SDSU football’s 2015 recruiting class features 21 scholarship players, including two with legendary last names, but for head coach John Stiegelmeier, a large part of the excitement comes from the home state kids.
“I think the fact that we have four South Dakota signees [is a big deal],” Stiegelmeier said. “It hasn’t been every year where there’s a good crop, or that good of crop, of guys at our level. That is not a knock on South Dakota football. There’s just a certain level of player that you need and we’re really excited to get four guys on scholarship.”
One of these four SD athletes is quarterback Taryn Christion out of Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls. A dual-threat quarterback, Christion looks to give the Jacks more athleticism and play calling options at the position in the coming years.
“He’s very athletic in terms of the quarterbacks we’ve had,” Stiegelmeier said. “He was a dual-threat guy in high school, very mature, very athletic, very confident, because he’s had a lot of success.”
Christion’s potential future backfield mate should bring back fond memories for Jackrabbit fans. Sam Zenner, the younger brother of all-time leading rusher at SDSU Zach Zenner, signed his letter of intent to play for the Jackrabbits on Wednesday.
“Trying to explain Sam Zenner, I think there are a lot of similarities and I think there are a lot of differences [between him and Zach],” Stiegelmeier said. “The similarities are the foundation and the hard work and the very high academics, very high expectations – those are just like Zach. The differences are he doesn’t think about being Zach’s brother. He thinks about coming to the best school that fits him and he’s going to go to work, so he’s really divorced himself from having to fill Zach’s shoes. … I’m excited about having him.”
Another familiar name in the class is Chase Vinatieri. Vinatieri is the nephew of former SDSU and current Indianapolis Colts kicker, Adam Vinatieri. He comes into SDSU with a three-star ESPN ranking and experience kicking and receiving.
Fellow SD native Brady Hale gives the Jackrabbits another option at kicker if Stiegelmeier wants to move Vinatieri to receiver. Hale looks to be the punter of the future, but he has kicking experience as well, including a 53-yard field goal in high school.
“Hopefully they don’t have to kick or punt next year as true freshmen, but they’re both very good,” Stiegelmeier said. “Chase Vinatieri is a very good kicker and can play wide receiver but he’s going to start out as a kicker. And then Brady Hale can really do both and is a very good athlete, but he’s programmed in to be a punter here someday and Vinatieri the kicker. I’m excited about both of them.”
Overall, the class did not have any major position focuses outside of perhaps kicker as SDSU just restocked the cupboard, also adding 17 walk-ons to their roster.
“We needed to fill our Christmas list needs and we did,” Stiegelmeier said. “I think as recruiting went on we probably signed an extra linebacker and an extra wide receiver than we thought we would originally because as we looked at our classes there was a need for one more, and that’s also supplement by our non-scholarship guys, so really we got what we wanted.”
Much of the class came together early on for the Jacks. Stiegelmeier said they already had 13 verbal commitments before the season ended, but afterwards things slowed a bit with SDSU picking up its final verbal on Jan. 28.
“The success, the vision of the whole university in terms of facilities – there’s a lot of positive things [to draw recruits],” Stiegelmeier said. “We don’t have to sell anything. We just have to be transparent and define who we were and we get the guys who we’re supposed to get.”
As for which of these players might play right away in the fall, Stiegelmeier has no answers until he gets them on the practice field, leaving fans to wait and wonder.
“I don’t know that yet,” Stiegelmeier said. “We’ve got a really good class of guys. I do think some of them will be ready to play. Whether we need them, whether they’re second-string at halfway through fall camp – that will be more up to them than me.”