Bemidji State football tabbed sixth in NSIC Coaches' Poll
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Bemidji State football tabbed sixth in NSIC Coaches' Poll

BURNSVILLE, Minn. – The Bemidji State University football team closed the 2011 season with an 8-3 overall and 7-3 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference record to finish tied for fourth in the league standings. Tuesday, the coaches of the NSIC pegged the Beavers sixth in the 2012 NSIC Coaches’ Poll. BSU was slotted third in the NSIC North. Senior tight end Brian Leonhardt (Blaine, Minn.) and junior nose guard Matthew Shaver (St. Cloud, Minn.) were named BSU’s Players to Watch.

Three teams finished 2011 with a share of the NSIC regular season title and were the top three teams in the poll. University of Minnesota Duluth was first with nine first place votes and 217 points, followed closely by St. Cloud State University’s six first place votes and 211 points and Minnesota State University, Mankato (one first place vote, 197 points). Fourth went to Winona State University (175 points), while fifth went to Augustana College (169 points) - 24 points ahead of Bemidji State’s 145 points.

The NSIC North stacked up with Minnesota Duluth leading St. Cloud State by two first place votes and just a two point discrepancy at 47 and 45, respectfully. With 34 points, BSU edged University of Mary’s 31 points. Northern State University finished with 28 points, Minot State University closed with 16 points, Minnesota State University Moorhead had 15 points and University of Minnesota, Crookston rounded out the North with eight points.

St. Cloud State boasts the NSIC North Division Offensive Preseason Player of the Year in quarterback Phillip Klaphake and North Division Defensive Preseason Player of the Year in defensive back Marvin Matthews. Winona State running back Rayon Simmons was chosen as the NSIC South Division Offensive Preseason Player of the Year for the second consecutive season while Augustana’s linebacker Austin Luecke was picked as the South Division Defensive Preseason Player of the Year.

As in the past four seasons, the NSIC football schedule will be broken into two divisions (North/South). Each team will play 11 conference games in the race for the NSIC Overall Champion as well as seven divisional games that will count towards the NSIC North/South Championships. In all, three league championships will be awarded (Overall Champion, North Division Champion, South Division Champion). Ties will not be broken for overall or division champions.  

Nearly 110 student-athletes are scheduled to report to BSU for fall camp Aug. 10 and will begin practice  Aug. 11. Three weeks of practice culminate into the season opener at Chet Anderson Stadium Aug. 31 when Upper Iowa University visits Bemidji for a 6 p.m. tilt.

The Beavers return 16 starters from a 2011 team that ranked in the national poll on three different occasions. BSU will look to build on its sixth eight-win season under head coach Jeff Tesch - who enters his 17th season at Bemidji State on a new six-year contract extension - with seven 2011 All-NSIC performers back in the line-up.

The Beaver offense finished the 2011 season averaging 26.8 points per game and welcomes eight starters, including 2011 All-American and 2012 preseason All-American tight end Leonhardt. The ‘Gang Green’ defense returns seven starters from a year ago. Anchored by preseason All-American nose guard Shaver, the BSU defense was one of the best in the conference in 2011 allowing just 16.0 points per contest to rank No. 3 in the nation.

The 2012 captains are senior quarterback Lance Rongstad (Eleva, Wis.) and Leonhardt on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive captains are senior linebacker Cory Crosby (Cold Spring, Minn.) and junior linebacker Buckley Wright (Sioux City, Iowa).

2012 Bemidji State Players to Watch

#88 Brian Leonhardt (TE, 6-5, 253, Sr., Blaine, Minn. / Spring Lake Park HS)
A 2012 Beyond Sports Network Division II Preseason All-America Honorable Mention, in 2011, Leonhardt earned Daktronics All-America Second Team Offense, All-America Honorable Mention, Daktronics, Inc. Super Region #3 First Team, All-NSIC First Team and Consensus Draft Services 2011 Preseason All-America Honorable Mention Football Team honors... Started all 11 games and led the team in receptions (35) and reception yards (483), to surpass his totals from 2010 and established career-highs in both categories... Averaged 43.9 yards per game and 13.8 yards per reception with two touchdowns... An extension of the offensive line that guided the second best rushing attack (No. 10 nationally) in the league for 241.5 yards per game... Helped protect quarterback Lance Rongstad as the Beavers ranked first in the NSIC and No. 6 in the nation in sacks allowed (.91 sacks allowed per game)... Blocked two field goal attempts… Totaled a career-high 129 yards, a touchdown and his season-long reception of 34 yards in the 30-27 overtime upset of No. 16 Augustana College Sept. 10 in Sioux Falls, S.D... Surpassed the 1,000 career receiving yards plateau in 2011 to become just the second BSU tight end since 1971 to surpass 1,000 carer reception yards as he follows Bruce Ecklund (1,542 yards, 1980-83)... With a 3.68 GPA in business administration, Leonhardt was named Capital One Academic All-America Division II Second Team and Capital One All-Academic All-District VII College Division First Team for his efforts in the classroom... 2011 Fall Academic All-NSIC.

#95 Matthew Shaver (DL, 6-0, 300, Jr., St. Cloud, Minn. / Apollo HS)
A 2012 Beyond Sports Network Division II Preseason All-America Honorable Mention, in 2011, Shaver stepped into the starting nose tackle position and earned Don Hansen All-Super Region Three Third Team and All-NSIC First Team honors... Played in 10 games, started eight, and totaled 24 tackles (four solo), including a tackle for loss (-1 yard)... A contributor to the No. 3 scoring defense in the nation (16.0 points allowed per game) and No. 18 rushing defense nationally (110.6 rushing yards allowed per game)… Posted a career-high seven tackles at University of Mary Oct. 22... Recorded three tackles including a tackle for loss at No. 16 Augustana College Sept. 10.

Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).