Football scene shifts to Harrisburg
After having its annual spring game canceled earlier this week, the South Dakota State University football is scheduled to resume workouts Saturday with a pair of events in Harrisburg.
The Jackrabbits are scheduled to hold a practice from 9:15-11 Saturday morning, followed by a scrimmage from 2-3:45 p.m. Both events at Harrisburg High School are open to the public.
John Stiegelmeier, who is entering his 17th season as head coach, said much of the focus during spring ball has been on winning battles at the point of attack. For example, the offensive and defensive lines constantly drill against each other and running backs go against linebackers in live-ball settings.
"We've upped that level of commitment in practice," Stiegelmeier said. "We're trying to put guys in every phase of the game in a live situation to become a better football team."
Stiegelmeier said spring ball is a time to reinforce the fundamentals, especially when a number of players are not only vying for a place on the depth chart, but one of 95 roster spots allotted for fall camp.
"That allows those young guys a chance to succeed," Stiegelmeier said. "We need a lot of young guys to play championship-level football."
By stressing proper technique and other fundamentals, Stiegelmeier said the goal will be to those translate to having his team continue to play physically, but with discipline.
"We had way too many unforced and unnecessary penalties last season," he said.
Extended wintry weather and poor field conditions have forced the Jackrabbits to alter their practice schedule several times and seek alternate practice locations. Eight of the team's 12 practices so far have been held outdoors at on-campus practice fields. The team also has held practice sessions at Fifth Street Gym and Swiftel Center in Brookings, as well as the Sanford Fieldhouse in Sioux Falls.
Construction of an on-campus indoor practice and human performance center has received approval from the South Dakota Board of Regents and state Legislature, with the project slated to begin in July. Construction is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2014. Thus far, $29 million of the estimated $32 million needed to complete the full scope of the project has been raised.
Teams are allowed 15 practices during the spring season, which originally was scheduled to conclude this Saturday with the spring game at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Instead, the schedule will likely extend into the last full week of April, which also is the final week of classes for the spring semester.
The Jackrabbits finished the 2012 season with a 9-4 overall record, reaching the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the second time in four years. SDSU opens the 2013 campaign Aug. 31 by hosting Butler (Ind.).