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FOOTBALL: Bemidji State coaching staff still trying to evaluate starters before season opener at Winona

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BEMIDJI — With less than a week to go until its Sept. 5 season opener at Winona State, the Bemidji State football team is still trying to get its depth chart sorted out.

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The Beavers, who lost quarterback Lance Rongstad to graduation, are still trying to sort out who will be taking snaps when they travel to Winona next Thursday. Last week, senior Alex Hass, redshirt freshman Ryan Shields and transfer junior Adam Ragsdale were the three competing for the starting slot but BSU offensive coordinator Eric Medberry said they had whittled it down to two.

“I think it’s fair to say Alex and Ryan are our top two guys,” he said. “I think there will be a place for Ragsdale to help us win games but at the moment it’s really down to those other two to lead the ship.”

Despite that, Medberry and head coach Jeff Tesch said they still weren’t ready to make any announcements on starters quite yet but hope they can do it this weekend.

“We’re not ready to make any announcements on starters just yet,” Tesch said. “We’re still evaluating film. We’ve got a couple injuries too. But we’re closer to getting our starting group ready and announced.”

Tesch said he expected to have a complete two-deep depth chart ready by today, when the Beavers will officially transition from preseason practices to Week 1 preparation work.

The Beavers had a final scrimmage Wednesday and did some walkthroughs in helmets Thursday and Friday.

Tesch and Medberry said they will have their basic gameplan for Winona State ready today — and they should know who exactly will be playing where.

Medberry said Wednesday’s scrimmage wasn’t their best but that has to do with the fact that the lineups have shuffled around so much trying to find the right combinations of players.

“And that’s not just at quarterback but across the board. We really need to get our best 11 guys on the field and let them play together for a week,” he said.

“That’s something we’re working through (Thursday and Friday), trying to figure who that group is.

“We’re really trying to get that finalized here in the next couple days so when we start game-week practice (today) hopefully we can practice and play together for a week. We really haven’t had that yet.”

In addition to quarterback, the Beavers also have holes to fill at wide receiver, tight end and a two of the five line positions.

DEFENSE SHORED UP: The other side of the ball, at least, is still stable for the Beavers.

BSU defensive coordinator Rich Jahner said Thursday that the Beavers’ only huge concern is developing depth at linebacker.

On the outside, senior Buckley Wright and sophomore Connor Quinn return but the inside position won’t have nearly as much experience.

Among those fighting for time in the rotation are safety-turned-linebacker Colton Blascyk and Bemidji High School graduate Evan Olson, as well as Greg Button and Ross Ross Pflum.

Conversely, BSU’s secondary and d-line positions are rich with depth.

“We feel very good about the D-line,” Jahner said. “We’ve got talent two deep at pretty much every position down the line.”

Dan Kiebler, Matt Shaver and J.J. Reinke all return from last season’s line to starting roles.

In the secondary, Jahner said the only real spot up for grabs is the one left by Charlie Hrdlicka’s graduation. Right now a pair of transfers — Ralph Biah and Troy Beckett — will see the majority of playing time back there.

“Right now it’s 50/50 between Beckett and Biah.” Jahner said. “But we feel comfortable with both of them out there. That’s a nice luxury to have.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
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