Minot native Marler making the most of playing time

Garrick Hodge/MDN Minot State's Matt Marler, center, receives a play call from the sidelines during a college football game Saturday in Bismarck.

Minot native Matt Marler is only a redshirt freshman, but he’s already making a substantial impact for Minot State football.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker leads the team in tackles for a loss (six) and is third in total tackles (38) through five games.

“Matt has been really good and made a lot of tackles in his career with us so far,” MSU coach Mike Aldrich said. “He’s really solidified his spot in there, he took over when (starter) Fed Joseph went down in that first game. He’s done a really good job with it but he still makes mistakes. When he makes those mistakes compared to how he plays the rest of the game I have to remind myself he’s still a redshirt freshman.

“His better days are ahead of him, but he’s still playing at a really high level. He’s stepped in there as a freshman and has been able to be one of our stalwarts in the back seven.”

Marler entered the season as the No. 2 WIL on MSU’s depth chart behind Joseph, but has since earned several starts for the Beavers.

“The more experience you get, your confidence just starts to escalate,” Marler said. “I think it shows even more on film that you can just fly around and go to the ball. It brings up your aggression and brings up your confidence as a whole.”

Marler made big local waves when he transferred to MSU from the University of North Dakota this summer. The Minot native said his redshirt year at UND was critical to his development.

“It helped me get bigger and stronger,” Marler said. “Since I got hurt in high school, it really helped with the progression of my knee. Obviously, I would have loved to play my first year in college, but I really needed that redshirt year and I can’t express that enough.”

On Saturday, Marler earned the starting nod and helped the Beavers earn their first victory of the season, a 27-19 win over the University of Mary. He recorded eight total tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.

Aldrich said Marler played a key role in limiting U-Mary’s triple-option attack.

“I think when he trusts the system, he hits his gaps really fast,” Aldrich said. “Our defense that we played Saturday allowed him to hit those gaps really quick because he was pretty close to the line of scrimmage. I think where he’s still trying to learn things is with all the different coverage schemes when we’re not playing triple-option teams. He had a good redshirt year at UND, it’s not the same defense by any means, but he learned a lot of defense and the responsibility of what’s on his shoulders to make different calls in that defense.”

Marler and the Beavers are back in action at 7 p.m. Thursday against Northern State at Herb Parker Stadium.

“I’m just focused on this season right now,” Marler said. “As right now goes, it’s looking good and I’m hoping it can continue.”

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.