Looking Forward

Jamie Tanata

Jamie Tanata

Next year’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a tough, tough year because of who we play and where we play them and so on. But I have faith in these guys that their going to be ready for it and that’s why spring ball’s so important. (SDSU football coach John Stiegelmeier)

That sentiment opened SDSU’s 2003 spring football practice.

Coming off a 6-4 season and a fourth place finish in the North Central Conference, SDSU signed 19 players to their football team for the 2003 season.

“You go out and look at your needs, especially at our level,” Eric Eidsness, SDSU’s offensive coordinator said. “You really just look at your depth chart and say, ‘Okay, we need more numbers at this position or that position. We need some players to play in the future.'”

Some of those future players include three quarterbacks, four linebackers and three defensive backs.

One of the spots the newcomers will vie for is the starting quarterback position.

Dan Fjeldheim finished his SDSU career ranked second in passing yards with 2,601.

Sophomore Brad Nelson is looking to slip into the roll but the transition will not be uncontested.

“We felt like last year if Dan would have gone down, Brad could have gone in there and done a great job,” Eidsness said.

Next year will be Nelson’s third in the program but he has not faced any competition.

“We have a ton of confidence in him. So as far as being more conservative because he’s young or because our quarterbacks young, we’re going to run our offense and go after it.”

Nelson will be bolsteredby a solid receiving corps.

Junior Jeff Hesse, Redshirt freshman Josh Davis along with sophomore Solomon Johnson will look to continue last year’s success. The trio were part of the conference leading pass offense.

The team has a cache of talented receivers hopefully making Nelson’s job a bit easier, Eidsness said.

Another key position that must be filled is running back.

Scott Nedved had the daunting task of following Josh Ranek’s stellar career at SDSU.

Nedved did a solid job amassing 899 total yards last year.

“Running back-wise, we graduated a very experienced player there. Walter Dosh had one start last year against North Dakota State, I think he had 146 yards against them. So he’s shown he can do it,” Eidsness said.

Stiegelmeier recognizes last year’s efforts, “Last year was a situation where, I mean you always want to have a player like Josh Ranek, but it reminded us that everybody plays an important role in the success of a football team. So I think last year was a confidence builder.”

Confidence was also gained by the offensive line last year.

“We played a lot of young offensive line men last year and now they’re coming back with a lot more experience and we expect them to really do a lot for us up front both in pass protection and in run blocking,” Eidsness said.

Anchors for that line will be seniors Ben Studer, Andrew Wagstrom and Whinston Kaleimamahu.

This may be a new year but last year’s motto still stands.

“I’m going to go back to what the seniors introduced last year, it’s one game at a time, it’s one week at a time, it’s one day at a time,” he said. “And right now I’m thinking about spring ball. It’s going to be a difficult year without a doubt.”

Difficulty was magnified with the loss of five linebackers and defensive coordinator Greg Etter.

“I’m perusing different avenues,” Etter said.

He said he has no definite plans for what he will do for the future.

As for SDSU, Doug McFadden has been added to the coaching staff as Secondary Defensive Coach. McFadden was a previous Secondary Defensive Coach Coordinator for one season at Lanksten University, Okla.

With the turnover, Stiegelmeier will take over the defense.

The defense will be a focal point during the spring.

“Defensively we need to eliminate the big play. To do that we can vary our defense some so ideally an offense not only has to out execute you but they have to figure out what you’re in at the snap of the ball,” Stiegelmeier said.

The strength of the defense will lie in the secondary.

Kevin Brown will lead four seniors in trying to negate the air attack. They will try to excede the 14 interceptions they tallied last year.

But don’t think the team is looking ahead yet.

“I want to try to get a year’s worth of experience out of these next 15 practices. So there’s no relaxing, it’s just a push,” Stiegelmeier said.

That’s all they’ll have, 15. Hopefully those 15 will prove to give the team enough time to get in shape and correct any flaws.

If that happens, Stiegelmeier like the Jacks chances.

“I don’t know if there is going to be a team to beat,” he said. “Honestly, I hope some day people are talking about us and maybe next year will be our year.”

Maybe this is that year.

Either way, be sure the team is looking forward to it.

#1.886945:1163107424.jpg:footballpreview.jpg:Kevin Brown, 20, and Ben Studer look to lead SDSU?s football team to the top of the North Central Conference in 2003. :