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FOOTBALL: Lots of questions for Bemidji State at spring game

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BEMIDJI – Often, spring football games are all about seeing what holes a team needs to fill and which players can be serviceable options in said positions.

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The Bemidji State football team certainly has some holes to fill and some questions to answer in advance of this year’s annual Green and White Spring Game – finding a suitable replacement for dual-threat quarterback Lance Rongstad arguably most important.

The Beavers also have another very important objective for today’s spring game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium: Playing football at full speed outside.

“In a normal spring we’ve had ample time to watch people make plays, we’ve had time to watch them run, get off blocks, tackle, make interceptions,” said BSU defensive coordinator Rich Jahner. “This spring, we’ve been indoors and haven’t had the chance to do that. We’ve been working more on assignments.

“But when it comes to moment of truth, you have to be able to make a tackle, make an interception, break up a pass. We haven’t seen any of that. (Today) is the first opportunity to see guys make those plays.”

Wintery weather that has extended well into spring has disrupted the spring schedules of most sports teams in northern Minnesota.

The Beaver football team has been forced to spend most of its allotted spring practice time indoors at the Gillett Fitness and Recreation Center.

The team was finally able to get on the field at Chet Anderson Stadium this week thanks to the efforts of the BSU grounds crew, who had to continually clear snow from the field after every accumulation.

The result is something that resembles a mud-wrestling pit rather than a football field, but the Beavers are glad to be outside going at full speed – especially since the other option is no game at all.

“The grounds crew has done an unbelievable job for us. Most teams haven’t even been able to go outside,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “Usually we have two scrimmages in by now, but this year we haven’t had one yet.”

That, Tesch said, is the main reason why the quarterback position will likely be up in the air until well into the fall.

The Beavers have six quarterbacks listed on the roster for 2013 – senior Alex Hass and junior Sam King return from last season, and the Beavers also added junior college transfer Adam Ragsdale and freshmen Ryan Shields, Matt Knapp and Nathan Koziol.

“We have a lot of QBs, and I think we’ll be rotating them all in (today),” Tesch said. “But we’re still in the analysis process. I don’t think we’ll have a solidified guy at the end of spring practice. Unfortunately the way the spring went that didn’t help. We haven’t had a scrimmage yet, so we haven’t been able to see the guys under fire or duress.”

The Beavers will also be looking at new options at center after losing Brett Delange and trying to figure out who will step up to replace a depleted receiving corps that include All-American tight end Brian Leonhardt and wideouts Justin Lee, Jody Henningson, Christian Metz and Beau Wakefield.

Defensively, Jahner said the Beavers have a lot of question marks – mostly because coaches have only had limited chances to evaluate players outdoors – but mentioned the cornerback position as a big competition for 2013.

Charlie Hrdlicka is graduating this year, and his potential replacement (transfer Ralph Biah) came down with an ankle injury in the third practice of the season.

Cory Crosby and Dan Christensen will also graduate this spring so the Beavers will be looking for some suitable linebackers.

“We just have a lot of question marks,” Jahner said. “We didn’t get to see much this spring.”

The spring game will be a little different than most spring games in that it won’t be a straight-up scrimmage. Because of the limited time outside Tesch said the team would be working on some situational drills – goal line plays, PATs, special teams, etc. – before starting the conventional 30-play scrimmage. They’ll close out the evening with a two-minute drive and an overtime game.

A modified scoring system will be used for the scrimmage, with teams earning one point for first down, two points for a defensive stop, six points for an offensive touchdown and six for a defensive turnover of any kind.

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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.
(218) 333-9772
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