2021 FCS Season Preview: South Dakota State

CSJ Predicted Order of Finish: 2nd

Coach: John Stiegelmeier (25th Season, 172-107 @ SDSU & overall)

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Offensive Coordinator: Jason Eck
Defensive Coordinators: Jimmy Rodgers & Brian Bergstrom
Stadium: Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium (19,340 capacity)

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Location: Brookings, South Dakota
2021 Spring Record: 8-2 (5-1 MVFC)

South Dakota State finally got over the hump this past spring. The Jacks beat North Dakota State in the final regular season game to earn the top seed in the FCS playoffs where they would host all playoff games in Brookings. SDSU used that home field advantage to dispatch Holy Cross, Southern Illinois, and Delaware to reach their first ever national championship game in Frisco, Texas.

As mentioned, the Jacks lost to Sam Houston in a closely contested game despite SDSU losing starting QB Mark Gronowski early in the first half and have also lost him for the fall 2021 season.

Replacing Gronowski, who was the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, as well as the Newcomer of the Year, will not be easy but the Jacks do have graduate transfer Chris Oladokun and Keaton Heide will be battling to be the starter in fall camp.

Whomever gets the starting signal caller job will have three returning starting pass-catchers. Jaxon Janke led the team in the spring with 32 catches for 473 yards and six touchdowns. His brother, Jadon, had 21 catches for 425 yards and five touchdowns. Canyon Bauer had five catches for 34 yards.

SDSU is hoping that Bauer and graduate transfer Landon Wolf can step up and become a viable third option. Wolf played his previous three seasons at FBS Oklahoma State and caught 55 passes for 551 yards and two touchdowns. He arrived on campus last spring, but redshirted. And another receiving option is TE Zach Heins led the tight ends with 12 catches for 200 yards.

The running back spot will not be in question with the duo of Pierre Strong and Isaiah Davis in the backfield. The duo likely is the best two-some in the FCS after they combined for over 1,300 yards on the ground and 10 scores last spring.

While the offense is very strong for SDSU, the defense might even be better. This unit gave up just 4.4 yards per play and 15 points per game in the spring. The defense welcomes ten starters back this fall with LB Logan Backhaus leading the team. Entering his final season with the Jackrabbits, Backhaus is coming off a spring season in which he led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and ranked second with 72 tackles.

LB Logan Backhaus

DT Caleb Sanders and CB Don Gardner are two other stars that should highlight another strong season this fall for the Jacks. Sanders led the Jackrabbits with five sacks among his seven tackles, while Gardner  led the team with seven pass breakups and added an interception during the spring season.

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