#2 South Dakota State FCS Football 2022 Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Overall Rank: #2
#2 Missouri Valley
 South Dakota State Logo
South Dakota State has gone to at least the semifinals of the playoffs four times in the last five years. Last year the Jackrabbits knocked off UC Davis, Sacramento State and Villanova before falling to Montana State in the semifinals. With so much postseason success in recent years, sooner or later South Dakota State is going to break through and win it all. This could be the year.
2021 Record: 11-4, 5-3
2021 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Stiegelmeier (185-111 at South Dakota State, 185-111 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Zach Lujan
Defensive Coordinator: Jimmy Rogers
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Isaiah Davis, RB, 701 yards
Passing: Keaton Heide, QB, 203 yards
Receiving: Jaxon Janke, WR, 1,165 yards
Tackles: Adam Bock, LB, 125
Sacks: Caleb Sanders, DT, 6.5
Interceptions: Dalys Beanum, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Amar Johnson, TE Tucker Kraft, TE Zach Heins, WR Jadon Janke, OL Mason McCormick, LB Isaiah Stalbird, S Cale Reeder, CB DyShawn Gales, LB Graham Spalding, DE Reece Winkelman, CB Malik Lofton, DE Cade Terveer
Key Losses: QB Chris Oladokun, RB Pierre Strong, OL Wes Genant, OL Aron Johnson, S Michael Griffin, LB Logan Backhaus, DT Xavier Ward, CB Don Gardner, DE Tolu Ogunrinde
South Dakota State has to replace last year’s starting quarterback, but they get back Mark Gronowski, who missed the 2021 season with an injury. During the 2020-21 season, Gronowski threw for 1,565 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions. In those ten games he also rushed for 577 yards with seven more trips to the end zone. Gronowski will recognize plenty of his favorite targets from two years ago as well. Jaxon and Jadon Janke are both back after great 2021 campaigns and tight end Tucker Craft has proven to be an extremely reliable target. The ground game has a huge hole to fill now that Pierre Strong is off in the NFL. He rushed for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Isaiah Davis and Amar Johnson both played well at times backing up Strong and should be ready to take more carries in 2022. With Gronowski also able to use his legs effectively, this should still be one of the best rushing offenses in the MVFC.
It was the offense that was the best in the conference, but the defense was very good too. They allowed just 19.7 points per game and had some very impressive performances throughout the season. Much of the unit is back too so there are plenty of reasons to believe that this group could be even better. Caleb Sanders and Reece Winkelman lead a front line that was great against the run last season. Linebacker Adam Bock led the Jackrabbits with 125 tackles and is back to again lead the defense. Isaiah Stalbird and Graham Spalding will flank Bock and help replace the production of Logan Backhaus. The secondary is loaded with playmakers. Dalys Beanum, DyShawn Glales and Malik Lofton are all experienced cornerbacks and safety Cale Reeder ranked fourth on the team with 65 tackles in 2021.
The Bottom Line:
As usual, South Dakota State will be tested by the time the playoffs role around. The season starts with games against Iowa and UC Davis. The conference slate starts with a very interesting game at Missouri State. A few weeks later they head to North Dakota State. There are also tough road games against North Dakota and Northern Iowa. That schedule may not lead to a conference title, but it will put South Dakota State in a good position to make another deep playoff run.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2021 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 211.5 (10th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 228.9 (40, 5)
Total Offense: 440.4 (14, 1)
Scoring Offense: 36.1 (10, 1)
Rushing Defense: 109.9 (14, 3)
Pass Defense: 241.0 (85, 8)
Total Defense: 350.9 (42, 5)
Scoring Defense: 19.7 (20, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.93 (5, 1)
Sacks: 2.47 (32, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.13 (12, 2)