Tying up some loose ends from the 2013 South Dakota State football season/spinning things ahead to spring and the 2014 campaign:
The Jackrabbits wasted no time in getting help on the lines of scrimmage, landing Sunday verbals from two Iowa Western Community College players - OL Travis Zimmerman and DE Landon Schultz. Both spent three seasons with the Reivers, winning one juco national title and finishing ranked No. 2 this fall. Both will report next month and participate in spring ball.
The two visited Brookings together, but weren’t necessarily a package deal. Zimmerman, in particular, had myriad other offers, including six at the FBS level. He said his decision came down to Toledo and SDSU.
"It felt like home, really," the Iowa native said. "The coaches and players really sold it and after I left there I kind of knew."
It didn’t hurt that the Jacks got contributions - and recommendations - from a couple of former IWCC guys, senior defensive backs Andrew Brown and Austin Knowlton.
Schultz was a promising high school baseball player before making football his priority and had some Division II offers coming out of Mason City High. He described himself as more effort than flash - perhaps along the lines of outgoing senior and former juco transfer Marshall Peugh.
"I’m looking forward to coming in and making a difference," he said.
SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said that the Jacks were aiming to sign as many as 18 guys in February, although that number could be smaller based on how many full-ride types end up being in the mix. The Jacks have eight known verbals.
With Christmas break on the horizon, the next big recruiting weekends will be in mid-Jan.
Per usual, a chunk of guys are set for (undisclosed) offseason surgeries to fix ailments that did or didn’t cost them time. Stiegelmeier figures that 8-10 retuning players will miss spring ball or be limited due to procedures.
The FCS final four is set: North Dakota State vs. New Hampshire on Friday and Eastern Washington vs. Towson on Saturday. The Jacks lost two NDSU and EWU this season and RB Zach Zenner lost the FCS rushing title - he won that in 2012 - when Towson’s Terrance West went for a playoff record 354 yards in a 49-39 win over Eastern Illinois in the quarterfinals.
Zenner ran for an SDSU record 295 vs. EIU in the 2012 postseason.
Cleaning out the stats in my notebook: SDSU finished 9-0 when scoring at least 25 points … The Jacks out-gained their opponents by a mere 35 yards over the course of the season … SDSU scored 53 touchdowns, a jump of 17 from the year before … QB Austin Sumner improved his efficiency, his completion percentage, his yards and his TD-INT ratio over his injury-hampered sophomore season … senior WRs Trevor Tiefenthaler and Brandon Hubert combined for 81 catches for 970 yards.
The 2013 SDSU defense was nowhere near as stingy as the 2012 version in terms of points allowed (23.6 per game vs. 16.4) or yards allowed (382.1 per game vs. 305.3). But it made the same number of sacks (33), wound up with 12 more tackles for loss and came up with 33 takeaways - an increase of 12.
And the 2014 group could have a different look, too, with six of the top eight tacklers this fall being seniors. The exceptions in that group being sophomore linebackers T.J. Lally (89 stops) and Charles Elmore (67 stops).
The Jacks played 14 games, the most in school history. That included six against teams that made the postseason: FCS qualifiers Butler, Southeastern Louisiana, North Dakota State, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington plus bowl-eligible Nebraska.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.