#10 South Dakota State FCS Football 2014 Preview

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Overall Rank: #10
#3 Missouri Valley

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Sitting at 4-4 in mid-October, South Dakota State’s playoff hopes looked dim, especially in the tough MVFC. But the Jackrabbits beat Northern Iowa, Indiana State, South Dakota and Youngstown State to end the regular season at 8-4 and earn a trip to the playoffs. But Coach John Stiegelmeier and company were not done there. They went to Flagstaff and knocked off Northern Arizona in the first round of the playoffs and hung around with Eastern Washington in the first half of the second round contest.

2013 Record: 9-5, 5-3
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Stiegelmeier (111-81 at South Dakota State, 111-81 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Eidsness
Defensive Coordinator: Clint Brown

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Zenner, RB, 2,015 yards
Passing: Austin Sumner, QB, 2,999 yards
Receiving: Jason Schneider, WR, 1,088 yards
Tackles: T.J. Lally, LB, 89
Sacks: Jack Sherlock, LB, 3.0
Interceptions: Je Ryan Butler, DB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Reggie Gandy, TE Cam Jones, WR Dom Wright, LB Charles Elmore, DB Jake Gentile, DB Jimmie Forsythe

Key Losses: WR T Tiefenthaler, WR Brandon Hubert, OL Bryan Witzmann, LB R.C. Kilgore, DL Marshall Peugh, DL Chase Douglas, DL Doug Peete, DB Winston Wright, DB Andrew Brown

South Dakota State returns all three of their superstars on offense. Overall this team does not put up huge offensive numbers, but much of that is due to the fact that they grind out wins instead of getting up and down the field. Running back Zach Zenner can grind out yards better than anybody. He rushed for 2,015 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior and will once again lead this offense. However, the Jackrabbits can throw the ball too with quarterback Austin Sumner. He threw for 2,999 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013 and has done a good job of running the offense and taking advantage of passing opportunities. Receiver Jason Schneider is back to be Sumner’s favorite target. He caught 78 passes for 1,088 yards and ten touchdowns. At 6-5, Schneider is a great target in the red zone and anywhere else on the field for that matter.

The defense was playing much better towards the end of the year and SDSU hopes that trend will continue. Linebacker T.J. Lally is a good piece to build around, but the concern is on the front line where Chase Douglas, Doug Peete and Marshall Peugh need to be replaced. Those three accounted for two-thirds of the team’s sacks. Finding replacements who can get into the backfield as effectively as those three is not going to happen any time soon. There is better news in the secondary where Je Ryan Butler, Jake Gentile and Jimmie Forsythe return. However, the entire secondary will suffer if South Dakota State cannot find a pass rush.

The Bottom Line:
The offense does deserve credit for keeping their turnovers down, but the SDSU pass rush also helped the defense record quite a few turnovers. In all, the Jackrabbits had the fifth best turnover margin in the FCS. That is going to be tough to replicate in 2014 and some of those close contests may not fall in their favor. With the talent on offense though, this is a team that will compete for a MVFC title. The schedule is brutal however, with road trips to North Dakota State and Northern Iowa, not to mention non-conference matchups against Missouri, Cal Poly and Southern Utah.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 168.1 (52nd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 216.5 (57, 2)
Total Offense: 384.6 (59, 4)
Scoring Offense: 28.9 (43, 3)
Rushing Defense: 162.6 (55, 7)
Pass Defense: 219.5 (56, 7)
Total Defense: 382.1 (58, 9)
Scoring Defense: 23.6 (35, 4)
Turnover Margin: 1.10 (5, 1)
Sacks: 2.36 (30, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 3.36 (112, 9)


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