#32 South Dakota State FCS Football 2012 Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Overall Rank: #32
#6 Missouri Valley
South Dakota State FCS College Football 2012 Team Preview
South Dakota State Team Page


South Dakota State failed to get over the hump last season. They beat the teams they should have beaten, but fell to Illinois State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa and North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits needed to win a couple of those games to have a shot at the FCS Playoffs. But this is still a program on the rise and Coach John Steelmeier has a solid group in 2012. But they will still need to pull off an upset or two to get into the playoff picture.

2011 Record: (5-6, 4-4)
2011 Postseason: None
Coach: John Stegelmeier (93-72 at South Dakota State, 93-72 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Eidsness
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bubak and Clint Brown

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tyrel Kool, RB, 534 yards
Passing: Austin Sumner, QB, 2,382 yards
Receiving: Aaron Rollin, WR, 906 yards
Tackles: Andy Mink, DT, 75
Sacks: Andy Mink, DT, 6.0
Interceptions: Winston Wright, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: C Will Castle, DB Bo Helm, DL David Hettiger, WR Brandon Hubert, G Josh Kage, LB Skyler Luxa, DE Doug Peete, WR Jason Schneider, LB Ross Shafrath, LB Chris Tracy, OT Bryan Witzmann, RB Zach Zenner

Key Losses: DE Zacharia Bowers, LB Dirk Kool, LB Mike Lien, WR Dale Moss, DE Jake Steffen, S Anthony Wise

The offense was stagnant at times in 2011 due to the complete lack of a running game. SDSU ranked 110th in the nation in rushing offense, garnering a mere 83.55 yards per game on the ground. That has to improve if this team hopes to make some noise in the MVFC. Running backs Tyrel Kool and Zach Zenner are back, but they need to be much more consistent on the ground. With a strong offensive line led by tackle Bryan Witzmann, center Will Castle and guard Josh Kage, there is hope that the Jackrabbits can complement their passing attack with a more threatening ground game. The running backs do not have to be great as South Dakota State will look to the air first with sophomore quarterback Austin Sumner. As a freshman Sumner threw for 2,382 yards and 16 touchdowns. His nine interceptions were not bad considering he was a freshman who had little help from the ground game and was sacked 23 times. Top receiving target Dale Moss is gone, but Aaron Rollin is back after catching 61 passes for 906 yards and seven scores. Brandon Hubert and Jason Schneider are capable of picking up the slack left behind by Moss and both backs are capable pass catchers as well. This is a group that is full of potential and the focus will be on Sumner. Yet, in order for Sumner and the offense to take the next step, the ground game has to be more effective. The Jackrabbits total offense was fine, but they had trouble punching the ball into the end zone. Part of that was due to turnovers, but mixing up the offensive attack would be helpful as well.

The defense was average at best in a tough conference for defenses. Making matters worse they have key pieces to replace all over the field, but for all the losses, South Dakota State should have an answer. Up front ends Zacharia Bowers and Jake Steffen are gone, but the line can rebuild around nose guard Andy Mink. Mink led the team with 6.0 sacks and is the returning leader with 75 tackles. Injuries plagued the defensive line in 2011 and that leaves plenty of experienced options available now. David Hettiger was a tight end a year ago, but moved to the defensive line to help fill in for those injuries. Doug Peete is the best returning pass rushing option from the end spot. Linebackers Mike Lien and Dirk Kool were first and third on the team in tackles in 2011 and replacing them will not be easy. But, again, there are options. Skyler Luxa moved from safety to linebacker during the 2011 campaign and should be able to stay there now. Ross Shafrath and Chris Tracy are also back to help fill the void left behind by Lien and Kool. In the secondary, safety Antony Wise is the big loss. However, the secondary was the strong point of the defense last year and should be again this year.

The Bottom Line:
If South Dakota State can slow down the passing attacks from the MVFC opposition, they will put themselves in a good position to pull off those upsets that they need. With Winston Wright and Bo Helm leading the way, the secondary should be strong. Add in pieces like Chris Tracy and passing against the Jackrabbits could be more difficult this season than it was in 2011 when they ranked fourth in the conference in pass defense. Creating turnovers by getting more pressure on the quarterback will be very important since SDSU allowed way too many points in 2011. And it is those turnovers on both sides of the ball that could be the difference between another 5-6 season and a 7-4 campaign with playoff hopes.

Projected Postseason: None

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 83.55 (110th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 286.73 (13, 1)
Total Offense: 370.27 (52, 4)
Scoring Offense: 24.09 (73, 7)
Rushing Defense: 203.64 (106, 7)
Pass Defense: 202.09 (51, 4)
Total Defense: 405.73 (94, 7)
Scoring Defense: 33.09 (103, 7)
Turnover Margin: -.73 (97, 8)
Sacks: 2.00 (56, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (93, 8)

Madness 2012 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#26 Mike Shoff