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Jackrabbits have shoes to fill
The football talent South Dakota State has produced is probably best exemplified by the number of players who have had professional tryouts. Nine were signed to NFL contracts in the last two years.
Replacing them will be a significant factor in the success or failure of the Jackrabbits this season.
“I’ve been wondering a bunch who is going to step up,” said head coach Stiegelmeier.
He didn’t mince words when it comes to starting quarterback Thomas O’Brien, who is going on his second year in the role. A prolific passer, he threw for 2,236 yards last year.
But he also had 15 interceptions and never was that more evident than at the Fargodome last year when North Dakota State picked him off four times, including one for a touchdown that gave the Bison a two-possession lead in the second half.
“He needs to play better,” Stiegelmeier said. “He needs to mature and this is the year he needs to put his foot down and make plays.”
Helping his cause will be an experienced offensive line. But the Jacks need to find a replacement for star running back Kyle Minett and they went to the wide receiver position to find him.
Tyrel Kool, who was a running back before being switched to receiver to get him on the field more, will open as the No. 1 tailback. He led the team with 64 receptions last year. To help with receiver depth, Dale Moss joined the team after his SDSU basketball eligibility was up.
Defensively, the Jackrabbits need to replace virtually their entire secondary. Mike Lien leads a solid linebacker crew.
SDSU went 5-6 last year after reaching the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs the previous year. Historically a slow-starting team (0-4 last year), the Jacks have Southern Utah, California Poly and Illinois to open the season.
But they also host Northern Iowa, NDSU and Southern Illinois – the top three teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference pre-season poll.
By: Jeff Kolpack, INFORUM