FARGO — North Dakota State senior Jimmy Kepouros has been all over the map in his college career and that includes spending most of his time down on the depth chart. He’s making up for lost time.
Kepouros led the Bison with four receptions in last week’s 37-3 win at Illinois State and has put himself into the crowded mix at the NDSU receiver spot. For Kepouros, it was a case of now or never — especially with the Bison losing standout receiver Darrius Shepherd after last season to the NFL.
“With Shep leaving, I knew there was a big role that had to be filled in our offense,” Kepouros said. “There is no better time than now. I felt like I was experienced enough. I didn’t have a lot of game reps but I felt like mentally I was pretty experienced with the speed of college football.”
Kepouros, from Lemont, Ill., redshirted at FBS Western Michigan in 2015. He transferred to the College of DuPage (Ill.) in 2016 and transferred again to NDSU in 2017. But he injured his ACL in summer workouts before the 2017 season and was shelved for nearly a year.
He played in four games last year but did not have a reception.
“He has the ability to be electric in the slot,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz. “He can stop on a dime, has good hands, understands his routes. You can see his confidence continuing to grow. It's fun to see the guys who transfer in — we have very few of them — and see them become Bison football players as they get a little bit older in their career and they really buy into what we're doing here.”
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Kepouros had two key receptions in the 47-22 win at the University of Delaware, the first two of his NDSU career. He had receptions on three different touchdown drives last week at Illinois State including a 29-yarder from quarterback Trey Lance that reached the Redbird 4-yard line.
“It’s really been fulfilling honestly,” he said of his recent output. “This is a special program so to do something special here is fun.”
Davis' career may not be done
Upon further review, Dom Davis’ career at NDSU may not be over after all. Entz said this week that the cornerback is giving it another shot in hopes of playing at some point in his senior year.
Entz said Davis decided to forgo surgery on a partially torn ACL.
“If we could use him on special teams that would be great, especially for him in his last year,” Entz said.
Davis came to NDSU in 2015 out of Belleville, Ill., as one of the fastest players in that recruiting class. He played in 11 games in 2016 as a redshirt freshman including one start at cornerback.
So far, that was his most productive season. He played in nine games as a sophomore with 15 tackles, five coming on special teams.
UNI's Smith grows into top d-end
The FCS leader in quarterback sacks this season came from an unexpected source. Northern Iowa junior defensive end Elerson G. Smith is in his fourth year in the program who came into the season with limited experience. He redshirted in 2016, did not play in 2017 and had 19 tackles last season albeit was second on the team with 7.5 quarterback sacks.
He already has 7.5 QB sacks through five games this season and has added 10.5 tackles for lost yardage.
Smith was known more as a tight end at Minneapolis South High School. He was 6-foot-6 and 204 pounds as a true freshman at UNI but is now up to 6-7, 245.
“He’s grown into his body,” said UNI head coach Mark Farley. “He’s always been a big man. He’s expanded his game with more physical strength and is a better pass rusher. In previous years he was just a pass rusher but now he’s a whole defensive end for us and has been very productive the last few weeks.”