Stiegelmeier at Yankton QB Club

 

BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

John Stiegelmeier said he learned something rather important last fall.

The South Dakota State head football coach and his assistant coaches sent out a text message to their players last May with the following message: ‘top 8 seed.’

The message was to serve as a motivation for the Jackrabbits, who came into the 2015 season although ranked but maybe not expected to finish as one of the top eight seeds for the FCS playoffs – which would have meant a first-round bye and a second-round home game.

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SDSU football coach John Stiegelmeier speaks to a Yankton resident on Wednesday at Yankton QB Club. (Jeremy Hoeck/P&D)

“We sent that in every text and every email after that; top 8 seed, to raise the bar with a team that you should be saying that to,” Stiegelmeier told the Yankton Quarterback Club crowd on Wednesday afternoon.

Ultimately, SDSU came up just short of a top-8 seed but still got a postseason invitation – the program’s fourth in a row. The Jacks lost on the road at Montana in the first round.

While SDSU was frustrated that it got out-bid by Montana for that playoff opener, Stiegelmeier said he still learned a valuable lesson throughout the season.

“Never doubt, never question a bunch of young men that have banded together and worked their tails off,” he said, referring to the ‘top 8 seed’ message.

Making his annual visit to Yankton QB Club the Wednesday after National Signing Day, Stiegelmeier touched on a number of other topics during his speech.

Yankton Players

One of the 29 recruits announced last week by the Jackrabbits was Yankton High School senior Bradey Sorenson, who is a nationally-ranked long snapper.

Sorenson will join five other Yankton graduates on the 2016 roster in Brookings, and that was understandably a popular topic Wednesday.

Stiegelmeier said Yankton fans should be especially proud of defensive lineman Kellen Soulek.

“Kellen came in with some pressure on him,” the coach said. “I’m more proud of this; he’s a better student in college than he was in high school.”

Soulek, who made 33 tackles (with 0.5 sacks and an interception) last season for the Jacks, could be an NFL prospect if he was on the offensive line, according to Stiegelmeier.

Another Yankton graduate, Brady Hale, was SDSU’s starting punter last season and his backup was another former Buck, Troy Hunhoff. Stiegelmeier said he looks forward to that battle in the spring.

The Jackrabbits have moved Yankton native Evan Greeneway from tight end to tackle, while Matt Fitzgerald is “working his tail off to get stronger,” Stiegelmeier said.

The coach also commended Yankton’s program, under head coach Arlin Likness, for the development of Division I-ready players.

“Credit to Arlin Likness, credit to your community, credit to these young men working their tails off,” Stiegelmeier said. “These young men are playing at a high level of football.”

Recruiting Class

Stiegelmeier also made very clear during his speech that SDSU does not use the term “walk-on” during the recruiting process, instead calling those players – like Sorenson – “non-scholarship athletes.”

“I don’t use the term the school down south in Nebraska uses; walk-on,” he said, “because I don’t think it’s fair to recruit 60 walk-ons and two play, and then boast that that’s an honor.”

One of the six South Dakota players the Jacks signed last week was Mitchell quarterback Kanin Nelson, who Stiegelmeier said is already enrolled in classes at SDSU and is working out with the team.

That is becoming a trend with Division I schools, Stiegelmeier said.

“Ohio State probably has 10 true freshmen at their school right now that are going to go through winter workouts,” he said. “Instead of having your 10th semester when your eligibility is done, they are literally coming early.”

Nelson will be a “seasoned guy” by the time fall camp rolls around in August, Stiegelmeier added.

“That’s a way of the world at our level of football,” he said.

Contract Situation

Stiegelmeier was asked Wednesday about the South Dakota Board of Regents situation with multi-year contracts versus the current policy of one-year contracts.

The issue came up two weeks ago when the Regents decided to pursue a permanent salutation rather than grant the University of South Dakota a one-time exception to hire new football coach Bob Nielson to a multi-year deal.

The current BOR policy prohibits multi-year contracts for “non-faculty exempt employees such as coaches,” as the Associated Press put it.

Stiegelmeier, who said SDSU has been working on such a policy push for three years “behind the scenes,” said there isn’t one Division I football coach in the country that does not have a multi-year contract.

He said it presents a problem when he tries to hire assistant coaches – which he is currently doing – who may be coming from other schools with a multi-year contract.

“If you’ve grown up in South Dakota, you don’t just snap your fingers and things change,” said Stiegelmeier, a native of Selby.

UPDATED: USD football commit list

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Pierre QB Brevin Kaiser (P&D File Photo)

With National Signing Day looming on Wednesday, I’ve been trying to keep track of commitments for the University of South Dakota. Here’s what I have, as of Sunday night.

I’ve organized the list by state, beginning with South Dakota, and then identified any players that had any other previously-reported verbal commitments.

I’ll update this list with any new additions/changes.

South Dakota

Ethan Roth (DT, Harrisburg, S.D.)

Jacob Headlee (DT, Harrisburg, S.D.)

Brevin Kaiser (QB, Pierre, S.D.)

Jack Peery (WR, Sioux Falls O’Gorman)

Dodi Makwinja (RB/MLB, Sioux Falls O’Gorman)

Nebraska

Trystn Ducker (WR, Bellevue, Nebraska)

Joe Schlager (RB/FS, McCook, Nebraska)

Connor Thiele (MLB, Oakland, Nebraska)

Illinois

Ben Klett (RB/OLB, Lake Zurich, Illinois) ** previous WIU commit

Tyler Tsagalis (QB, Niles, Illinois) ** previous WIU commit

Phillip Powell (WR, Chicago, Illinois) ** previous WIU commit

Minnesota

Tre Morris (OT/OG, Circle Pines, Minnesota)

Nick Kramer (DE, Plymouth, Minnesota) ** previous Minnesota commit

Iowa

Mason Scheidegger (DT, Newell, Iowa)

Missouri

Justin Lewis (OT, St. Louis, Missouri)

Kansas

Mark Collins Jr. (CB/FS, Stilwell, Kansas)

Wisconsin

Brett Samson (TE/MLB, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin)

Sam Ruetz (OL, Franklin, Wisconsin) ** previous WIU commit

Oklahoma

Michaelby Davis (DE, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

California

Kameron Cline (DE, San Diego, California)

Sean Chisholm (OT/OG, Camarillo, California)

Colorado

Elijah Reed (FS, Aurora, Colorado)

Florida

Randy Baker (WR/CB, Daytona Beach, Florida)

Dakarai Allen (WR/FS, Largo, Florida)

Marchalo Judge (SS, Tampa, Florida)

Isaiah Brown (WR/FS, Tampa, Florida) ** previous Florida International commit

Junior College

Ben Garlock (SS, Iowa Western CC)

MMC’s Incredible Run Continues

Nine days ago, Jeremy Hoeck and I looked at the upcoming schedule for the Mount Marty women and had just one thought: This could be a long two and a half weeks.

Then they beat Morningside, the top-ranked team in NAIA Division II at the time. (Lancers had lost to them 68-58 on Nov. 18)

Then they beat Concordia, tied for fifth in last week’s poll. (MMC lost to them 77-59 on Dec. 12)

Wednesday night, 15th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan fell to the Lancers. (MMC lost to them 72-47 on Nov. 24, the Lancers’ worst setback of the season.) That put the Lancers at 15-8 overall, 9-6 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.

And, if you want to go back a little further, the Lancers beat then No. 3 Hastings on Dec. 19.

If you ask the Lancer players, they credit both confidence and defense for helping the team make its current run (9 wins in 12 games, 4 over nationally-ranked opponents) possible. The defense can definitely be credited in the last two games, where teams that scored 72 and 77 points on MMC the first time around scored 60 and 52 points in round two. Even against Morningside, which scored 77 points on MMC, was held six points under their season average.

When looking at the stats, it is easy to look at the play of Alex Kneeland as being a factor. The senior from Summit is averaging 21.4 points per game – second in the GPAC and fourth in the nation in that category – by using laser-like precision from outside (.421).

But Kneeland’s numbers only tell part of the story.

Senior Raquel Sutera has been a double-double machine (8), averaging 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per season. Kellie Winckler (5.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) has had a couple of late as well. Logan Wagner, who is averaging 9 ppg, has found her stroke of late, including a career-high 26 points in the Morningside win.

Even some of the Lancers “role players” have had big games: Mikayla Prouty (4.3 ppg) with 23 points in the victory against McPherson (Kan.), Sam Blake (3.4 ppg) with 10 points on 5-5 shooting against Concordia, Sammy Kasowski (2.6 ppg) with 11 points against Northwestern, etc.

The run by MMC has the Lancers now in a tie for fifth with DWU and a game behind second-place Briar Cliff and Hastings. The final two games of their run of five straight games against nationally-ranked opponents ends with those two teams on the road, at No. 13 Hastings on Saturday and at No. 12 Briar Cliff on Feb. 3.

But even if the Lancers came come through those two games unscathed, things don’t get any easier. Doane, which beat Concordia by 36 on Wednesday night, comes to Laddie E. Cimpl on Feb. 6. Northwestern, which MMC replaced as the sixth GPAC team getting votes in the NAIA poll, hosts the Lancers on Feb. 10.

Needless to say, it could be an exciting February – and maybe March – for the Lancer women.