ST. LOUIS – South Dakota State has been picked to finish second in the 2022 Missouri Valley Football Conference race, according to a preseason poll conducted among the league’s coaches, sports information directors and a select media panel that was announced Tuesday.
The Jackrabbits return 14 starters from last year’s squad that posted an 11-4 overall record, including a 5-3 mark in MVFC play, and reached the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. SDSU went on to reach the FCS semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
Defending league and national champion North Dakota State earned the top spot in the poll with 446 points and 39 first-place votes, followed by the Jackrabbits with the other two first-place votes and 407 points. Missouri State (355), Southern Illinois (306) and Northern Iowa (304) rounded out the top five.
Since joining the MVFC at the start of the 2008 season, SDSU has been picked to finish second in the league standings on seven occasions and was tabbed as the favorite in 2021.
In addition, nine Jackrabbit players were honored on the MVFC Preseason Team. Eight of the selections were first-team picks, including five on the offensive side of the ball.
Up front, offensive linemen Garret Greenfield and Mason McCormick were honored on the first team after helping pave the way for a Jackrabbit offense to average 36.1 points and 441.1 yards of total offense during the 2021 season.
Both of the Jackrabbits’ leading receivers from a year ago, wide receiver Jaxon Janke and tight end Tucker Kraft, also garnered first-team selections. Janke, a senior from Madison, posted team highs of 72 receptions and 1,165 receiving yards in 2021, while adding five touchdowns.
A junior from Timber Lake, Kraft caught 65 passes for 780 yards and six touchdowns a season ago.
Completing the list of first-team selections on offense was running back Isaiah Davis. A junior from Joplin, Missouri, Davis missed most of the 2021 regular season due to injury, but managed to finish second on the team with 701 rushing yards and seven touchdown after three consecutive 100-yard games in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. He has averaged nearly eight yards per carry through his first two seasons in a Jackrabbit uniform.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jackrabbits’ top three leaders in tackles for loss from last season all received first-team recognition.
Junior linebacker Adam Bock returns after tallying a team-best 125 total tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. A native of Solon, Iowa, Bock also intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and blocked a kick in 2021.
Senior defensive tackle Caleb Sanders led the Jackrabbits with 6.5 sacks a season ago and ranked second with 13 tackles for loss among his 34 total tackles. The Glenwood, Iowa, product has been an all-MVFC selection each of the past two seasons.
Fellow senior Reece Winkelman put up nearly identical numbers to Sanders last season en route to all-conference honors. A defensive end from Marshall, Minnesota, Winkelman posted a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss to go along with 5.5 sacks and 34 total tackles.
The lone second-team honor received by a Jackrabbit player went to quarterback Mark Gronowski. A sophomore from Naperville, Illinois, Gronowski helped lead SDSU to the FCS national title game during the 2020-21 spring season, but sat out last fall due to injury. In his first season in the lineup, Gronowski completed 57.4 percent (108-of-188) of his passes for 1,565 yards and 15 touchdowns, while adding another 577 yards (7.0 ypc) and seven touchdowns on the ground.
South Dakota State, coached by John Stiegelmeier, opens fall practice Friday. The Jackrabbits kick off the 2022 season Sept. 3 at Iowa and begin league play Sept. 24 at Missouri State.