Spring ball provides fresh start for 2012 Jackrabbits


For the SDSU football team, spring means simple.

Coming off of their second straight season of finishing at 5-6, the Jackrabbits are working on the little things that could improve on that mark, one that turned sour fast when the Jacks started the season with four consecutive losses in 2011.

Now starts the simplification of sorts, almost an annual rite of spring football practice. The coaches don’t want to overload their players with too much new information, and focus instead on technique.

“From a coaches’ standpoint, you have to build your smaller groups and you have to go beyond the bench press and the 40 times and get to know kids and work on the technical aspects of the game,” SDSU football head coach John Stiegelmeier said.

The reinforcement of the basics doesn’t mean there won’t be a few new wrinkles. The Jacks enter with a sole offensive coordinator in Eric Eidsness, after co-offensive coordinator Luke Meadows left SDSU after a decade to take a job at Florida Atlantic. Don’t expect big changes, outside of the addition of more formations from the offensive side of the ball, though almost everyone involved feels more comfortable than they did a year ago.

“He’s got his own little wrinkles. We have quite a bit back and we have good guys that are coming back and have a year of experience under their belt and I do too. We’re excited and we’re feeling good about our upcoming season,” quarterback Austin Sumner said.

The defense will have less experience, in a way. After being ravaged by injuries, SDSU rolled out as many players as they could, stretching themselves thin at some spots but giving players time that is not undervalued.

“If a guy has to play some, even if he runs down on kickoff for a few games, the game will slow down and that helps you when you play your position,” Stiegelmeier said.

As the hitting increases, the defense will likely have the early edge based on the history of previous springs. That unit will relish every moment, especially considering how things turned out a year ago.

“We always hit a little harder,” defensive back Bo Helm said of his unit but with a caveat. “The offense is going to say the same thing. We obviously didn’t play as well as would have liked last season as a defense and we want to get better over the next few weeks.”

Stiegelmeier says he expects a lot of competition at the wide receiver, running back and linebacker spots, almost all of which won’t be decided until fall camp in August for the Jackrabbits, who open the season at Kansas on Sept. 3. That includes competition on special teams, which will be a first for the Jacks, according to Stiegelmeier, where they will have players compete for spots to be on the field in the heavily valued game of field position.

It’s all part of the build up to the annual culmination of the spring season every year: the intra-squad scrimmage at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium April 21 at 3 p.m.

“We can’t have gray areas. I don’t care which side of the ball is better or who wins the spring game because we win the spring game. I’ve won every spring game since I’ve been here,” Stiegelmeier deadpanned. “We all win by having mastering our duties.”

Jokes aside, the Jackrabbits know that this is the time of year to fix problems the team has had over the last months and the time together is invaluable for when they keep score.

“When we gain that experience, we’re going to know what to do when the games count” offensive lineman Bryan Witzmann said.