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Football: As Bemidji State reports back to camp, team has holes to fill on offense

Bemidji State football player Brent Kondziolka gets fitted for equipment Wednesday afternoon at the Gillett Fitness and Recreation Center. Kondziolka, a senior fullback, is one of just fourstarters returning on offense for a Beavers squad that lost its quarterback, tight end and entire receiving corps to graduation. BSU coaches will have to find out which players fit into starting roles before the season kicks off Sept. 5 at Winona State. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Jeff Tesch is ready to have some fun.

One wouldn't think "fun" would be the operative term for Bemidji State's head coach entering the 2013 season. After all, the Beavers lost 3/4ths of their offense, including a record-setting dual threat quarterback, an All-American tight end, three linemen and an entire receiving corps. The Beavers finished 7-4 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference last year and won a Northern Division title with that group.

Thinking about replacing those players might give most coaches a massive summer-long headache.

But Tesch is approaching it differently.

"We have some things to figure out," Tesch said. "But that's why you coach. We have a young group of guys who've been waiting their turn. ... I think we have some talented guys.

"We're going to be coming to work every day, players and coaches, have some fun, working hard and seeing where we are. We have some things to figure out. It will be a fun camp."

Tesch and the rest of the BSU coaching staff finally gets a chance to start having some fun evaluating the talent on the Beaver football team this week. The Beavers reported back to campus Wednesday and hit the field for the first time today.

Not surprisingly, Tesch's optimism spread throughout the team.

"Yeah, we have some question marks, but the the good thing is that it's good question marks," said senior fullback Brent Kondziolka. "It's not really a drop in talent or anything. It's just guys who need to learn the plays. I think we have the skill and have the talent level to be very good this year."

Kondziolka is one of just four starters returning on the offensive side of the ball; also back this year are running back Avery Walker and offensive linemen Jordan Oien and Tyler Abrahamson.

Those four seniors will have to lead an offensive group of mostly underclassmen early in the year -- they just need to figure out who will be playing.

With the departure of two-year starting quarterback Lance Rongstad to graduation, the position is anyone's to take.

Senior Alex Hass has the most collegiate experience under center -- he's had a few snaps here and there and started a game against Sioux Falls last season when Rongstad was injured. Adam Ragsdale, a transfer from College of Sequoias in California, played five games for the junior college last year. And a few freshmen -- including Ryan Shields and Matt Knapp among them -- could also be in the mix.

Tesch isn't ruling anyone out just yet, especially since the poor weather this spring made it hard to really evaluate the quarterback position.

"We didn't get a good look at any of them this spring with the weather, since we were inside," Tesch said. "So we have to get a look at those guys quick and pick a couple guys who get the majority of the reps before we play Winona."

That's just one of many battles on the offensive side of the ball -- the Beavers will be using a fresh group of wideouts that have a combined one reception in their collegiate careers.

The offensive line returns both guards in Oien and Abrahamson but tackle and center are still undecided.

"I think the only issue we have is depth," Oien said. "If we can get a good starting group together we'll be fine. We should have a battle at center and i think our tackles are situated right now. But if we don't have depth we might have to switch some things around."

Defense will be key

The offense might need some work but defensively there are no real question marks -- the Beavers return eight defensive starters.

"This team is going to be built with a solid defense," Tesch said. "We're going to have to have those guys play well early. They'll need to force a lot of three and outs and get some turnovers, as our young guys on offense is developing, growing and getting experience."

Senior cornerback Larry Miller knows the defense will be there to help.

"I think we're looking pretty good," Miller said. "Right now we're really just worried about our schemes and patterns. We have a lot of guys coming back. We know our main role as a defense is not to allow touchdowns to help the offense out. We're trying to keep them on the field."

But can that offense do its job when it stays on the field this season? The Beavers think so. It will just take some work.

"The good thing is that everybody's competing," Kondziolka said. "It makes everybody better. This spring there were a lot of guys rotating in at a lot of positions, there wasn't one clear guy at one position.

The team got used to getting reps, got used to playing. That's beneficial to the team. It should be fun to have guys compete again this fall."

The fun begins today.

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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