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  • Writer's pictureTanner Castora

Young names emerge at SDSU Spring Game

He told his QB Coach Danny Freund he would do it and he did — Mark Gronowski and the offense marched right down the field during the opening possession of the game capped off by an Angel Johnson 2-yard Touchdown run to complete the 12-play 65-yard drive. 

It was the only drive Gronowski would see the field during Saturday’s South Dakota State Spring Game, sticking right to Ryan Olson and Danny Freund’s plan. The rest of the first team offense would stay on the field into the second half with Chase Mason taking over control under center. 

SDSU junior QB Chase Mason has been opening eyes with his play over spring ball practice

The Viborg-Hurley product looked smooth as ever dishing out dimes to Griffin Wilde and Kentrell Prejean, finishing the day going 7/8, for 110 yards and 1 TD. Gronowski was a clean 5/5 for 38 yards, and quietly, Jon Bell had a nice day going 6/6 for 54 yards. 

Crazier things have happened in the modern-day world of college football, but Mark Gronowski appears to be ready to lead the Jackrabbits to a potential three-peat come September. 

Gronowski is the best player in the FCS, but Mason has put in the work, and he’ll see a bit more playing time this season. There will be some two QB packages this year, and it should make for some really fun and creative plays. 

Before writing any further, here is every player who was not active on Saturday (22 total players):

#2 Marcus Preston (WR)

#6 Jalen B. Lee (CB)

#8 Blake Peterson (DE)

#9 Caleb Francl (LB) 

#12 Grahm Goering (WR) 

#16 Noah St-Juste (CB) 

#20 Kirby Vorhees (RB) 

#23 Matthew Durrance (Safety) 

#26 Kolten Tilford (Safety) 

#38 Trevor Scott (LB)

#39 Isaac Kracl (RB)

#44 Kevin Brenner (TE)

#47 Kytan Fyfe (LB)

#50 Nick Wells (DE)

#55 Aaron Wolfcale-Holsten (DT) 

#58 Jackson Kerstin (OL) 

#81 Joey Neumann (TE)

#82 Ky Oday Jr. (WR)

#83 David Alpers (TE) 

#84 Joe Randle (WR)

#85 Joe Roll (WR) 

#88 Greyton Gannon (TE) 

Even after a serious knee injury suffered last season, Colby Christensen was expected to start at left tackle for the Jacks in 2024 with the departure of Garet Greenfield (Christensen did start at left tackle on Saturday). Then Oklahoma transfer Marcus Hicks (brother of Quinton Hicks, former SDSU defensive end) joined the program. There will be serious competition come fall camp; it will be fascinating to watch that battle. 

There will be competition at left guard as well, but according to several people I talked with, Ethan Vibert has established himself as the leader of the pack and got the start on Saturday. 

With Gus Miller, the best center in the FCS, and Evan Beernsten, an All-American caliber guard at his right hip, the offensive line has quite the pieces to build around. Quinton Christensen, who was inserted as a sixth blocker at times left season, started at right tackle during the Spring Game; but the defensive line looked to be the better unit on Saturday. 

Jarod DePriest and Max Baloun are two of the biggest defensive tackles in probably all of FCS football; they’re established — It’s the rush-man on the outside that will be asked to step into much bigger roles. 

We’ll take a look at many names come fall camp, but someone to keep your eye on is soon to be sophomore Reis Kirschenman from Tea Area High School. He’s up to 245 pounds, that’s 22 pounds he’s adding to his frame since stepping onto campus. Head Coach Jimmy Rogers also mentioned Dawson Ripperda as a youngster who’s been shining, he had three sacks on Saturday. 

Another Tea Area product, Chase Van Tol, was called “the next great one” by Jimmy Rogers in a postgame interview. Van Tol had five tackles on Saturday and has a real chance to see the field next season, but the linebacker core, just like a year ago, is probably the deepest of any position group on the team… and will once again be led by All-American linebacker Adam Bock. Cullen McShane is another young linebacker who caught my attention this past weekend, he runs very well and has good size at 6'1 225. 

The offense will have a few new weapons to work with — One of which is soon to be sophomore Kentrell Prejean. He’s cat-like quick out of the slot but has the speed to beat you vertically as well. I expect him to be a starter from day one come September. He had a few nice catches on Saturday, including a touchdown snag via Chase Mason. 

Redshirt freshman Davin Stoffel, at 6'6, 250, looks to be the next main target at tight end for the Rabbits next season and got off to a good start on Saturday with 4 grabs for 29 yards. 

Brenden Begeman came to SDSU a year ago after setting the all-time rushing record in the state of South Dakota with 2,976 yards. He has a ways to go before he’s earning carries in the backfield at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium on Saturday’s, but he showed flashes off what could be to come one day after breaking off a 70-yard touchdown run to give the offense the go-ahead score. 

True freshman safety Trey Ridley came up with the lone turnover of the day completing a diving interception from a Jeff Becker pass. 

The defense began the game leading 17–0, but with three touchdowns scored, it was the offense who came away victorious 21–17. 

The two-time defending FCS National Champions open the 2024 season on the road in Stillwater, Oklahoma against Oklahoma State on August 31st.


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