BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — It wasn’t that long ago that Nick Jacobs was laying on a hospital bed, battling a persistent virus that enlarged his spleen.
And now, number 56 is ready to return to the defensive line for the University of South Dakota football team.
Jacobs, a junior defensive tackle, was medically cleared Wednesday and will see his first action of the season Saturday afternoon when the Coyotes host No. 21 Northern Iowa.
“I always knew I would come through,” Jacobs said after Wednesday’s practice, his first since Aug. 17. “I never lost faith or lost hope.”
A two-year starter on the line for the Coyotes (2-3), Jacobs developed an infection in his esophagus during pre-season practices and soon had ulcers. He found it difficult to swallow food, which prompted a weight loss.
Not to mention trips to the hospital.
“It was tough being there for five days, then coming out and not being able to practice,” Jacobs said.
Though he wasn’t in action for USD’s first five games, Jacobs was still a noticeable presence at practices, helping his fellow defensive lineman — next to d-line coach Marquice Williams.
“It’s been a while, but being able to watch the guys and spending time with coach Williams has made me a better player,” Jacobs said.
In what way?
In the sense that even though Jacobs hasn’t been going through drills, he’s still been in the loop, he said. There were still some early rust to be knocked off in Wednesday’s first practice back, but no worry, Jacobs added.
“It took a little bit of time, but honestly, I’ve been so focused with the guys,” he said. “I knew all the plays and what to do.”
And so, he will rejoin a defensive line unit that has recorded one sack on the season.
The Coyotes have played on the line: Drew Iddings (18 tackles, 1 sack), Sean Bredl (16 tackles, 1 INT), Fred Beaugard (14), Bailey Sutko (8), Adam Praska (4), Kray Krolikowski (3), Jon Maag (2), Mason Ruiz (1) and Matt Miller (1).
As the swelling of Jacobs’ spleen has subsided, he has been able to boost his weight — back up near 285 pounds, Glenn said.
“Time’s a wasting. We need him,” the Coyote coach said. “I hope he plays a whale of a game. We really need him.”
His teammates agreed.
“You really can’t do anything about it, stuff like that happens, but it’s awesome we got him back,” sophomore wide receiver Riley Donovan said. “He’s a playmaker. We need him.”
Jacobs, who has started 20 games (and played in all 21) over the previous two seasons, might need a little time to rediscover his game speed Saturday, according to Glenn.
“His first game, he might be finding his way,” Glenn said. “It’s the same thing with our quarterback. It might take a little time to develop a rhythm.”