BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The path to another Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division title begins March 28 as the Bemidji State University football team begins its spring practices at Chet Anderson Stadium. Fifteen days of practices will culminate with the annual Green and White spring game at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, April 21.
Head Coach Jeff Tesch and the coaching staff molded another championship “Gang Green” defense that will see just four seniors, three starters, leave the unit. Reps at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive line will be open for competition during spring practices.
The Beavers will return plenty of experience on offense as well, Just two seniors will leave the offensive squad and all 11 starters will return. BSU will return quarterback Ryan Shields from injury to compete with and compliment quarterback Jordan Hein. The offensive strategy in 2015 was forced to make an audible after Ryan Shields went down with a shoulder injury during the first offensive drive of the season. Hein made a historic impact in his first season as the full-time starter for BSU, being named to the All-NSIC First Team and the team’s Offensive MVP. He set the school single-season record for attempted (356) and completed passes (202), while finishing in the top 10 in total touchdowns (30; second), 300-total-yard games (four; t-second), passing yardage (2,407; third), touchdown passes (22; seventh) and completion percentage (.567; seventh).
Bemidji State will return nine All-NSIC players, six on offense and three on defense. Defensive back Gunner Olszewski enters his sophomore season after earning the NSIC Defensive Newcomer of the Year and leading the “Gang Green” defense with 85 tackles, 12 pass defenses and seven interceptions.
The spring schedule includes four practices a week for four weeks. The Beavers practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday the first three weeks and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday the final week, including the spring game April 21 at Chet Anderson Stadium to wrap up the spring schedule.
Below is a review of each position group entering the spring, with players listed alphabetically.
On the roster: Jordan Hein, Jr.; Jared Henning, Fr.; Nick Mehlum, So.; Ryan Shields, Jr.
Summary: The game plan for the 2015 season changed quickly after Shields, who started the season opener against Augustana, went down with a season-ending injury after the first offensive drive. Hein stepped in to lead the Beavers to their second NSIC North Division title in four seasons. Hein and Shields enter 2016 with plenty of experience and an opportunity to compliment each other as both receive playing time.
On the roster: Gena Adams, Sr.; Jakob Ettestad, So.; Lowell Laudert, RFr.; Charlie Nihart, RFr.; Tahi Nomane, Jr.; Blake Petrich, Sr.; Trevor Wettlaufer, Jr.;
Summary: Adams and Nomane enter the spring with the bulk of the experience toting the rock. Nomane earned a spot on the All-NSIC Second Team and will return to run behind the same starters from 2015. Five underclassmen will push the upperclassmen for playing time as they aim for a chance to prove themselves in a bigger role.
On the roster: Jacob Anderson, RFr.; Brad Birchfield, So.; Brooks Carroll, RFr.; Vince Dinkel, Sr.; Tucker Forsgren, Jr.; Chris Harris, RFr.; Blake Holder, Jr.; Jake Libal, RFr.; Christian Lunde, Jr.; Juwaan Richard, Sr.; Brady Schmidt, Sr.; Dexter Taylor Jr., Jr.; Brady Tesdahl, RFr.; Derrick Thingvold, Jr.; Ryan Toeller, So.; Blair Van Ess, RFr.; Eric Wunrow, Jr.
Summary: The receiving corps is an area of depth for the Beavers, as eight returning players caught a touchdown pass in 2015. Holder and Richard each have an All-NSIC First Team under their belts (Holder in 2014 and Richard in 2015). Thingvold, a transfer from Winona State who joined the program over the winter break, adds another big threat with his 6’7” frame at tight end.
On the roster: Brady Beier, RFr.; Nick Christopherson, RFr.; Charlie Duckstad, So.; Jesse Hein, Sr.; Benjamin Johnson, Sr.; Jake Krause, Jr.; Nick Moore, Sr.; Joshua Nelson, RFr.; Wyatt Russek, So.; Brandon Schindler, Jr.; Zach Sinnen, So.; Colton Tretsven, Jr.; Matthew Valentine, Sr.; Joseph Woods, RFr.; Brady Youngberg, So.
Summary: The Beavers add depth to the experienced offensive line while returning all five starters. The returning line drove the most productive offensive unit for Bemidji State since 2006, totaling 4,523 yards.
On the roster: Alex Burgess, Jr.; Mitchell Elbe, Sr.; Dylan Ellingsen, So.; Lukas Engel, RFr.; Jeff Harris, So.; Zach Herbst, RFr.; Alex Hoffman, So.; Brad Kusper, Jr.; Nicholas Niemi, RFr.; Justin Van Houtan, Jr.; Mark Webster, Jr.; Jake Wirsching, Jr.
Summary: Eight-two percent of this unit’s sack production is back after finishing the season ranked fourth in the NSIC in the category. The front line loses just two seniors while bringing on two transfers who will join the team for spring practice. Van Houtan brings speed and athleticism to the end position while Webster adds strength from the edge or inside.
On the roster: Grant Bushinski, RFr.; Niko Daniello, Jr.; Jamison Evans, Jr.; Matt Gross, RFr.; Jordan Johnson, Jr.; Devell Miller, RFr.; Trysten Ross, Jr.; Cole Schmitz, RFr.; Andrew Schuler-Jones, RFr.; James Shadiow, Jr.; Josh Tismer, Sr.; Anthony Valentine, Jr.; Alex Yanosko, Fr.
Summary: Two spots are vacant on the inside and outside positions after two of the team’s top six tacklers from 2015 graduated. Daniello is a player to keep an eye on for replacing the All-NSIC student-athletes as he ranked second among BSU’s linebackers in sacks.
On the roster: Kameel Al-Khouri, Sr.; Damon Benham, Sr.; Austin Contreras, So.; Michael Junker, RFr.; Andrew Kimball, RFr.; Jake Libal, RFr.; EJ Olszewski, Jr.; Gunner Olszewski, So.; Ter’ra Potter, Sr.; Hunter Pritzl, Fr.; Rufus Saylee, Jr.; Evan Tompkins, Jr.; John Vogeler, So.; Shane Wakefield, RFr.
Summary: Three of BSU’s top four tacklers return as part of the defensive backfield. Six Beavers started at least four games last season, including the NSIC Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Gunner Olszewski. His brother, EJ, will join the program for spring practices.
On the roster: Isaac Aanerud, So.; Niko Daniello, Jr.; Adrian Pink, RFr.; Jake Wirsching, Jr.
Summary: Aanerud served as the kicking specialist, taking responsibilities for all field goal, kickoff and punting plays. He showed off a big leg on field goals while Daniello earned the team’s Special Teams MVP award as the long snapper. The unit should improve heading into the 2016 season with Aanerud qualifying as a sophomore.
2015 Spring Practice Schedule
March 28 – 4-6 p.m.
March 30 – 4-6 p.m.
April 1 – 4-6 p.m.
April 2 – 4-6 p.m.
April 4 – 4-6 p.m.
April 6 – 4-6 p.m.
April 8 – 4-6 p.m.
April 9 – 3-5 p.m.
April 11 – 4-6 p.m.
April 13 – 4-6 p.m.
April 15 – 4-6 p.m.
April 16 – 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
April 18 – 4-6 p.m.
April 20 – 4-6 p.m.
April 21 – Spring Game 7:15 p.m.
Bemidji State will open its 2016 campaign at home Thursday, Sept. 1 against Upper Iowa University. The Beavers and Peacocks kickoff at 6 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium. The contest will be BSU’s first on a Thursday since taking down Winona State University in overtime, 34-27, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. Bemidji State will play six home games against Wayne State College, Northern State University, Minot State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead and University of Minnesota Crookston.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).