South Dakota State Football enters 2014 at number 9 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 9-5 (5-3) Missouri Valley Football Conference
Balanced on both sides of the ball, the Jackrabbits finished second to the National Champs up north in the Missouri Valley Football Conference last season. They won their first three games before a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to play Nebraska of the FBS Big 12, where they suffered their first of three-straight losses. The Huskers, then North Dakota State, and finally Southern Illinois. They went 5-1 in their final six and earned an at-large bid to the FCS tournament, where they lost in their second game to Eastern Washington, 41-17.
-Bryan Witzmann OL – Second team FCS All-American, first team All-MVFC
-Brandon Hubert WR – 36 catches, 423 yards, 4 TDs
-Trevor Tiefenthaler WR – 45 catches, 547 yards
-Chase Douglas DL – Second team All-MVFC, 42 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 9 sacks
-Doug Peete DL – 70 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT
-Marshall Peugh DL – 58 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 sacks
-RC Kilgore LB – First team All-MVFC, 134 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs
-Winston Wright DB – First team All-MVFC, 52 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 4 INTs
What to Watch For
Offensive Line – Four Jackrabbit offensive linemen graduated in 2013: Josh Kage, Alex Parker, Taylor Suess, and second team FCS All-American Bryan Witzmann. They were right in the middle of the road last season as far as FCS offenses go, and this much turnover will make it hard for them to move up that road. Almost all of their skill position players will be back, which is nice, but without protection from veteran o-lineman, their welfare is a real concern.
2014 will be John Stiegelmeier’s 17th year as the South Dakota State football’s head-man, and he should be pleased with his team’s progress of late. Last season was their best finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference since they came over from the Summit League in 2008. Running back Zach Zenner rushed for the most yards (2,015) and touchdowns (23) in the conference behind a veteran offensive line, and earned himself a spot on the FCS All-American second team along with teammate Bryan Witzmann. Zenner will be back in 2014 as a senior.
It will take one heck of a coaching job for SDSU to continue on their recent upward trajectory this season though. With an almost entirely new set of players in both the offensive and defensive trenches, there will be growing pains – especially when the Jackrabbits travel to face FBS team Missouri to open the season. Stiegelmeier must be a Kelly Clarkson fan, because Missouri is no joke. Fans should hope the lessons learned in their opener translate to success during the Jackrabbits’ in-conference schedule and result in another NCAA tournament berth.