#6 South Dakota State 2018 FCS Football Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Overall Rank: #6
#2 Missouri Valley
 South Dakota State Logo
South Dakota State reached the playoffs for the sixth straight time under Coach John Stiegelmeier. But last year they made their deepest playoff run, beating Northern Iowa and New Hampshire before falling at James Madison in the semifinals. With superstars returning on both sides of the ball, the Jackrabbits are poised to make another deep playoff run.
2017 Record: 11-3, 6-2
2017 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Stiegelmeier (147-97 at South Dakota State, 147-97 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Eidsness
Defensive Coordinator: Clint Brown
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Isaac Wallace, RB, 516 yards
Passing: Taryn Christion, QB, 3,515 yards
Receiving: Marquise Lewis, WR, 348 yards
Tackles: Christian Rozeboom, LB, 127
Sacks: Ryan Earith, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Larenzo Williams, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Cade Johnson, CB Jordan Brown, LB Dalton Cox, LB Logan Backhaus, CB Marshon Harris, K Chase Vinatieri
Key Losses: RB Brady Mengarelli, TE Dallas Goedert, WR Jake Wiemeke, OL Jacob Ohnesorge, S Chris Balster, DL Kellen Soulek, CB Anthony Washington
Quarterback Taryn Christion threw for 3,515 yards and 35 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 500 yards and nine more scores. Christion will make plenty of big plays, but losing tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Jake Wieneke could hinder the passing game for a little while. Goedert caught 72 passes for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns, while Wieneke added 65 receptions for 965 yards and 16 scores. Marquise Lewis and Cade Johnson will get first crack at taking on bigger roles this season, but those are some huge shoes to fill. Also gone is leading rusher Brady Mengarelli, who ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns. However, Isaac Wallace and Mikey Daniel are tough, talented backs who each tallied 101 carries in 2017 and are ready for more in 2018.
The defense had their ups and downs last season, but South Dakota State should be much improved on that side of the ball. Christian Rozeboom led the team in tackles during his first two seasons, including 127 in 2017. With Dalton Cox and Logan Backhaus joining Rozeboom, South Dakota State is loaded in the middle of the defense. The front line has talent too with ends Ryan Earith and Austin Smenda leading the way. Safety Larenzo Williams is a big time playmaker and SDSU has a couple very talented cornerbacks. Jordan Brown is one of the best in the country and Marshon Harris has enough experience to make plays when the opposition avoids Brown’s side of the field. As long as this group can find a consistent pass rush, South Dakota State should not only be able to improve their overall defensive numbers, but also help turn around the team’s negative turnover margin.
The Bottom Line:
If the offense can get back on track despite some big losses, this is a South Dakota State team that can make another deep playoff run. However, they have to get to the playoffs first and that is no simple task. The season starts at Iowa State before Montana State comes to Brookings. MVFC action begins on September 29th with a trip to North Dakota State. A 1-3 start would not be an inconceivable start. And with home games against Youngstown State and South Dakota and trips to Northern Iowa and Illinois State, the Jackrabbits need to be at their best week in and week out in order to be a serious contender for a conference title and a trip to the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 176.6 (36th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 262.0 (18, 2)
Total Offense: 438.6 (16, 3)
Scoring Offense: 37.2 (6, 3)
Rushing Defense: 170.8 (86, 7)
Pass Defense: 209.4 (60, 4)
Total Defense: 380.1 (71, 7)
Scoring Defense: 23.9 (47, 6)
Turnover Margin: -0.14 (77, 6)
Sacks: 1.71 (85, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.64 (43, 3)
HERO Sports 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#240 Nick Garlisch