BY JEREMY HOECK
South Dakota State head football coach John Stiegelmeier was in Yankton on Wednesday as the featured speaker at Yankton Quarterback Club. He touched on a number of topics in his speech and ensuing Q&A session. Below is a short interview I had with him and then some notes.
On Yankton recruit J.J. Hejna: In saying the Bucks standout can play a lot of positions, Stiegelmeier said that once Hejna focuses solely on football in college, he could bulk up. The coach used former Jacks standout Adam Timmerman as an example. Timmerman, who went on to play in the NFL, gained 40 pounds in his first semester in Brookings.
On rivalry game at USD last November: “I credit their A.D. and their administration on how to redefine what a rivalry means.” He was referring to the absence of incidents before, during and after the games.
On progression of program: Said he remembers people 10 years ago questioning the move to Division I suddenly asking ‘Is that the best you can do?’ when SDSU lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs. “That’s a pretty good accomplishment, but it’s not close to what the expectations are in our program.”
On comparison to North Dakota State: Stiegelmeier pointed to SDSU’s budget being 61 percent of what NDSU’s is ($1.5 million more). “We’re not going to out-buy them.”
On standout running back Zach Zenner: “I hope we find a backup. This year he was beat up. He needs a break.” Stiegelmeier started by saying he doesn’t want Zenner to rush for 2,000 yards again next season.
On areas that need attention for 2014: Stiegelmeier pointed to losing four senior offensive linemen and four defensive lineman. “That’s really scary.” Said having a standout quarterback (Austin Sumner), running back (Zenner) and wide receiver (Jason Schneider) are “nothing without the fat guys in front of them.”
On 2014 schedule: SDSU has two open dates for this coming season, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27. Stiegelmeier said the program is seeking a sixth home game, and made an offer to another FCS school earlier Wednesday. He listed a couple of options, including Portland State which apparently said no to the offer.
On future scheduling: Jacks have FBS games announced with Missouri (2014), Kansas (2015) and Texas Christian (2016). Stiegelmeier said a 2017 FBS game has yet to be scheduled, but did mention Iowa State (2018) and Minnesota (2019).
On potential NFL prospects: Doug Peete (defensive end), Winston Wright (cornerback) and Bryan Witzmann (left tackle).
On recruiting a pair of junior college transfers, Landon Schultz and Travis Zimmerman (Iowa Western CC): Stiegelmeier said he is typically not a proponent of junior college kids. “I want to build a program on young guys, guys that will develop in your program.”
While speaking of recruiting, Stiegelmeier also had some strong words for the term ‘walk-on,’ particularly the way Nebraska uses that term — “they made it something it really isn’t.” “That costs a lot of young men the opportunity to play,” he said, pointing out that, at most, one or two walk-ons per year even see the field.
Stiegelmeier said SDSU refers to those recruits as “non-scholarship” athletes, “because we expect them to play.”