(STATS) - There's a hole in North Dakota State's vaunted defense, right smack in the middle.
Standout middle linebacker Nick DeLuca is scheduled to have season-ending shoulder surgery on a torn labrum this week, Bison coach Chris Klieman said Monday.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound DeLuca, a senior nominated for STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year, will apply for a medical hardship with the hope of returning next season, Klieman said. DeLuca played as a true freshman in 2013.
DeLuca was injured in the top-ranked Bison's season opener against Charleston Southern. After missing over a week of practice, he has played in the last two games against Eastern Washington and Iowa. He earned Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive player of the week honors following the Eastern Washington game.
He led the team in tackles last season and was doing so again with 26 through three games.
"He's an unbelievably tough physical kid that wanted to give it a shot," Klieman said. "You work so hard for it every year, but you work so hard for your senior year and to have it taken away like that is a tough pill to swallow."
Redshirt junior Matt Plank will take over the starter's role.
NDSU (3-0) is on a bye this week and will next host Illinois State on Oct. 1.