third spring here and I definitely feel like things are going in the right direction.”

Krebs said practicing against the Marauders’ new spread offense has been very beneficial.

“We see the spread basically every week in the NSIC, so to be able to get the looks that we’re getting now is only going to help us,” he said.

Bagnell said Krebs is a big key to what the Marauders will be featuring under defensive coordinator Brett Holinka.

“To be able to move him is extremely valuable for us as a defense and extremely valuable for him as a player because he’s going to be able to affect the run game a lot more now,” Bagnell said. “Instead of him having to backpedal, he’s going to be able to come forward. He’s a forward guy, not a backpedal guy. He’s going to be a very impactful player for us.”

As always, there have been changes from one coaching staff to the next. For Krebs, one area in particular has stood out.

“The biggest thing is everything is a competition now, there’s always going to be a winner and a loser no matter what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s exciting to feel that competitive edge and not just on Saturdays, but to feel it, really, in everything we do.”

Krebs said he’s confident the Marauders will stack up better physically in the meat-grinding Northern Sun, but there’s still more work to be done.

“We’re going into games thinking we can compete, that we’re equals and a big part of that is because we’re going to be an older team,” Krebs said. “At the top end of our roster, I’m really confident we can compete against teams in the NSIC. We probably need some depth in some spots, but Craig and the coaching staff are on it and they’re putting it all together.

“The talent is here and there’s more coming. As a team we’re excited and very optimistic for the future.”

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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Sports Editor