The South Dakota State football team has once again been selected as one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, checking in at No. 5 in the HERO Sports 2018 Preseason Poll, which was released Tuesday.
The Jackrabbits are coming off their most successful season at the FCS level after ending the campaign with a school-record 11 wins against three losses and reaching the playoff semifinals for the first time in program history. SDSU made its sixth consecutive appearance in the FCS Playoffs last season.
SDSU is one of five Missouri Valley Football Conference schools to be included in the preseason top 25. Defending national champion North Dakota State is first, followed by the Jackrabbits in fifth. Illinois State was tabbed 12th, followed by Northern Iowa at No. 13 and Youngstown State in the 20th spot.
In addition, four Jackrabbit players – two on defense and a pair on special teams –were named to the 2018 FCS Preseason All-American Team by HERO Sports.
First-team selections were linebacker Christian Rozeboom and kicker Chase Vinatieri. A junior from Sioux Center, Iowa, Rozeboom has been the team’s leading tackler each of the past two seasons, including registering 127 stops in 2017. Rozeboom tallied 10 or more tackles in seven of the squad’s 14 games last season, while adding two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Vinatieri, a junior from Sioux Falls, finished the 2017 season second on the team in scoring with 103 points. He made 13-of-14 field goal tries with a long of 55 yards, while booting a school-record 58 extra points in 62 attempts. He also scored a rushing touchdown on a fake field goal play.
Earning third-team recognition were cornerback Jordan Brown and return specialist Cade Johnson. A senior from Scottsdale, Arizona, Brown led the team with nine pass breakups and three forced fumbles, while ranking second in both tackles (72) and interceptions (3).
Johnson, a sophomore from Papillion, Nebraska, established a new Jackrabbit single-season record in 2017 with 839 kickoff return yards, averaging 28 yards on 30 attempts. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season en route to leading the team with 1,166 all-purpose yards as he added 318 receiving yards on 23 catches.
South Dakota State is scheduled to open the 2018 season Sept. 1 at Iowa State.
Photo from www.gojacks.com.