South Dakota State Preview: #4 Jackrabbits Host Duquesne
A pair of teams that shared titles in their respective conferences last season are looking to open what they hope will be 2017 championship runs, when South Dakota State hosts Duquesne, Thursday night (August 31).
The Jackrabbits, co-champs in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2016, are coming off of a fifth straight FCS Playoff appearance.
SDSU is fourth in the FCS Stats pre-season poll.
The Jacks offense could be in for a record setting year, with dual threat junior quarterback Taryn Christion back for his second season as a starter.
Catching the ball will be a pair of All-Americans, tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Jake Wieneke, who combined for nearly 2,300 yards in 2016. Goedert is a little banged up heading into the game and is about 80-85%, according to the coaching staff.
There's depth at running back with Brady Mengarelli and Isaac Wallace, who combined for 1,200 yards last season.
Up front, SDSU will be down a starter, with right guard Matt Clark serving a six-game suspension. Three other starters are back.
Defensively, starting nose tackle Kellen Soulek and defensive end Ryan Earith both return on the line, but there are a couple of question marks up front.
At linebacker, 2016 Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year Christian Rozeboom returns for his sophomore season, but he is the only starter back.
In the secondary, there's a ton of depth, with three starters returning and experienced backups as well.
Duquesne went 8-3 last year, tying for the Northeast Conference title, one year after they made their first FCS playoff appearance in 2015. They’re the preseason favorite to win the league once again.
Offensively, the Dukes are led by the 2016 FCS Freshman of the Year, running back AJ Hines. He ran for 1,291 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
Opening holes for Hines is an offensive line anchored by right guard Ben Huss, who is a pre-season All-American.
The biggest question mark on offense for Duquesne is at quarterback, where they'll have a new starter in 2017. The battle is between last year’s backup, sophomore Brett Brumbaugh or senior Tommy Stuart, a grad transfer from Boise State, who played in a dozen games the past two seasons.
The Dukes have eight starters back on their 3-4 defense, which ranked tenth in the nation in fewest yards allowed in 2016.
They lost their top lineman to graduation, but do have a pair of talented linebackers, Carter Henderson (Penn State transfer) and Nathan Stone - their top two tacklers from a year ago. Stone is a pre-season All-FCS selection.
Kickoff is 7:00 PM, Thursday in Brookings.
I talked with Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelmeier about the matchup with the Dukes: