NDSU's DeLuca returns to practices

Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins (7) fumbles as he is hit by linebacker Nick DeLuca (49) in the second half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Frisco, Texas. North Dakota State beat Jacksonville State 37-10 to win their fifth consecutive championship. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)
MIKE STONE/AP

(STATS) – North Dakota State All-America linebacker Nick DeLuca is practicing this week with the expectation that he will return from a shoulder separation to play in Saturday's showdown against Eastern Washington.

DeLuca injured his left shoulder in the top-ranked Bison's season-opening win over Charleston Southern on Aug. 27. He did not practice last week as the five-time reigning FCS champions were on a bye.

“The fact that he's practicing leads me to believe he'll have an opportunity to play,” coach Chris Klieman said.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound DeLuca, a senior nominated for STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year, led North Dakota State with 135 tackles last season.

The Bison, who also have won five consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles, are hosting an eighth-ranked Eastern Washington squad that just beat Washington State from the Pac-12. The Big Sky squad won the most recent FCS national title (2010) prior to NDSU's five in a row.