FOOTBALL: Beavers enjoying first week of spring practice outdoors
BEMIDJI — This week the Bemidji State football team got a breath of something it didn’t see much of last spring — fresh air.
After spending all but one practice of the 2013 spring football season inside the cramped confines of Gillett Fitness and Recreation Center, the Beavers are finally getting a chance to run real, full-speed practices this season thanks in part to the new FieldTurf installed at Chet Anderson Stadium this past fall.
And for head coach Jeff Tesch, seeing the (albeit fake) green grass and blue skies is making a difference this time around.
“It’s fun to be out,” he said following Saturday’s practice, which was helmets-only but still featured plenty of intensity.
“Last year at this time we were still inside. There’s a lot of enthusiasm. The guys are flying around and having fun.”
Tesch said the BSU grounds crew did a good job removing all the snow from the Chet Anderson Stadium turf, especially after Monday’s April Fool’s Day snowstorm.
“They had snowblowers and they were blowing it up into the stands,” he said. “They worked hard to clear the field for us here.”
A season ago, even if the grounds crew had been able to clear the field the muddy conditions would have made playing nearly impossible.
This year, however, the Beavers are already getting a jump on fixing a few of the problem areas from last season — namely, a lackluster offense that finished near the bottom of the NSIC in total yardage and scoring.
BSU finished 3-8 — its worst season since going 2-7 in 1997, Tesch’s second year as Beavers’ head coach.
“We’re just trying to get everything in from snap count to lining up right,” Tesch said of the goal for the early spring practices. “We’re trying to get tons of plays in so we can get a lot of film work.”
The Beavers will be working with plenty of newcomers at key positions.
They’ll have to replace first-team All-NSIC running back Avery Walker and kicker Zach Pulkinen on offense as well as All-NSIC linebacker Buckley Wright and defensive lineman Matt Shaver.
They also lost All-NSIC offensive linemen Jordan Oein and Tyler Abrahamson.
The Beavers will be taking the redshirts off more than 25 freshmen from last season, and Tesch said he was excited to see how they can contribute this year.
In addition, a couple of enticing transfers could compete for playing time right away.
Left tackle Matt Sloan, from Mesa Community College in Arizona, should help the offensive line, while quarterback Jordan Hein — a former star at Perham High School who was at Division I Northern Iowa last season — could compete with sophomore Ryan Shields for the starting role.
The Beavers are scheduled to conduct their first practice with full pads today; the Green and White spring game is scheduled for April 24.
“We should know a lot more once we get the pads on,” Tesch said. “Right now, we’re just glad to be outside.”