#4 South Dakota State FCS Football 2013 Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Overall Rank: #4
#2 Missouri Valley

South Dakota State Team Page#4 South Dakota State FCS Football 2013 PreviewBuy South Dakota State Football Tickets

South Dakota State endured back-to-back losing seasons in 2010 and 2011 and that is not what fans have become used to under Coach John Stiegelmeier. The Jackrabbits shook that little losing streak and then some last year by reaching the playoffs. SDSU started off the season with a loss at Kansas and only fell two more times during the regular season at Northern Iowa and North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits crushed Eastern Illinois in the first round of the playoffs, but then ran into NDSU again and lost a second time to the Bison.  

2012 Record: 9-4, 6-2
2012 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Stiegelmeier (102-75 at South Dakota State, 102-75 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Eidsness
Defensive Coordinator: Clint Brown

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Zenner, RB, 2,044 yards
Passing: Austin Sumner, QB, 2,443 yards
Receiving: Brandon Hubert, WR, 483 yards
Tackles: T.J. Lally, LB, 107
Sacks: David Hettiger, DT, 6.0; T.J. Lally, LB, 6.0; Doug Peete, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Je Ryan Butler, CB, 2; T.J. Lally, LB, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Reginald Gandy, OL Josh Kage, G Alex Parker, WR Jason Schneider, OL Bryan Witzmann, CB Winston Wright

Key Losses: OL Will Castle, CB David Godley, S Bo Helm, WR Tyrel Kool, S Skyler Luxa, DT Andy Mink, LB Ross Shafrath, WR Aaron Rollin, LB Chris Tracy

Unlike some other teams in the MVFC South Dakota State will not post huge offensive numbers. This is a team that can grind it out on offense and play solid enough defense to, generally, stick with the ground game. And when South Dakota State has a player like Zach Zenner, that is a good plan. As a sophomore Zenner led the FCS with 2,044 rushing yards and added 13 trips to the end zone. With four starters returning to the offensive line, Zenner will have another huge campaign. However, living up to what he did in 2012 will be tough. Quarterback Austin Sumner is now an upperclassman and should be ready to lighten the load placed on Zenner. Sumner completed 56.2 percent of his passes in 2012 and finished with 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Keeping the turnovers down is one place where Sumner needs to improve. Sumner was also sacked 42 times and sometimes throwing the ball away is not a bad option. Senior receiver Brandon Hubert is a big play option for Sumner and Jason Schneider is a promising and big receiver.

The South Dakota State defense ranked fifth in the country, and third in the conference, in scoring defense. Only Kansas, Youngstown State and North Dakota State in the playoffs managed to drop more than 20 points on the Jackrabbits. The unit is in good shape heading into 2013, but there are some key pieces to replace. Ross Shafrath is gone after leading the way with 150 tackles. Also gone are safeties Bo Helm and Skyler Luxa and cornerback David Godley. Those three combined were tops on the team in passes defended and the secondary has a lot of rebuilding to do around Je Ryan Butler and Winston Wright. T.J. Lally came out of nowhere to lead the linebacker corps. He totaled 107 tackles, 6.0 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles as a freshman. Lally is ready to turn into even more of a leader in the middle of the SDSU defense. End Doug Peete and tackle David Hettiger will help Lally get into the backfield.

The Bottom Line:
The defense may take a little step back after a great 2012 season, but the offense should more than make up for it. Sumner is ready to burst onto the national scene and Zenner is already a proven workhorse and then some. The schedule in the MVFC is never easy and the Jackrabbits start out with the toughest game of them all when they host North Dakota State in late September. After losing twice in Fargo last season, South Dakota State can get off to a great start in conference play and get some revenge on their rival.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 177.23 (34th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 190.38 (75, 5)
Total Offense: 367.62 (61, 5)
Scoring Offense: 23.38 (77, 5)
Rushing Defense: 124.00 (21, 4)
Pass Defense: 181.31 (24, 4)
Total Defense: 305.31 (8, 3)
Scoring Defense: 16.38 (5, 3)
Turnover Margin: -.08 (64, 6)
Sacks: 2.54 (24, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 3.38 (115, 10)


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