Jackrabbits Football Coach John Stiegelmeier Lays Out Ambitious Plans for 2014
In less than three weeks, the South Dakota State football team will take the field for perhaps one of the biggest opening tests in program history, an August 30th game at Missouri.
While the fans are focused on that date in Columbia, the Jackrabbits are thinking big picture in 2014, trying to make a third straight appearance in the FCS Playoffs, where they've made it as far as round two the last two seasons.
I asked SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier about how his team stays hungry after two of the most successful football seasons in school history:
The successes of the past two years are certainly reflected in this year's pre-season predictions for the Jacks: #2 in the Missouri Valley Conference, and #10 in two different national FCS polls.
Coach Stiegelmeier says he looks at those rankings as validation for what the program has done and respect for what this team in capable of accomplishing:
After qualifying for the playoffs each of the last two seasons, but not as a top eight seed, SDSU knows all about having to go on the road in the post season, where three of their four games, and both of their playoff losses, have been away from Brookings.
This season, Stiegelmeier is making a top eight seed a top priority for his football team:
As for players, the Jacks have three very talented seniors in the key skill positions on the offensive side of the ball: running back Zach Zenner, quarterback Austin Sumner, and wide receiver Jason Schneider.
Stiegelemier knows this trio will try to do great things in their final go round in Brookings, but he doesn't want them to try to do too much:
One of the keys to the success of the offense is the condition of the line, already hurt by some key graduation losses, and now without two projected starters, Mike Shoff and Andrew Mueller, who are out for the year with injuries.
Despite the setbacks, Stiegelmeier remains confident:
Injuries have also taken their toll on the defensive side of the ball, where linebacker Charles Elmore is out for the year. The Jacks defense is also trying to fill some holes left from graduation.
Stiegelmeier says, despite the losses, the talent is still there on defense: