Football spring practice concludes with scrimmage

Sloppy play leaves many position battles open heading to summer

The South Dakota State University football team took the field for their first ever indoor spring game at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex on Saturday. The offense won the match up 45-35.

Head Coach John Stiegelmeir was not impressed with the game as a whole.

“Sloppy. I thought we started sloppy, I think we played some good football at times but I’m all about ‘offense do your job, defense do your job,’ but if you jump offsides or hold a guy in pass defense that’s sloppy–those things we can correct on.”

The Jacks have a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the football heading into the 2015 season after losing senior running back Zach Zenner and senior quarterback Austin Sumner. The battles for the starting jobs at these positions should go on throughout the summer and into fall camp.

The public got a glimpse of how each of these position battles are coming along Saturday as we saw three different quarterbacks and four different running backs play.

At quarterback, sophomore Douglas Dalton got the start. Later senior Tyler Finnes and redshirt freshman Chris Little played as well. Junior Zach Lujan, who started seven games last season has not been able to practice due to an injury.

Stiegelmeier still thinks this is a wide open race.

“I think all of them didn’t stand in the pocket,” Stiegelmeier said. “They need to mature, they need to slow it down, but we didn’t solidify the depth chart at the quarterback position today.”

Chris Little was the only quarterback to throw a touchdown as he threw a 12 yard pass to Trevor Wesley. Little went 7-18 passing attempts for 71 passing yards and a touchdown. 

Stiegelmeier was high on Little’s performance.

“I thought Chris Little had the best day,” Stiegelmeier said and then added, “I hope he believes he can be that guy that can take over the team.” 

The quarterbacks seemed to get forced out of the pocket and had scrambled numerous times, something that Stiegelmeier does not want to see.

“Stand in the pocket and throw the ball. The plays are designed to sit back there and go ‘one, two, three’ make the decision and if not throw to back and you saw us throw to the back a bunch, but we couldn’t even do that effectively, but they can work on these skills throughout the summer,” Stiegelmeier said.

Sophomore Brady Mengarelli got the starting nod at running back. Mengarelli was the back-up to Zenner last season. Senior Reggie Gandy, junior Kyle Paris, and redshirt freshman Isaac Wallace all also got some work in. Paris led all with 56 rushing yards on 12 attempts including a nine yard touchdown.

Another position battle that Coach Stiegelmeier is keeping his eye on is the safety position. Senior Chris Ballaster, who tied linebacker TJ Lally for a game high tackles with seven, is one of the men fighting for one of the starting safety positions. Others include junior Nick Mears, sophomore Nick Farina, and redshirt freshman Alex Romanesko. 

“I think a really bright spot is Chris Ballaster, he’s a non-scholarship guy,” Stieglermeier said. “I’m guessing if we grade that film he grades off the best. Nick Mears is a really good football player but he didn’t make as many plays as Ballaster did but we got a good situation there.”

The Jacks set not only a spring game attendance record but also a S-JAC attendance record.

“[I am] very appreciative. I’ve always appreciated the support of the true Jackrabbits, it was fun to see the students here. Our administration deserves a ton of credit for promoting the game,” Stiegelmeier said.

The spring game concludes spring practices. The Jacks will report to camp in August before going to Lawrence, Kan. September 5 to take on Kansas University in their first regular season game.