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Eric Peterson, Published October 19 2012

Trio of Cobbers complete the 'D' shift

Moorhead - A glance back at the 2009 Concordia football roster shows the team had seven freshmen listed as running backs.

Only three of them are still in the program.

While all three have turned into contributing players, none of them are still on offense, switching to a different backfield.

Seth Lage and Kenyon O’Brien are set to start at cornerback at 1 p.m. today when the Cobbers play at Augsburg. Brent Rysdahl, who has started, is a key part of the team’s rotation at safety.

“The bottom line is they are athletes,” Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said. “You have to get them on the field some place.”

While all were running backs for one season with the Cobbers, they took different paths to their current positions.

Lage made the move to cornerback right before the start of the 2010 season. Rysdahl and O’Brien both transferred to other schools before coming back to Concordia.

Rysdahl transferred to Minnesota State-Mankato for the second semester of his freshman year. He returned to Concordia the following fall. O’Brien attended North Dakota State for a year and a half, missing one season of football. He returned to Concordia last fall.

“I thought I was going to be done with football,” said O’Brien, who is from Lake Park, Minn. “When I came back, they were pretty set at running back. I just moved to defense because we needed help there.”

Rysdahl, O’Brien and Lage are all seniors, but O’Brien has the option to play again next fall since he sat out one season.

Lage wasn’t initially thrilled to make the move to defense. He wanted to stay at running back, but also recognized he was down on the backfield depth chart.

“It was a little disappointing,” said Lage, who is from Pelican Rapids, Minn. “But I was glad because they noticed me, and I probably was going to get some playing time.”

When Rysdahl opened his freshman fall camp with the Cobbers, he was a wide receiver. Then he shifted to running back prior to the start of the regular season.

Rysdahl even got the chance to play as a “Wildcat” quarterback in a junior varsity game due to an injury to the starter. Since Rysdahl didn’t know the playbook that well, he improvised.

“He didn’t know any plays so he just said, ‘I’m going to run to the right or the left,’ ” Lage said with a smile. “Or he just asked, ‘Who wants the ball?’ ”

When Rysdahl rejoined the Cobbers after his short time at MSU-Mankato, he wanted to move to the defensive side.

“I said I wanted to play defense. I just like hitting too much,” said Rysdahl, who is from Marshall, Minn. “I love defense. I love what we got going on. I don’t regret switching.”

Rysdahl, Lage and O’Brien were all defensive backs in high school in some capacity.

Lage and O’Brien are both returning punts this fall, so that gives each some running back-type action. Lage had an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown last Saturday in a 63-14 victory against Hamline.

“I was glad that they put me back there,” Lage said. “That way I feel like a running back sort of.”

Coincidentally, another player who was part of that 2009 freshman class is the team’s rushing leader this fall. Senior fullback Brett Baune (who has 29 career touchdowns) has rushed for 714 yards and eight touchdowns on 125 attempts. Baune was an offensive lineman when he entered the program.

“We get position specific with a lot of guys, but bottom line is at the Division III level, we want to get as many great athletes as we can,” Horan said. “And then we find the spot that we think they can fit in.”

Horan said most players are receptive to changing positions because that usually gets them on the playing field sooner.

“It’s a lot better on the field than it is standing on the sideline, so I think most all of them are pretty open-minded about that,” Horan said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com