View Full Version : Argus Leader Football Preview

08-27-2004, 04:35 AM
The Argus Leader's football preview edition is in this morning's paper. It is all available on line in pdf format as well. There is a link on the front page section as well as the sports page section. There is a two page article on SDSU's first season in D-Iaa in addition to the regular review of the team. It is a good article discussing the challenges of stepping up to the next level of competition with reactions from the players and coach.

08-27-2004, 04:52 AM
As a courtesy to our members from other parts of the country who may not have the Argus Leader tagged as a favorite here is the link:


08-27-2004, 06:25 AM
Because the Argus doesn't archive it's story, here are some highlights for the ages. ;)



Jacks prepare for the unknown
Chris Solari

published: 8/27/2004

South Dakota State's move to Division I causes players to change attitude, goals

Bigger, stronger, faster.

Those three words have surfaced so much around South Dakota State's athletic programs that they may as well replace the Jackrabbits' current motto of "Passionate. Relentless. Champions." It's also what the players and coaches are facing as they progress into the unknown that is Division I-AA football.

Bigger blockers. Stronger tacklers. Faster runners. Preparing to play against those kinds of players this fall and trying to locate them on the recruiting trail. . . .

Be they the schools of the newly-formed Great West Football Conference or perennial national powers such as Southern University and Georgia Southern, both of which are on SDSU's 2004 schedule, there will be (you guessed it) much bigger, stronger and faster competition than the Jacks have faced in the past. . . .

Those distinctions on the field stem from differing scholarship limits between Division II and I-AA. Whereas D-II schools are permitted to have a maximum of 36 full scholarships, which can be spread across any number of players, I-AA squads are allowed 63 full scholarships which can be dispersed between 85 players.

The last few years, Tony Moss was the director of I-AA football for The Sports Network, a Pennsylvania-based Web site which sponsors the Walter Payton Award for the top player in Division I-AA. Moss cites the discrepancies between D-II and I-AA schools as the same that exist between I-AA and I-A teams.

"I think obviously a main difference is depth at the I-AA level. It tends to be greater than at the Division II level," says Moss, who is now covering the NFL beat. "When you're talking schools that have a maximum of 63 scholarships rather than 36 at Division II, you have deeper teams (in I-AA) with more talent."

The Jackrabbits are only sponsoring 38 full scholarships this year, as they incrementally build toward 62 full-rides by 2010. The rate at which scholarships are added would have to increase, Stiegelmeier says, if the school gains acceptance into the Big Sky Conference. That league mandates that football programs sponsor at least 60 scholarships.

If the current scholarship disparity between them and their opponents is bothering SDSU's players this fall, they certainly aren't dwelling on it.

"To tell you the truth, I think we'll be right there," junior receiver Josh Davis says. "I think we'll be able to compete with these teams. Hopefully, we'll be able to win a couple and show you guys what we're about."

And as SDSU discovers the nuances of the I-AA ranks, the rest of the country will start to discover the Jackrabbits. Otto Fad, a Division I-AA analyst who runs the Web site www.i-aa.com, says there has been an increased national awareness about I-AA football in the last few years.

"As a I-AA advocate, I'm probably more excited about SDSU coming into I-AA than anyone around Sioux Falls," Fad says. "We're going into a new region of the country - a region where I-A is not represented."

On Sept. 4 in California near the state capitol of Sacramento, SDSU will kickoff the Great West league with a game against California-Davis, beginning a grueling baptism in I-AA.

Three of their 11 opponents are ranked in the preseason ESPN/USA Today I-AA Top 25 poll - Georgia Southern (No. 9), Montana State (15th) and Southern (25th). Northern Colorado, a one-time NCC foe which made the leap to I-AA a year ago, finished in the final 2003 Top 25 at 9-2.

"(The Jackrabbits) are not ducking competition, that's for sure," says Fad, who thinks the Great West Conference will automatically become one of the strongest in I-AA.

SDSU has been picked to finish last in the six-team league by both the conference coaches and media. It's created an us-against-the-world resolve among the players.

"That's great," scoffs senior center Tom Higbee. "Pick us sixth, and don't expect anything from us. Take the weight off our shoulders."

Though in-state D-II foe Augustana and fellow I-AA newcomer North Dakota State are on SDSU's 2004 schedule, gone are longtime adversaries South Dakota and North Dakota. Replacing them are schools such as Southern, which is rated as the top black college football team in I-AA this year. . . .

"We talked to the coaches at UCLA, and they knew who the quarterback was at Southern. He was good enough of a player that he was on their lists when they recruited."

Those kind of opponents will become norm now instead of an exception, and the Jackrabbits must also recruit that caliber of athlete in order to compete.

In the interim, current players know that internal motivation and confidence will be major components for any initial success. Bigger goals, they hope, will lead to stronger showings on a faster learning curve.

"The attitude of this team is above and beyond anything I have seen in this program for the five years I've been there," Higbee says. "Guys are excited to play."

Go State! ;D

08-27-2004, 06:47 AM
Here are the highlights from the preview:


Offense will have to carry Jacks
Chris Solari

published: 8/27/2004

SDSU defense a question after losing eight starters

BROOKINGS - Let's face it. Few people are expecting great things from the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in their first season in Division I-AA football. Even the players maintain somewhat realistic views.

"I don't blame people for picking us that low," senior center Tom Higbee said. "We graduated how many guys off the defense?"

Seven, to be exact. An eighth starter, Tyran Slaughter, was removed from the program for violation of team rules.

That kind of an overhaul

doesn't go unnoticed by pundits and prognosticators. The Jackrabbits were a unanimous choice to finish last in the new six-team Great West Football Conference, by both the coaches and the media.

"Because of the move to Division I, one of the questions I get asked a bunch is, 'Does it get any tougher?'" SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. "I say, when you look at the schedule, yeah, it's going to be tougher."

That schedule includes seven road games, as opposed to just four at home. The away contests aren't against creampuffs, either, as the Jacks will face perennial powers Montana State, Southern and Georgia Southern, all Top 25 teams. . . .

. . .SDSU's offense will be heavily relied upon to carry the Jacks. Eight starters return, including senior quarterback Brad Nelson and most of his most coveted weapons from last year's high-powered offense.

A year ago, Nelson was the Jacks' X-factor as a first-year starter. He demolished all doubts by reshaping SDSU's passing laurels, finishing second in NCAA Division II in efficiency (165.87 QB rating) while setting school records in single-season passing yards (3,141), touchdown tosses (27) and total yards of offense (3,056).

"His stats speak for themselves," Stiegelmeier said of Nelson. "He's a tremendous leader."

Nelson is one of three Jackrabbits on the preseason Great West all-conference offense. He's joined there by his top receiving target, Davis, and starting running back Anthony Watson.

Davis, a junior from Omaha, is on pace to become one of the most prolific receivers in SDSU history. In two seasons, the 6-foot, 170-pound wideout has caught 133 passes for 1,760 yards and 15 TDs. If he keeps up that pace, Davis would come close to eclipsing Jeff Tiefenthaler's school career records of 3,621 yards and 32 TDs.

He's joined at receiver by senior Solomon Johnson (42 catches, 667 yards, six TDs). Senior Brian Janecek and junior Chris Molitor each proved capable of handling third-receiver duties last year.

Watson, a sophomore from Worthington, Minn., had more ups than downs as a redshirt freshman in 2003. He led the Jacks on the ground with 974 yards on 197 carries with six TDs. But he also fumbled the ball away seven times, including four against St. Cloud State.

Still, Watson's 4.9-per carry average makes him another danger to opposing defenses.

"We've got some good playmakers on this team, and we've got a lot of young guys who are stepping up in some big roles," Davis said. "Hopefully, they can meet them." . . .

Defensively, linebacker Chris Couauette is the only Jackrabbit on the preseason Great West All-Conference defensive team, returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss the last four games of the season. He will help form a veteran linebacking corps with fellow senior Mike Blackbourn and sophomore Marty Kranz.

Up front, senior Joey Abell will be the heart of the defensive line. He is joined by junior Gabe Koenigsfeld at defensive ends, along with sophomore Travis Ahrens and junior D.J. Fischer at tackles.

The secondary, however, is the most suspect. Junior safeties Hank McCall and John Perry each saw time as backups last year, but both cornerback spots are up for grabs.

"Don't ask me about defensive back," Stiegelmeier joked. "There's not a whole lot of names with experience."

The kicker spot is also up in the air, but steady sophomore Neal Bainbridge returns at punter.

Stiegelmeier plans to maintain his program's "one game a week" attitude toward the entire season, especially with the amount of road games the Jacks face this fall. Not to mention moving up a higher classification.

"I think the biggest change has been our ability to think at a higher level," Stiegelmeier said, "and that's going to have to happen with the competition we're going to face." . . .

Schedule (all times Central)

Sept. 4 - at California-Davis (Davis, Calif.), 8 p.m.

Sept. 11 - Winona State, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 - Western Oregon, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 - at Southern (Baton Rouge, La.), 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 - at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), 8 p.m.

Oct. 9 - North Dakota State, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 - Open

Oct. 23 - at Montana State (Bozeman, Mont.), 2:05 p.m.

Oct. 30 - at Georgia Southern (Statesboro, Ga.), noon

Nov. 6 - Augustana, 2 p.m.

Nov. 13 - at Southern Utah (Cedar City, Utah), 4 p.m.

Nov. 20 - at Northern Colorado (Greeley, Colo.), 1 p.m.

Good luck guys, and Go State! ;D