South Dakota State wrapped up spring training Saturday with its annual football game at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex.
In the intra-team scrimmage, the Jackrabbit offense outscored the Jackrabbit defense 57-25 (the defense scoring points via sacks, turnovers, negative yardage plays, etc.).
Many Jackrabbit starters have not played. Projected starting quarterback Mark Gronowski, wide receiver Landon Wolf, defensive end Quinton Hicks, defensive backs DyShawn Gales and Chase Norblade, among others, have been tapped to give other players key reps.
Even with Gronowski not playing, quarterbacks have impressed. Sophomore Rudy Voss, a former walk-on who was used primarily as a short-range quarterback last season, completed 13 of 26 passes for 176 yards and a 35-yard touchdown pass to Canyon Bauer.
Senior Keaton Heide was excellent Saturday, going 6-7 for 125 yards and three touchdowns. And despite launching a first-six pick, redshirt rookie Jon Bell has also shown promise. Running backs and wide receivers impressed on Saturday, showing they could add more depth to an already stacked offensive roster.
The kickers were a perfect 6-6 on field goals. Hunter Dustman had tries for 48, 36 and 40 yards, while Jack Green had field goals for 28, 23 and 28 yards.
Another key takeaway from Saturday was that the defense needs to improve in certain areas. Coach John Stiegelmeier mentioned tackling and deep ball coverage as things the defense could improve. Despite the offense exploiting those areas, the SDSU defense made a few plays, like the 45-yard pick-six from redshirt rookie Ryan Swoger.
SDSU will now turn to summer workouts, wrapping up a spring season focused on transitioning to new leaders and coaches.
Four assistant coaches from last season have gone elsewhere. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jason Eck is now Idaho’s head coach, and Passing Game coordinator Luke Schleusner has gone with him. Co-defensive coordinator Brian Bergstrom is now Winona State’s head coach, and assistant defensive line coach Spencer Erikson has joined him.
The most significant coaching transition will come as offensive coordinator, with Zach Lujan taking Eck’s place in attack management. Stiegelmeier knows that will come with an expected change in play calls.
“It’s totally different,” Stiegelmeier said. “While Jason (Eck) could have called a play-action pass on second and runs a lot because you can kind of lose a try, Zach Lujan can run 90% of the time to get the first down and move on. thing. Balling a game is an art; it’s an instinctive thing.
Along with the change of offensive coordinator, Ryan Olson goes from tight ends coach to offensive line coach. He supports a passing offensive line unit of veterans Wes Genant, Aron Johnson and Eegan Lickiss.
Other key Jackrabbits who moved on were quarterback Chris Oladokun, running back Pierre Strong Jr., linebacker Logan Backhaus, cornerback Don Gardner and safety Michael Griffin. Still, Stiegelmeier looks forward to the challenges of fulfilling these roles.
“Every time you lose a player or every time you lose a coach, as a head coach you have to have that attitude,” Stiegelmeier said. “This is an opportunity for us to improve our program.
But even with those players gone, the Jackrabbits expect other key players to return from injury. Gronowski is pretty much recovered from the knee injury he suffered last spring that sidelined him for the fall season.
Other key returning players are Wolf, who suffered a knee injury early last season, and running back Isaiah Davis, who missed eight weeks midway through the season before returning for the FCS playoffs. .
“It’s good to have them back,” Stiegelmeier said. “Their presence, leadership and ability are really good, and we’re going to build on that.”