Cobbers fullback Ringquist decides to return for another football season, bolsters backfield

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Concordia head football coach Terry Horan repeatedly asked fullback Dane Ringquist a rhetorical question last season.

"Every time I walked by him I said, 'Why wouldn't you?' and he knew exactly what I was talking about," Horan said Thursday during the team's annual media day at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

Ringquist was listed as a senior on last season's roster, but had the option to play football again this fall after sitting out during his second year at Concordia.

That's why Horan was hopeful to get one more season from Ringquist, who made his decision last December.

"I wanted to play another year of football," said Ringquist, who is from Fergus Falls, Minn., and in his fifth year at Concordia.

Ringquist is a welcomed holdover in the Concordia backfield, especially since fullback Chad Johnson completed his record-setting career with the Cobbers last season.

Johnson was a dynamic runner and the most valuable player in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last fall, rushing for more than 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns. He finished his career with a school-record 42 touchdowns, including 40 rushing.

"When you lose a guy like Chad, it's nice to have somebody who's been his understudy," Horan said. "Dane's been that guy."

Ringquist rushed for 254 yards and four touchdowns on 65 attempts last season and has played in 19 games over the two previous seasons. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ringquist is ready to take on a more primary role in the backfield.

"I've been rotating with Chad for the last two years now," Ringquist said. "I'm ready to embrace that role of being the guy back there. My approach to it is not going to be any different than it has been in the past. It's time for me to shoulder more of the load than it was in the past."

Ringquist played football and wrestled during his freshman year at Concordia. He decided to focus on wrestling during his sophomore season.

"I had a pretty decent freshman year of wrestling and I thought that would be my direction," Ringquist said.

Instead, the year away from football made him realize how much he loved the game. He returned to football the next season (his third year at Concordia) and has been a key contributor since.

"I knew that I needed to be playing football," Ringquist said.

Ringquist said he shed 10 pounds from last season to improve his speed and explosiveness, since the fullback is a primary ball carrier in Concordia's triple-option offense. While the Cobbers lost a big chunk of their team yardage from a year ago in Johnson, Ringquist said the offense can be equally productive this season.

Concordia averaged 29.6 points per game last fall, posting an 8-2 record. Johnson averaged 126.2 rushing yards per game.

"We have more of a balance," Ringquist said. "You can't really say you're going to replace a guy like Chad Johnson because you're not, but we're really excited about the guys we have."

That includes junior quarterback Blake Kragnes, who took over the starting job in Game 5 last season. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kragnes, from Dilworth, Minn., is set to begin his first season as the starter. The Cobbers open their season Sept. 1 against Nebraska Wesleyan at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

"He's ready to roll," Ringquist said of Kragnes. "He's got a really good grip on things and he's a good leader."

Kragnes completed 44 of 77 passes for 434 yards and one touchdown last season, throwing three interceptions. He also rushed for 349 yards and five touchdowns on 73 attempts.

"He is a two-dimensional QB and we have to allow our offense to do that," Horan said. "We're a run-first (offense) and we were really heavy run-first last year, especially with Chad. ... We do have to get to the point where we trust and use (Kragnes') sling a little bit more to make sure that we can get that passing game going, too. You've got to be able to do both well."