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Bemidji State offensive coordinator Eric Medberry talks with the Beaver quarterbacks during a recent practice. BSU's quarterback competition is far from decided but Thursday's scrimmage went a long way to figuring out who will be taking the snaps come Sept. 5 against Winona State. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

Narrowing the field: More clarity in Bemidji State quarterback race, but competition is far from over

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BEMIDJI -- With one full week of practice complete and a full-pads, full-contact scrimmage under their belts, the Bemidji State football team has a slightly better picture of who will be replacing quarterback Lance Rongstad when the season starts Sept. 5 at Winona State.

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Emphasize on the word "slightly."

"Things are starting to sort themselves out," BSU offensive coordinator Eric Medberry said Thursday. "I told the boys, today was separation day. We hope going into the weekend we can get the two-deep formulated and go from there."

And after Thursday's scrimmage -- the first the Beavers have gone full-speed in practice this season with full gear -- it appeared three quarterbacks had pulled away from the pack of six on the BSU roster.

Senior Alex Hass, redshirt freshman Ryan Shields and transfer junior Adam Ragsdale all took snaps with the first team offense Thursday. Hass and Shields had the most chances with the No. 1 group and Medberry said he thinks all three took strides.

"We had some struggles, but we also saw some good things today," Medberry said. "I think Alex and Ryan did a nice job today and maybe sort of separated themselves from the pack. I don't think we're ready to name a starter yet, but those guys did a really good job of competing and handling whichever group it is."

Hass, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior from Milaca, has the most collegiate experience of the three. He started one game last year, taking over for an injured Rongstad at Sioux Falls. In all, he's played in 11 games as a Beaver.

That's not a ton of playing time but it's enough to give him more familiarity with the offense than the others.

"It helps," Hass said. "I've had more time with the offense, had more reps over the years. It's definitely to my advantage. But these other guys are learning fast and keeping me on my toes."

Shields sat out all of last year as a redshirt. The 6-1, 175-pound Roseville, Calif., native, is a little more green, having never taken a college snap.

"Ryan is a guy who can make some fun plays," Medberry said. "His highs are high and his lows are low. He brings a little different element than what we've had before."

Ragsdale transferred from College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., where he saw action in five games for the junior college. The 6-1 junior had 68 yards and a touchdown on 13-for-25 passing and rushed for 62 yards on 16 attempts.

"Rags is a wildcard," Medberry said. "Physically, he has the tools. When given the opportunity, he can make some big plays."

Shields said all three quarterbacks have unique skill sets and when it comes down to it, it's fun -- if not a little strange -- to be competing against each other.

"We're all pretty good buddies," Shields said. "It's nice to have good friends that you're competing with them. It's hard being compared with good friends but ultimately we have a lot of fun out here with each other."

Hass agreed.

"We all have our strong points," he said. "Really, with our offense, we're trying to see what works the best and we should put the best guy out there."

In general, all three quarterbacks looked comfortable running and calling plays during the scrimmage, although the BSU defense made life very difficult for the offense after the ball was snapped.

That may have had more to do with the experienced Beaver defense than anything -- almost everyone is back from the defensive side of the ball.

"We didn't give up many big plays, that's the big thing," BSU defensive coordinator said about the defense's performance during the scrimmage. "We had maybe one but we made a nice tackle to stop it.

"We were also able to force some turnovers. We forced a lot of fumbles and got some sacks."

The only major hole to fill on defense is the cornerback slot and Jahner said there are three players up for the job -- redshirt freshman Tanner Dufault, sophomore transfer Ralph Biah and junior transfer Troy Beckett. They'd also like to find more backup depth at linebacker and safety.

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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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