Jackrabbits picked second in Valley Football race
ST. LOUIS — The South Dakota State University football team has been picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference during the 2014 season, according to a preseason poll released Tuesday.
Three-time defending national champion North Dakota State again was tabbed as the conference favorite in the poll, which was conducted by the league’s coaches, sports information directors and select media representatives. NDSU has won 24 consecutive games entering the 2014 season.
The Bison earned 24 of a possible 39 first-place votes and 370 total points. South Dakota State was picked second in the poll after tying for second place and representing the league in the FCS playoffs a year ago. The Jackrabbits received eight first-place votes.
Perennial FCS power Northern Iowa was selected third in the poll after going 7-5 last year, with Youngstown State and Southern Illinois completing the upper-half of the poll.
Illinois State and Missouri State were picked sixth and seventh, respectively, with South Dakota, Western Illinois and Indiana State completing the 10-team poll.
A preseason favorite has claimed the league crown 16 times (in 28 previous polls). North Dakota State was picked to win the league last season.
In addition, six Jackrabbit players were named to the MVFC Preseason Team. Leading the SDSU contingent was senior running back Zach Zenner, who already holds the league record for career all-purpose yards and needs less than 300 yards to set the conference’s all-time rushing mark. Zenner has rushed for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
Fellow senior Austin Sumner was tabbed as the quarterback on the preseason team. An honorable mention all-MVFC honoree in 2013, Sumner threw for 2,999 yards en route to setting SDSU career records for completions, yards and attempts.
Sumner’s primary target a season ago, Jason Schneider, also was honored on the preseason team. Schneider set a Jackrabbit single-season record with 78 receptions for 1,088 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013 to earn first-team all-MVFC honors.
Completing the Jackrabbits’ selections on the offensive side of the ball was offensive lineman Trevor Greger. A senior, Greger has started 30 consecutive games at right tackle over the past three seasons.
Sophomore Cole Langer, a member of the MVFC Newcomer Team in 2013, was selected to the preseason team after a freshman season in which he recorded 35 tackles.
Honorable mention selection T.J. Lally rounded out the Jackrabbit preseason honorees. A junior linebacker, Lally finished second on the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, including 89 stops in 2013.
North Dakota State led the league with eight selections to the preseason team, followed by SDSU and UNI with six.