BY JEREMY HOECK
A pair of 6-foot-9 post players continued their recruitment by spending a little bit of time on campus at the University of South Dakota last weekend.
Dylan Miller (Hillsboro, Illinois) and Dan Jech (Rochester, Minnesota) made official visits to USD, and according to one, got a ‘homey feeling’ from Vermillion.
While neither have made their final decision as of Tuesday night, the visit was at least successful in some ways, according to Jech.
“I loved the campus, it was very nice,” he told the Press & Dakotan. “Vermillion is a nice town. It gave you a homey feeling.”
Of the two, Jech has been the most highly pursued recruit. The senior at Rochester Mayo High School boasts Division I offers from Green Bay, Lafayette, Lehigh, Montana State, New Hampshire, North Dakota State, South Dakota and Wofford. Jech said he also has D-II offers from 7-8 schools.
Thus, the recruiting process has been a whirlwind for him, Jech said.
“It’s all very cool; a once in a lifetime experience,” he said. “(I have) nothing but good feelings.”
Miller, who didn’t return calls Tuesday, reportedly has scholarship offers from SIU-Edwardsville, North Dakota State and Northern Illinois, as well as South Dakota.
Jech and Miller were in attendance for Saturday’s home football opener against William Penn — an experience Jech called “really interesting.”
“I love the student section there,” Jech said. “It seems like they have a great fan base. Everywhere we went (in Vermillion), people were wearing red.”
Jech said he plans to wait until after an Oct. 11 official visit at North Dakota State to make his ultimate decision. What he is looking for in a school?
“I’m looking for a good business school and a team with a winning attitude,” Jech said. “Somewhere with a good, hard work ethic, and somewhere I can strive.”
As to where South Dakota fits in that mix, Jech said he has been impressed with first-year head coach Craig Smith. Jech was offered a scholarship following an unofficial visit, and Smith has stayed in contact almost daily, according to Jech.
“He’s very energetic, very outgoing,” Jech said. “I’ve never seen him mad. He’s always in a good mood.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck
BY JEREMY HOECK
Last weekend, the University of South Dakota was the underdog in its game and William Penn University was the one doing the thumping in its season opener.
Those roles are about to flip.
Following a 49-point loss at top-5 Oregon, the Coyotes open their home schedule by hosting NAIA William Penn on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the DakotaDome.
The visiting Statesmen, who thrashed Bethel (Tennessee) 52-13 in the season opener, understand exactly what awaits them in Vermillion, according to head coach Todd Hafner.
“It was a good way to start, but the level of competition is definitely going to be different,” Hafner joked during a phone interview this week.
Hafner, in his 11th season at William Penn, found out exactly how different that was while he was watching film of the Coyotes playing the Ducks of the Pac-12 Conference.
“They go out to Eugene and the atmosphere they saw is not one they regularly see, and now it’s the same thing for us,” Hafner said. “We know it’ll be a hostile environment, but our kids are excited for that.”
William Penn, a small liberal arts school in Oskaloosa, Iowa, previously faced USD back in 2009, when the Coyotes won 52-0. For this matchup, William Penn will receive $55,000 for making the trip.
When Hafner brought his program to Vermillion five years ago, the Statesmen were in year two of the triple option. Now, it’s been a staple of the program.
“Right now we’re able to do some of the things true triple option teams do, get the ball on the edge,” Hafner said.
William Penn did plenty of that in its season-opening win.
The Statesmen ran the ball on 72 of their 79 offensive plays and rolled up 557 yards of total offense. Senior Sam Tvedt carried the ball 10 times for 176 yards, but it’s senior quarterback Taylor Parsons who is the key for William Penn.
“A lot of our game is determined by the quarterback,” Hafner said. “He has to make two or three reads on every play. We put a lot on him.”
Taking the field at the DakotaDome also puts a lot on the visiting players, and Hafner saw that first-hand five years ago.
“The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Our kids don’t get to experience something like this very often, if ever. It’s one of those things we’ll have to adjust to early in the game.”
Another adjustment for William Penn? Keeping up with the speed of the Coyotes, who had 370 yards of offense against Oregon.
“Everyone talks about how fast Oregon is, but plenty of times we saw a South Dakota guy chase down an Oregon guy, and that’s scary,” Hafner said.
“The challenge before us is unlike anything we’ll see the rest of the year.”
BY JEREMY HOECK
Next guy up.
That’s the rallying cry this week for the South Dakota State and University of South Dakota football teams, which will both rely on backup quarterbacks for Saturday’s respective home openers.
It was a costly season opener for both the Jackrabbits and Coyotes last Saturday in guarantee games at No. 24 Missouri and No. 3 Oregon, respectively.
Jacks senior quarterback Austin Sumner sustained fractures to three bones in his right during the first quarter, while Coyote junior quarterback Kevin Earl left in the third quarter with a right thumb injury.
Still, life has to move on, according to SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier.
“I don’t feel bad for our football team, because you can’t, but I feel tremendously bad for Austin,” said Stiegelmeier, whose team hosts Cal Poly at 6 p.m. Saturday. “He’s literally the hardest working guy on our football team; the best leader on our team.”
The injury to their quarterback proves the adage the Jacks use on a daily basis, the coach added.
“It reminds us like we say every day in practice, ‘Play like it’s your last play,’ and he does that,” Stiegelmeier said.
Sumner will have an MRI this week to check for ligament damage, while Earl was to meet with specialists Tuesday to see if surgery is necessary — that could happen as soon as today (Wednesday).
The good news for SDSU and USD is that the backup quarterbacks combined to complete 72 percent of their passes last Saturday.
Jacks sophomore Zach Lujan saw the most time at Missouri. The native of Anchorage, Alaska, completed 21-of-28 passes for 239 yards, with an interception.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lujan came to Brookings after spending one season at Chabot College in California. There, he earned conference player of the year accolades — after being No. 6 on the depth chart in fall practices, Stiegelmeier joked.
“He went to junior college to better his situation,” Stiegelmeier said. “So his mentality was confident and ‘I want to play in these types of games at this level.’”
Down in Vermillion, the Coyotes will turn to sophomore Ryan Saeger, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound native of Hartland, Wisconsin. In two drives at Oregon, Saeger completed 5-of-8 passes for 62 yards.
“One of the better things in fall camp was that we identified Ryan as a backup quarterback,” said Glenn, whose team hosts NAIA William Penn at 2 p.m. Saturday. “He showed great leadership, and an ability to run or throw.
“We’ll miss Kevin a lot, but we’re very fortunate that Ryan came through.”
While it remains to be seen how long Earl is out for the Coyotes, the coaching staff knows Saeger — who missed all of spring drills — can step up and move the ball, according to Glenn.
“We were happy with what Ryan did in fall camp. We’re excited about his opportunity,” Glenn said. “We’ll miss our John Wayne guy at quarterback — Kevin will be dearly missed.”
BY JEREMY HOECK
EUGENE, Ore. – I overheard someone in Eugene say on Thursday, “We could probably score 100 (points) if we wanted to.”
The idea, obviously, is that the University of Oregon could do just about anything it wanted to against the University of South Dakota for Saturday night’s season-opening college football game.
The question is: Will the Ducks do that? Will they need to?
Let’s be honest, the game is going to get out of hand, and quickly. Oregon is simply too fast, too talented, too deep, too experienced, too everything. They’re among the elites of college football. They’re expected to pound FCS opponents – that’s the whole reason they schedule these games.
One website I came across has the Ducks favored by 51 points, and that’s probably giving USD a little credit.
The truth is, Oregon will have a hard time NOT scoring. Their offense – if you’ve watched any of the Ducks’ games in recent seasons – is based on the idea that you never stop. In last season’s 66-3 win over FCS Nicholls State, Oregon had scoring drives that averaged six plays and 67 yards. And in all, the Ducks rolled up 772 yards of total offense (and QB Marcus Mariota sat out the entire fourth quarter when the lead was 45-3).
And it’ll be much the same case Saturday.
Now, you could make an argument that USD’s offense will eventually muster more than a field goal, especially late when Oregon’s second and third-team guys take the field. By that by point, the game will be all but decided.
There was a great line I heard this week from USD offensive lineman Sam McLeran, who takes over the center position this season. He said something like (and I’m paraphrasing), “We’re not sitting here thinking if we do this right, or if we do that right, we’ll have a chance.” That’s the realistic way to look at things, right?
Every coach of every team in any sport uses the ‘We expect to win’ line with their team, and I understand it. But at the same time, there’s the realistic part of you that thinks, ‘Oh, well, let’s just go out there and represent our program well.’ This isn’t Minnesota. This isn’t Iowa State. This is Oregon; the highest of high level college football.
You take the field, you find a way to keep from losing guys to injury, you accept the paycheck and you fly home. That’s the way it is in this kind of a situation.
Anything positive you can take away from a game like Saturday, you jump at it. If there’s one positive USD can leave Eugene with, it’s this: No other team this season will be as fast or as talented. And so, there are no surprises. You’ve seen the best.
BY JEREMY HOECK
EUGENE, Ore. – With still nearly 48 hours before the University of South Dakota football team takes the field against the vaunted Oregon Ducks, I’ve had some time to play tourist in Eugene.
My impression after spending one full day in “Track Town USA”? This place loves their Ducks.
Literally everywhere you go in this town (particularly in the area where I’ve explored) there is some reference to the Oregon ‘O’ or the Ducks or something with a yellow/green flavor. Keep in mind, Eugene is a little smaller than Sioux Falls, but this city is a Division I haven.
From the basketball arena (which is directly across the street from our hotel) to the new buildings on campus and even through parts of the city I’ve seen, Eugene supports its Ducks with incredible fervor.
My wife and I made the trip – actually more of a ‘working vacation’ – to Eugene for two key reasons: Saturday night’s football game between USD and Oregon, of course, but also to take care of her storage unit from her graduate school days in Eugene.
We got here early enough to clean out her storage space (surprisingly only took two hours) and then have some free time to explore Eugene. Most of Thursday afternoon we spent walking around the U of Oregon campus, where we walked through the massive library, saw the famed Hayward Field and even got invited to a brief bible study with some students.
This is no exaggeration: You can’t walk 50 feet without seeing some reference to the Ducks: Whether it’s messages written on the sidewalks, to signs posted on bulletin boards, to campus buildings, to the vehicles plastered with the ‘O’ or students wearing Ducks shirts, this is Ducks country.
It’s not something we see much of in our area, unless you routinely attend Husker games in Lincoln, Nebraska. We don’t have anything else to this scale in our immediate area.
Looking around Eugene, this to me, is exactly how a community should embrace its athletic teams. I’m not talking to the level of a Pac-12 school like Oregon, or even what I saw last year at Kansas, but something to where the support is obvious – where it’s in your face. This is something Vermillion has been working on, I can tell you that.
For now, though, it’s already been an amazing experience to see high-level support up close.