College Football

New faces headline SDSU Spring Game

By Andrew Holtan

The Brookings Register

Posted 4/13/24

South Dakota State football held its spring game on Saturday at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex and the offense came away with a 21-17 victory.

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College Football

New faces headline SDSU Spring Game


BROOKINGS — South Dakota State football held its spring game on Saturday at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex and the offense came away with a 21-17 victory. 

The defense started with a 17-0 lead and the two units played two 25-minute halves with a running clock.

“There was good [stuff] and there was bad [stuff[,” said SDSU head coach Jimmy Rogers after the game. “... The growth that has been made from a lot of guys who have a lot of talent from the start of Jan. 22 till now has been exponential.”

Senior quarterback Mark Gronowski and the first team offense took the field to begin the game and the decorated quarterback led his team down the field for a touchdown. Junior running back Angel Johnson capped off the drive with a two-yard score.

Juniors Chase Mason and John Bell took over quarterback duties for the rest of the day. Mason found sophomore standout Griffin Wilde for a big gain on his first drive of the day. He then led the offense on a two-minute drill before halftime and it was redshirt freshman wide receiver Kentrell Prejean who stole the show.

Prejean caught three passes during the two-minute drill, including a one-yard touchdown just before halftime to close the deficit to 17-14. Rogers had high praise for the Lafayette, Louisiana native after the game as he said he could be the next Cade Johnson, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks after a great career with SDSU.

Newly appointed offensive play caller and offensive line coach Ryan Olson said Prejean had showcased his talents throughout spring practices and he was happy that Prejean was able to show the fans what he’s capable of.

“Most people are going to say he’s undersized, but there are a couple things we love about him. Number one, he’s extremely athletic. We like to use the word twitchy. He’s sudden, he can change direction, he’s got great body control, he’s got great hands. But the other reason I love Kentrell is he loves football. He loves practice and he’s always got a smile on his face. … [The production that he showed on Saturday] is something we’ve seen a lot this spring and I’m glad it came out today and he had the opportunity to make some plays,” Olson said.

The offense was able to put one more touchdown on the board in the second half. Redshirt freshman Brendan Begeman, who is from Selby, took a hand off with just over five minutes to play and broke free for a 70-yard score to give the offense the lead and the victory.

“I’m proud of Begeman,” Rogers said. “He’s taken huge jumps. He competes on special teams and is really a serious kid that tries to get better. He’s done a great job because he’s taken a large jump from where he started to where he’s at right now,”

One of the bigger question marks heading into next year’s season is going to be who is going to fill out the offensive line. SDSU graduated its two tackles and left guard in Garret Greenfield, John O’Brian and Mason McCormick. Gus Miller will return at center and Evan Beerntsen will come back as the right guard but those other three positions are up for grabs.

SDSU brought in senior tackle Marucs Hicks as a transfer from Oklahoma. He and sophomore Quinten Christensen, who saw action last season as an extra blocker, will be in position to start at the tackle positions. Rogers mentioned senior Ethan Vibert and redshirt freshman William Paepke will likely battle it out for the left guard position.

Olson said he likes the depth he has on the offensive line despite all of the production he lost in Greenfield, McCormick and O’Brian. 

“I’m really pleased with [the offensive line’s] growth this spring,” Olson said. “I think we’re going to have some depth, especially up the middle. Particularly at guard, but also at center. I feel good about that situation. In any event I think whoever wins that battle [at the other guard] is going to be more than capable of giving us what we need in the run game and in protection.

“ … [Quinten Christiansen] has taken huge strides physically. He’s continued to get stronger and refine some things from a technical standpoint and it’s been really exciting to see that growth.”

SDSU also lost  Zach Heins to graduation. Heins joined the likes of Dallas Goedert and Tucker Kraft to have fantastic careers at tight end for SDSU. The Jacks will now look at three underclassmen to fill his production in sophomores David Alpers and Brody Gormley and redshirt freshman Davin Stoffel.

“David Alpers started off great in the first part of spring ball,” Rogers said. “He came down on his shoulder funny but he’ll be back. … Davin Stoffel I think will be the next great one and Brody Gormley, if he can stay on track, will be really special for us.”

The SDSU defense will return a lot of players that saw action in 2023, but the Jacks did lose five starters from a year ago. Rogers said the defense still has a lot of depth and there won’t be much of a drop off from a defense that was historically good in 2023.  

“We recruit as a team really aggressively and try to develop these kids as fast as possible and this is the result. You give them more reps and opportunities in a game scenario and they never drop a beat,” Rogers said.

The spring game puts an end to spring practices and players will participate in player led practices until fall camp opens up in early August. The Jacks will kick off the 2024 season on Aug. 31 at Oklahoma State.

Rogers compared this offseason to the one before the 2020 COVID season and SDSU made the National Championship that year.

“I feel good. … This is really no different than the transition we had in 2020 when we went to the National Championship. Mason McCormick and Zach Heins were pups back then. Zach Heins first touchdown was against Northern Iowa in the [season opener that year]. It’s been a long time since then but it feels like yesterday,” Rogers said.