Showing posts from August, 2017

3 Matchups I'm Watching: Duquesne

Earlier this week we broke down what you can expect from Duquesne.  We have learned a little more since the blog was published.  The Dukes are indeed starting Tommy Stuart the dual threat QB transfer from Boise State.  He put up good passing numbers at Butte Community College and does throw a nice deep ball. 

So here are the 3 match-ups that have my attention.

1. Right Tackle Tyler Weir vs. the OLB's and Andy Struttmann
Weir was a key reserve for the Jackrabbits at the interior offensive line positions in 2016.  This year he has shifted to right tackle.  Weir has competed well in camp, but game action will be a whole different beast.  Struttmann plays with a high motor and is shifty.  The Dukes play a weird 3-4 that is almost a 4-3 blended defense.  Rushers will attack from different spots on the field so Weir needs to be ready and keep a clean pocket for Taryn.
2.   Defensive Tackle Spencer Hildahl vs. Right Guard Ben Huss
Hildahl saw a little bit of playing time last season for …

Game Preview: The Duquesne Dukes

To open the season, the Duquesne Dukes come to Brookings to take on the Jackrabbits under the lights of Dana. J. Dykhouse Stadium on Thursday (8/31) night.  Typically, teams from the Northeast Conference (NEC) and the Pioneer League are viewed as push-overs.  However, Duquesne is not your typical opponent from these conferences.  Their head coach Jerry Schmitt has been leading the program for 13 seasons and has guided The Dukes to four NEC championships in the past six seasons.  Furthermore, the team returns five starters on offense and eight starers on defense.  Lets take a look at the roster and see what makes this team tick.

The Dukes offense only returns 5 of 11 starters but is still very dangerous.  The team last year featured a very balanced attack on its way to scoring 31 points per game.  While there is still some uncertainty about who will fill the open positions, the experience they do return should make their offense okay.  

We don't have to look very hard find …

One Week Away: Reviewing the 7 Big Questions

A week before camp started, I asked seven big questions that the team had going into fall camp.  Now that camp has broken and preparations have begun for Duquesne, let's take a look at what we now know. 

7. Who steps up as the third receiving option?
This question still doesn't have a definite answer.  Adam Anderson has had flashes of brilliance but also moments of inconsistency.  Marquise Lewis seems to make plays when given the chance.  Cade Johnson has been really consistent and performed well.  Jacob Brown played as a true freshman and can at times dominate.  Alex Wilde is the most experienced and has big play potential but was injured at the beginning of camp.  If the Jacks truly want to have Goedert and Wieneke near 100 catches a piece again this year, then there aren't many passes to go around.  Whoever is on the field will need to make plays to keep the defense honest. 

6. Can the defense improve from last year?
This one is quite clear.  YES.  They have looked rea…

Update on the 2017 Recruits

Over the weekend, a tweet from Matt Zimmer regarding a quote from Coach Stig raised some eye brows in regards to the freshmen class.

John Stiegelmeier says 10 true freshmen have been told to prepare to have their redshirts pulled. That would obviously be a record. — Matt Zimmer (@argusmattz) August 19, 2017 Typically, playing that many true freshmen means you are rebuilding and looking to the future.  However, this class is a little bit different as it has been considered a VERY strong class all along and many of the players spent time in Brookings over the summer working with older teammates and living in the weight room.  This certainly isn't a team that is rebuilding but this class certainly enhances a number of things for the Jacks. 

Here is a breakdown of the class, my observations, and who I project will play this season.

Defensive Tackle: Xavier Ward and Krockett Krolikowski are ready to play.  Their emergence is based on talent but also a need because of the injury to  B…

Preparing for the Season: JI Updates

As we move closer and closer to the first game, I wanted to give you an idea of what you can expect going forward from Jackrabbit Illustrated. Because this is my hobby, I won't be able to create as much content now that school is back in session.  I will do my best, but here is what I will continue to cover and what you can expect from Jackrabbit Illustrated.

1.  Game Preview:  Who is the opponent?  Who are the play-makers?  How do the Jacks match up?

2.  Game Analysis:  This will typically include a "Rants and Raves" section  as well as quotes from coaches and players about the game.

3. Interest Article:  This might be a Senior Spotlight or a profile on one of the coaches. 

4. Recruiting: On Twitter, @JackIllustrated, we will continue to share recruiting updates as we have them.  As we get new verbals, I hope to do short interviews with those athletes. 

5.  I will try to make it to practice when I can and provide recaps, but that may be more difficult with my work sch…

Fall Camp Review: Practice #19

The Jackrabbits moved practice indoors on Wednesday because of the rainy weather.  After walking through the sheets of rain to get from the parking lot to the SJAC, it really makes me appreciate how awesome that facility is for South Dakota State University.  I was amazed that the team was still able to spread out and got through their position group drills.  They may not have had as much room as they do in the stadium, but they certainly had enough to get the work done.

Here are a few thoughts on practice...

1. The team was working on onside kicks as both the kicking and receiving team.  It's amazing what kickers can do to get the ball to hop and bounce funny.  For the most part, the receiving team members did a good job of handling the crazy hops with only a few slipping through and getting  loose on the turf.

2. It seems like the rest of the team is getting healthy as most position groups were at, or near, full-strength.  However, that isn't the case for the linebacker pos…

Fall Camp Review: Practice #17

Monday's practice was a return to earlier practices in camp. The team drilled in their position groups virtual the entire practice before coming together for some 7 vs 7 and lineman battles.  The energy was pretty good but you can tell the players are itching for some more live action against a different opponent.

Defensive ends back at it. — Jackrabbit_Illstrtd (@JackIllustrated) August 14, 2017 Here are a few notes and thoughts.

1.  One thing that I had doubted from my notes from Saturday's scrimmage was the emergence of true freshman safety, Jordan Velez.  On Saturday, I quickly scribbled down the numbers of both the number one kick-off and kick-return units and said that I would look up the names for the numbers I didn't recognize later.  When I got home, I saw #27 listed on both units and thought "that can't be right."  I asked Coach Bergstrom at practice on Monday and he confirmed that Jordan is indeed on the number …

Fall Camp Review: Practice #16

It is hard to believe that the Jacks are already 16 practices in with only 17 days to go until the first game.  Saturday's practice was a controlled scrimmage and officials were present and were calling penalties.  The energy started off a little low, but a couple of big hits in and things pumped up.

Here are a few thoughts.

1.  The running backs had a nice day.  Isaac Wallace kicked it off with a nice 30 yard run down the left side that reminded me of the long runs that we have seen from him the last few years.   Next up to bust a long run were Blair Mulholland and then CJ Roth over the right side.  After that Brady Mengarelli had a nice run up the middle/  The day was capped off by a bruising run from Mikey Daniel.  A lot of the credit for these long runs goes to the offensive line but there were also negative runs throughout the scrimmage.  The backs showed good patience and vision on their runs.

2.  Dallas Goedert is such a tough cover with his size and athleticism.  He just f…

Ready to Breakout: Defense

Every team relies on younger players to step up and perform.  Three years ago it was Zach Lujan and Jake Wieneke against Missouri.  Two years ago it was Dallas Goedert against Southern Utah.  Last season it was Kellen Soulek, Christian Rozeboom, and Charlie Harmon emerging.  This year it is safe to say that someone will make a big jump and raise their play to a new level.  Yesterday we looked at breakout candidates for the offense.

Here are my guesses as to who might be breakout players for the defense after observing a number of practices.
Logan Backhaus (Photo courtesy of Matt Holland)
#12 Logan Backhaus had a great spring season and has continued to excel during camp.  He's a very smart player that is in the right spot at the right time.  As a red-shirt freshman, Backhaus will be asked to fill the shoes of multi-year standout Dallas Brown, who has graduated.  Backhaus is fast and moves well in space.  His fellow Iowan, Christian Rozeboom will be tasked with helping hi…

Ready to Breakout: Offense

Every team relies on younger players to step up and perform.  Three years ago it was Zach Lujan and Jake Wieneke against Missouri.  Two years ago it was Dallas Goedert against Southern Utah.  Last season it was Christian Rozeboom, Kellen Soulek and Charlie Harmon emerging to have great seasons.  This year we KNOW someone will make a big jump and raise their play to a new level.

Here are my guesses as to whom that might be for the offense after observing a number of practices.

Adam Anderso (Photo Courtesy of Matt Holland) #80 Adam Anderson has returned from an injury he suffered in the middle of last season for his sophomore year.  It isn't a stretch to say he looks like the best wide receiver not named Jake Wieneke in camp.  He runs precise routes, has wiggle, and seems to catch everything.  He's catching short passes, passes across the middle, and deep passes.  Look for a big year from Anderson with defenses focused on stopping Wieneke and Goedert. #15 Cade Johnson is a red-sh…

The Reese's Senior Bowl: Phil Savage on the Jackrabbits

Wednesday started like any other ordinary workday.  I was walking from one meeting to the next when I checked twitter and saw that Phil Savage, the Executive Director of the Reese's Senior Bowl, was going to be at the Jackrabbit practice Wednesday afternoon.

On way to Brookings, SD this morning, looking forward to seeing practice @GoJacksFB later today. #SouthDakotaState@seniorbowl — Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) August 9, 2017
The Senior Bowl is a showcase for the best senior collegiate players in the country.  It is the player's chance to showcase their talent against other NFL bound players and improve their draft stock.  The game has been around since 1950 and has produced NFL stars including 17 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, 15 players with at least one Super Bowl ring.   Notable alumni include: Walter Payton, Joe Namath, Randall McDaniel, and Bo Jackson.

Phil Savage is a recognizable name because of his time with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.  Sava…

Top 5 Favorite Jackrabbit Football Players

Remember the great scene from "The Sandlot" where Benny wakes up to the ghost of Babe Ruth coming out of his closet?  If you remember, the boys from the sandlot were in a pickle.  A signed Babe Ruth baseball had been hit over the fence and into a junkyard that was roamed by a giant dog named "The Beast" and an old grouchy man who instructed the dog to eat intruders (or so the legend said) lived alone.  Anyways, the best part of the dream scene is Babe Ruth's advice to Benny, "Hero's get remembered, but legends never die."

Who are the legends of Jackrabbit football?  What plays and contribution did they make that stand out?  I had this discussion on Twitter on my personal account a few months ago, but I decided I wanted to bring it to the blog.  We can debate all day who the BEST Jackrabbits are, but who are your FAVORITE Jackrabbits of all time?  Who are the legendary players to you?  I've been closely following the Jacks since the fall of 200…

Position Preview: Special Teams

We have conducted our position group analysis for both the defense and offense.  Today we will do our final position group analysis and focus on the special teams.

Special teams are often the forgotten piece of the puzzle.  Punt and kick returns can shift the momentum in seconds.  A field goal can win the game.  A bad snap can put the defense in hole.  All of these plays occur during special teams.  Each component can win or lose the game.

The Jacks return key special teams talent but lose kick off specialist, Sam Koob, and  long snapper Thayer Trenhaile who have played key roles for the Jacks in recent years.

Thanks Uncle Adam for helping me with my craft! Had fun hanging out and spending time with you in Indy! Excited for the season! 🐰 — Chase Vinatieri (@ChaseVinatieri) July 1, 2017#4 Chase Vinatieri returns as the kicker for his sophomore year after a solid freshman season.  Chase made 11 of 17 kicks including the game winning 40 yard kick aga…

Fall Camp Review: Practice 9 & 12

I was able to get to a short portion of practice on both Friday and Monday.  Both practices were helmets only but I was impressed with the speed and physicality the players still played with.  Overall, both offense and defense had moments of brilliance but also moments where things need to be cleaned up.  I guess that is what the preseason is for.

Here are some thoughts...

Practice 9
1. They went into Field Goal nearly right away.  I couldn't tell if the kicks were good or not but Vinatieri was hitting the ball really well with pressure in his face.  He ended the period with a booming 45 yard make that would have been good from 50.

2.  The team worked on kick coverage but there were too many pieces moving for me to get a sense of who might be on first team kick coverage at this point.  I do know they were working really hard on getting them to up the intensity and speed which they were pursuing the ball.

3.  On kick return Coach Arnheim was really working on communication between …

Position Preview: Offensive LIne

This the fifth installment of our offensive position preview.  So far we have covered the quarterbacks, tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers.  Today we will look at the offensive line.

The #605 Hogs are back and ready for business.  Coach Jason Eck returns for his second season with the Jacks and is ready to help this group take the next step.  Last year, Eck brought the idea that the line needed to be more physical and that the team would only go as far as the line would take it.  He said that the idea for this year is still the same.  The line needs to continue to be physical and dominate the line of scrimmage. They need to be able to block and get the short yards when needed and they need to withstand the pass rush and hold up when long yardage is the goal.  The line has not been determined yet and jobs will be won in camp.  Young players will need to continue to develop so that there is greater depth at all positions.  Eck shared that consistency from snap to snap and gam…

Position Preview: Wide Receivers

This is the fourth part of our of our offensive position preview series.  We have so far covered quarterbacks, tight ends, and running backs.  Today we will take a look at the wide receiver position group.

This group is lead by All-American Jake Wieneke but after him there are question marks as to who will emerge.  Because of the attention that opposing defenses will be paying to Wieneke and Dallas Goedert there is great potential for a third option to emerge. Coach Robert Arnheim is in his second year as the receiver coach.  Arnheim says he feels very fortunate to have such a special group to work with.  They've been able to recruit an amazing level of talent and that is creating awesome competition at the position.

Arnheim pointed to the intelligence of the room as a strength and as a huge benefit for the offense.  "Because the group is smart, it allows us to use multiple formations and each receiver can play multiple spots in those formations."  Because the receivers…

Position Preview: Running Backs & Full Backs

This is part three of a Jackrabbit position preview series for the offensive side of the ball.  We have previously covered the quarterbacks and the tight ends.

This year the Jacks return an abundance of experience to a unit that rushed for over 1800 yards last year.  Gone are the days of having Zach Zenner tote the ball 20+ times per game.  Now the Jackrabbits deploy a platoon approach where multiple running backs will receive touches each game.  Coach John Johnson is in his second year withe Jackrabbits and says "the running back room is incredibly talented and as a group they are best in the MVFC."  He cited their academics, character, and performance on the football to back up that statement.  They all bring a team first approach and are happy for one-another if someone else succeeds.

Running Back
#44 Brady Mengarelli is the senior leader of the group and returns as a team captain for his second season.  Mengarelli was named to the MVFC Preseason team this fall.  The forme…

Fall Camp Review: Practice 8

Today was the coolest (temperature wise) practice of fall camp.  Some of the players even chose to wear long sleeves.  However, the energy was again good and overall spirits were pretty high.  The rain was gone and the field was dry.  I know when the field was installed, there were a handful of grumbles about having turf and not grass for the playing surface, but days like today, where it rained all morning, show how valuable the turf surface is.

Practice 8️⃣ was picture perfect. ☀️ 🏈 — SDSU Football (@GoJacksFB) August 4, 2017 Here are a few things that caught my eye today at practice.

1.  Punt return was the same as reported on Tuesday.  Rest easy, Jake Wieneke was not fielding punts today.  Today the returners were under fire with a coverage team bearing down on them.  Coach Arnheim was really working on getting the guys to stick their nose in there with confidence and make a fair catch in a crowd.

2.  Kick return was something that I …

Position Preview: Tight Ends

Part two of our offensive preview will focus on the tight end position.  Part one focused on the quarterback room.

The tight end position has an obvious leader in first team All-American in Dallas Goedert but features unproven players after that.  Coach Luke Schleusner, in his second year with the Jacks, will be responsible for building depth behind Dallas and for coaching up the young players.

#86 Dallas Goedert returns for his senior year after a record breaking junior campaign. 92 receptions, 1293 yards, and 11 touchdowns have caught the attention of NFL teams.  Most mock drafts project him being drafted somewhere between the first and fourth round of the draft.  If the returning and preseason All-American has another monster year expect him to lean towards a first or second round pick.  Already there have been NFL scouts watching him at practice. Dallas will be a leader not just in the Tight End room but also with his teammates as he was elected as a team captain.  The former walk…