#42 South Dakota State FCS Football Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Overall Rank: #42
#5 Missouri Valley

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2010 Record: (5-6, 4-4)
2010 Postseason: none
Coach: John Stiegelmeier (86-66 at South Dakota State, 86-66 overall)

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tyrel Kool, RB, -6 yards
Passing: Thomas O’Brien, QB, 2,236
Receiving: Tyrel Kool, RB, 808 yards
Tackles: Michael Lien, LB, 98
Sacks: Dirk Kool, LB, 3.0, Andy Mink, DT, 3.0
Interceptions: Dirk Kool, LB, 2

South Dakota State does not have many losing seasons and they should get back on track in 2011. That may not be enough to earn a trip to the playoffs, but there is enough talent returning to get back in the green. Junior quarterback Thomas O’Brien has taken a lot of the blame for the Jackrabbits disappointing 2010 and with his ten touchdowns and 15 interceptions, it is understandable. O’Brien completed just 53.6 percent of his passes (not counting all of those that were caught by the opposition) and that number has to improve.

The good news for the offense is that the offensive line that gave up a mere six sacks last season returns four starters. They should again keep O’Brien on his feet. Now O’Brien just needs to turn into a leader on the field and make the smart passes. The offense may not be as dynamic without running back Kyle Minett. Their leading returning rusher had negative six yards on nine carries last year. That is not a good sign for the ground game. However, that player was Tyrel Kool, who was the team’s leading receiver. This year Kool is being moved to the running back spot and he should be able to find the holes created by the line and has the explosiveness necessary to make some big plays on the ground. The Jackrabbits have plenty of depth at wide receiver with the return of Brandon Hubert and Aaron Rollin, so moving Kool to running back should not have a major impact on the passing game. Coach John Stiegelmeier needed to find a running back in case O’Brien’s inconsistencies continue and he grabbed the best playmaker on his team to take over those duties.

While the secondary returns a couple starters in Darryl Jackson and the big hitter Anthony Wise, the unit will really miss safety Corey Jeske and cornerback Cole Brodie. Brodie picked off five passes last season and was pretty much the only reason the SDSU turnover margin was not much closer to the bottom of the entire FCS. Finding replacements for those two will not be an easy task. If the front four can get more consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback the secondary’s lack of experience will be much more difficult to take advantage of. Zacharia Bowers, Jake Steffon and Anthony Mink are a decent group to build around, but they were not very productive last season. An extra year of experience cannot hurt, but expecting a huge turnaround is asking a bit too much.
The Bottom Line:
The strength of the defense lies in linebackers Mike Lien and Dirk Kool. The SDSU linebackers are asked to do a lot and Lien and Kool can do just that. They both can get to the quarterback when the team needs to throw some blitzes at the opposition and they can also drop back and help out the secondary. With questions in front of them and behind them, Lien and Kool will have to provide all the help they can in 2011. In the end, the defense should be pretty good. It is the offense that holds the key to success. The running game needs to open up under Tyrel Kool in order to give O’Brien the best opportunity to make some passes down field. If that happens, South Dakota State will be right back towards the top of the MVFC standings.

Projected Postseason: none

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 140.27 (64th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 203.82 (57, 5)
Total Offense: 344.09 (65, 8)
Scoring Offense: 21.27 (80, 9)
Rushing Defense: 183.45 (96, 6)
Pass Defense: 185.18 (39, 4)
Total Defense: 368.64 (76, 4)
Scoring Defense: 21.09 (31, 3)
Turnover Margin: -.45 (87, 8)
Sacks: 1.82 (57, 6)
Sacks Allowed: .55 (2, 1)