LINCOLN NE - SEPTEMBER 25: Safety P.J. Smith #13 of the Nebraska Cornuskers brings down running back Kyle Minett #30.of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on September 25 2010 in Lincoln Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated South Dakota State 17-3. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
The ever important division 1AA opponent. It's meant to be a cupcake but in recent years these teams have sometimes proven that they are able to compete with the big boys. While it's not the norm, it seems to happen at least once or twice every year over the past five to six seasons. Does South Dakota State have the ability to sneak up on a Kansas team in transition?
Our first look at the Jackrabbits comes in the form of the SDSU depth chart. One item worth noting since the release of the chart is that starting quarterback Austin Sumner is listed as doubtful at the moment. That would change the style of quarterback that Kansas might face as well as the experience level but we might have to wait until Saturday to find out if Sumner actually plays or if he does indeed sit. If he's in, the quarterback position breaks down like this:
QB 1 - Austin Sumner - 6'5" 220 Soph
QB 2 - Erick Kline - 6'4" 205 RS Freshman
QB 3 - Tyler Fines - 6'4" 180 RS Freshman
Interesting that as hard as it sometimes seems to find a quarterback with legitimate size, South Dakota State manages to have three players 6'4" and up. Sumner is more of a traditional pocket passer while Kline can get out and move. Depending on the final word on Sumner, Kansas may see two very different quarterbacks.
The Jackrabbit offensive line stacks up well.
LT - Bryan Witzmann - 6'7" 300 JR
LG - Alex Parker - 6'5" 315 JR
C - Will Castle - 6'2" 310 SR
RG - Josh Kage - 6'4" 290 JR
RT - Trevor Greger - 6'5" 310 Soph
Honestly that line is comparable with just about any BCS level offensive line in terms of size. Everyone but Trevor Greger is a returning starter and Greger actually beat out John Fink who is a senior and started at right tackle last year they should be a very strong group for the Jackrabbits.
As coach Weis mentioned, SDSU likes to run out of a 12 personnel grouping. That's a one back, two tight end set. The two tight ends are good sized players that once again look the part on paper.
TE - Seth Daughters - 6'5" 250 SR
TE - Vince Benedetto - 6'3" 250 SR
The backfield two deep is young and fairly inexperienced.
RB - Zach Zenner - 6' 215 RsSoph
RB - Reginald Gandy - 5'9" 195 RsFr
Zenner started in a few games during his redshirt freshman season but was not the full time starter until this year. Zenner was however a very productive kick returner a season ago and surpassed the 400 yard mark out of the backfield. Gandy is obviously an unknown at this point.
The wideout position has quite a bit of experience returning including the teams leading rusher to go along with a returning starter and a few larger contributors.
WR - Tyrel Kool - 5'9" 190 - Sr
WR - Aaron Rollin - 6'1" 210 - Sr
WR - Brandon Hubert - 5'11" 185 - Jr
Kool is the leading rusher from a year ago and he also had the most touches in the passing game. Rollin was the second most target receiver and falls into a more traditional receiving role.
Overall the SDSU staff and the feeling surrounding the offense seems to be fairly optimistic. This was a 5-6 team a year ago with a 4-4 league record but they return a lot of key pieces so they could be poised to make a leap forward. Sumner's ability to go will be big if SDSU wants to really make some noise, but either way they should provide a good early test for a reworked Kansas defense looking to earn some respect in 2012.