A couple more verbals

South Dakota State’s list of verbal commitments for football grew to 11 - that’s seven on defense and four on offense - over the weekend after a sizable number of official visits. Here’s some info about the new additions and some running totals:

Chris Little is the first get for SDSU related to the coaching changes at rival North Dakota State. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound quarterback from Evanston Township (Ill.) gave a verbal to Wyoming. But then the Cowboys staff got fired and the replacements - mostly from NDSU - opted to basically start over, to retract most offers previously put out, according to Little. 
That opened the door for the Jackrabbits. They had the two-year starter in for a visit and he was sold.
"I spent a lot of time with (starting QB) Austin (Sumner) - that was really fun," said Little, who also had an offer from Bryant. "I got to know what South Dakota State football is like, what the school is like and just campus life from the perspective of the quarterback."
Little is OK with change. In fact, he embraced it heading into his senior year, focusing heavily on foot speed and agility in an attempt to transform from a pocket passer to a dual-threat.
"It’s paid off," he said.
Here are Little’s highlights

Also committing Sunday was Sioux City East tight end Chase Kern, a 6-3, 225-pounder named to the second-team all-state squad in Class 4A. He made 99 tackles - with 17 for a loss - as a senior, his third year as a starter.
Kern said that he also was offered by South Dakota and was set to make an upcoming official visit to Northern Iowa, but he canceled that due to how things went in Brookings.
As far as his skills go, Kern considers himself most of a pass rusher than a run stopper. More than that, however, he takes pride in effort, he said.
Here are Kern’s highlights

Little is the third SDSU verbal from Illinois and Kern is the third verbal from Iowa. There are also three from Nebraska. There aren’t any from South Dakota or Minnesota yet. 

Of the 11 commits, two start classes this week in Brookings - Iowa Western Community College transfers OL Travis Zimmerman and DE Landon Schultz. Both will participate in spring ball.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Football notebook

Here’s a rare out-of-season South Dakota State football notebook:

SDSU finished at No. 13 in the FCS media poll. It’s the second year in a row and the fifth time since 2006 that the Jackrabbits have found up in the postseason top 25. Their best standing was 11th in 2009.
Also, the Jacks are No. 9 in the 2014 unofficial pre-preseason guess by The Sports Network. 

In the Sagarin Ratings, SDSU came in 94th out of 252 NCAA Division I teams. That was 10th in the FCS and ahead of power-conference clubs like Rutgers, Kansas, Cal, UConn and Purdue.
NDSU was 17th overall.

This is a big recruiting weekend in Brookings with 10-15 prospects expected to make visits. SDSU has seven known verbal commitments, leaving roughly 11 spots to fill. (That number is fluid depending on full and partial offers.)  

In addition to back-up quarterback Nate Meyer, walk-on linebacker Nate Meixell is leaving the program, according to coach John Stiegelmeier. Those are the only known departures so far.

A bunch of SDSU players finished first in the season-ending stats in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Among them: junior quarterback Austin Sumner in total passing yards (2,999); junior running back Zach Zenner in rushing yards (2,015) and points (150); junior receiver Jason Schneider in catches (78); sophomore cornerback Je Ryan Butler in punt return average (11.8); senior linebacker R.C. Kilgore in tackles (134) and fumbles recovered (5); senior defensive tackle Chase Dougle tied for first in sacks (9.0) and senior cornerback Winston Wright tied for first in fumbles forced (4).

Still no word on any SDSU seniors being offered spots in upcoming all-star games. However, Wright got some shine at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, attending the game and being honored on the field as part of the Good Works Team. He also helped run a youth football clinic in advance of the game.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Football musings

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.

Take a video tour of The Inferno - the red turf of Roos Field at Eastern Washington. That’s where South Dakota State will play Saturday in Round 2 of the FCS playoffs.

Too Much TV: Clint Brown

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South Dakota State is in the FCS playoffs for the second year in a row thanks to a late-season run fueled by improved play by the defense. Jackrabbits defensive coordinator Clint Brown discusses that and the Round 1 game at Northern Arizona in this week’s Too Much TV podcast.

Here are three ways to listen: linklink and link

Also, no weekly live chat Thursday due to the holiday.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Week 12 wrap

Here are some final thoughts on South Dakota State’s win over Youngstown State on Saturday and some early thoughts on its playoff pairing against Northern Arizona:

SDSU had not won two road games in two weeks since 2006, going 0-14 in the meantime. Also, the Jacks hadn’t won at least eight games in consecutive seasons since 1950-51.

SDSU made two interceptions to extend to 12 its streak of forcing at least one turnover. Its turnover margin through the regular season: Plus-14.
Meanwhile, the Jacks were charged with five fumbles, most due to weather-related drops. But it lost only one when a punt hit the back of the legs of a blocker.

YSU was without cornerback and No. 2 tackler Julius Childs due to injury. SDSU was missing starting OL Mike Shoff for the second game in a row and his fill-in Josh Kage. That made Nick Purcell the top right guard. He’s spent most of his career at center.

Jacks junior receiver Jason Schneider finished with seven catches for 59 yards and a score – his sixth game in a row with a touchdown. He’s moved into second on the single-season list for catches at 71 and is 15 yards from becoming the first SDSU player at the NCAA Division I level to reach 1,000 for a season.

The SDSU defense continued its late-season surge. The Jacks have given up a total of 25 points in the last three games. That includes three touchdowns, one on the ground and two in the air. They’ve also given up less than 215 yards in two of those games.

SDSU sophomore running back Reggie Gandy had a break-out game with 13 carries for 90 yards an the opening touchdown. It was his best game of the season and came just a couple of weeks after slipping behind freshman Isaac Rodriguez for the back-up job behind All-American Zach Zenner.
“Reggie was bounding off people like he always does, making plays out there,” Zenner said. “Reggie’s a good player.”
As for Zenner, he turned in his 20th 100-yard game in the last two seasons and pushed his season rushing total to 1,695. That’s fifth-best in school history.

SDSU blocked a kick for a third week in a row, this time defensive tackle Chase Douglas swatting a first-quarter PAT. It didn’t hurt that the Penguins were unorganized. The new holder ran into the field late. The old holder was injured last week.

The Jacks seemed to genuinely enjoy the snowy conditions. Said LB R.C. Kilgore: “I couldn’t have dreamed for better weather – especially as a senior, last game of the regular season. The flurries started coming – in South Dakota that’s a normal day for us. The Youngstown players they were complaining about the weather, but we were loving it.”
The lights were on by the second quarter. At halftime, a cart brushed off the sidelines and the hash marks.

SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier thought this might have been one of the best games in the standout career of quarterback Austin Sumner, especially in terms of managing the game. Sumner threw only four incompletions and ran for a pair of third-down conversions. He led SDSU on scoring drives of 81, 81 and 80 yards in taking a 21-6 lead in the second quarter.

Based on the Sagarin Ratings of all Division I football teams, the Jacks are favored over NAU by 4.5 points. In the new Simple Ratings Systems, SDSU is No. 17 and NAU is No. 11. Of course, that metric doesn’t have undefeated and two-time defending national champion North Dakota State at No. 1. Here’s the complete list

SDSU went 2-1 during the regular season against teams that made the bracket, beating No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana and Pioneer champ Butler and losing to No. 1 NDSU.
Also, the Jacks faced No. 2 Eastern Illinois in last season’s playoffs and have future non-conference games scheduled with qualifier Southern Utah. 

A reader asked me to answer the following question publicly: How could the Jacks be sent on the road in Round 1 while a team they crushed - Butler - gets to host?
It’s about geography for the sake of money.
The protocol is supposed to work like this: The field if 24 is chosen, the top eight seeds are selected and the remaining 16 are paired up based on geography as much as possible. That’s because the NCAA is responsible for paying for team travel, and any trips under 400 miles are to be made by bus, a much cheaper mode of transportation than a charter plane.
Tennessee State is located about 290 miles from Butler. So that pairing made sense based on the principles of building the bracket. TSU reportedly did not put in a bid to host and Butler did. So the Bulldogs get to host. 
Frankly, the NCAA could have created another potential second-round game between SDSU and NDSU. It opted not to.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Countdown to … South Dakota

Here are some notes to get you prepped for the South Dakota State at South Dakota football game on Saturday in Vermillion. I’ll have live coverage starting at noon:

Offshore site 5dimes has SDSU listed as a 6.5-point favorite over the Coyotes. That’s down a point from the opening line. The over/under is 46. 
The Jacks are No. 16 in the latest Gridiron Power Index, while USD is 43rd. The Valley continues to grade out as the top league followed by the Southland. 

SDSU had to deal with a couple seasonal issues this week in terms of practice. The Tuesday workout had to be indoors and split into two groups; and subsequent outdoor work was cut short by a few minutes due to waning daylight. 

USD will honor its 14 seniors prior to kickoff being that this is the home finale. Of that group, 11 are listed on the two-deep chart for Saturday. The headliner is linebacker Tyler Starr, who is tied for the school record for careers sacks with former NFL player A.J. Schable. 

Jacks WR Brandon Andrews is likely done for the season due to an undisclosed injury that hampered him from early in the schedule. If so, he finishes the year with four catches for 35 yards and a score. 

Apropos of nothing, the teams have very different stats in terms of tackles. For example, the SDSU leader is LB R.C. Kilgore with 105. That’s 35 more than the next guy, LB T.J. Lally. The Yotes are led by safety Dustin Taverna at 65.
All told, the Jacks have 751 tackles to 680 for USD.

Although in his first season as a starter, USD quarterback Kevin Earl got some reps vs. SDSU last season in Brookings. He finished 2 of 5 passing for 25 yards and rushed for one yard.

Jacks junior Zach Zenner remains the only 1,000-yard rusher in the Valley this season, topping the field by more than 300. He went for 164 yards and a TD on 28 carries against USD in 2012.
This season, the Coyotes have allowed five players to rush for at least 100 yards. They’re 1-4 in those games. Meanwhile, USD has let only two players gain 100 yards receiving in a game, going 1-1 in those instances. 
The Jacks have the Valley’s leading receiver in junior Jason Schneider. 

The shutout SDSU posted last week against Indiana State was just the 30th ever in a Valley conference game.

The latest high school senior to give the Jacks a verbal commitment, linebacker Malik Bondon, has a unique story in that his family moved during his junior year from Sun Prairie, Wis., to Quincy, Ill. SDSU was one of the programs that followed him from one place to the other.
Bondon got the scholarship offer this week and quickly claimed it; he said he’d been waiting for the chance, that SDSU was at the top of his list all along.
In terms of his skills, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder considers himself a run stopper. Here are his highlights.  

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

A few of us from the Argus Leader sat down Wednesday to preview the South Dakota State at South Dakota football game. 

Week 10 wrap

Some final notes from No. 19 South Dakota State’s 29-0 home win over Indiana State on Saturday:

A few players made new contributions in the victory. Tight end Mitch Vejvoda caught his first pass. Defensive tackle Tory Dibb for his first career sack. And running back Isaac Rodriguez had seven carries for 57 yards and a touchdown plus a catch for 8 yards.
In a surprise move, the redshirt freshman Rodriguez was promoted to the No. 2 RB over sophomore Reggie Gandy.
"Here’s Reggie Gandy whose had a lot of reps and has done a good job and Isaac just keeps competing," coach John Stiegelmeier said. "That’s not a knock against Reggie." 

ISU coach Mike Sanford said he thought the first-quarter hit by Jacks CB Winston Wright that knocked QB Mike Perish from the game with a concussion should have been ruled helmet-to-helmet. Both players were shaken up on the play. The senior Wright finished with four tackles and a forced fumble.

The stats are starting to pile up for the Jacks. Defensively, linebacker R.C. Kilgore topped the 100-tackle mark for the season with six against the Sycamores. And with 7.0 sacks, DT Chase Douglas has the highest total by an SDSU player since NFL draft pick Danny Batten in 2009.
Offensively, QB Austin Sumner now holds three of the top 10 seasons in school history in terms of passing yards; RB Zach Zenner has two of the top six single-season rushing totals in school history; and WR Jason Schneider has cracked the top-10 on the single-season lists for receptions and receiving yards and is 162 yards from becoming the Jacks’ first 1,000-yard receiver at the FCS level.
Sumner, Zenner and Schneider are all juniors.  

Injury update: Jacks WR Brandon Andrews was not in uniform due to injury. But five others returned to the field, having gotten healthier due the bye. That includes starting guards Alex Parker and Mike Shoff. Both played limited reps and worked through some rust.

In going 3-for-3 on field goals, SDSU kicker Justin Syrovatka moved into a tie for third place the career chart with 34 makes. Meanwhile, he missed a PAT for the first time this season, ending a run of 48 in a row dating back to last fall.

The Jacks allowed 161 yards of offense in the game, their best showing of the season by more than 100. The last time they gave up so few? Sept. 19, 2009. That day, they allowed 90 yards to … Indiana State in a 41-0 win.

Lincoln Northeast standout Makiah Slade said the SDSU coaches “by far” were what made him decide to give a verbal to the Jacks. Yes, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Slade was one of the players the staff went to see the night before the Nebraska game. 
Slade said that he shattered his leg freshman year in a skiing accident, but has been a two-way starter at RB and CB the last three seasons.  
"I consider myself an explosive player," he said. "I’m fast and I’ve got decent strength, but nothing a weight room couldn’t help."
He’s also from an athletic family as his sister plays college soccer and his dad played college hoops. 
Here is Slade’s highlight reel
Also, the Jacks have landed a verbal from Ralston RB Isaac Wallace, a 6-1, 200-pounder, according to his Twitter feed. He rushed for 2,547 yards this season, including 810 in a two-game stretch. South Dakota also offered. (I’ll likely have more about Wallace once I can get a hold of him.) 

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

SDSU receiver Jason Schneider and defensive end Marshall Peugh after a home win over Indiana State.


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