Yellow Jackets Prepare for Fall Drills –
Black Hills State Yellow Jacket Football will begin preparation for their fall season on August 12th with forty new recruits going through a two-day orientation. Fifty returning veterans will report on the 14th with a great deal of optimism carrying over from last seasons Dakota Athletic Conference Championship, and a first ever NAIA Playoff birth. Head Coach John Scott and his staff are entering their fifth season and are looking to build on a solid core of returning players on both sides of the ball.
Offensively the Jackets return eight starters having to replace offensive guard Matt Ullrich, All-DAC receiver Kyle Gerik, and running back Clayton Bryan. On the defensive side of the ball the Jackets return seven starters, but must replace a trio of linebackers who started nearly every game in their four year careers and a four-year starter at cornerback. First team All-DAC linebacker Shad Schneider, inside backers Andy Coyle, and Travis Peetz will leave some big shoes to fill. Seven time all conference performer (cornerback & return specialist) Craig Tschetter will also be difficult to replace. The Jackets must also replace an outstanding kicker in Rocky Stevens, four-year punter Andy Christy.
Entering last fall the quarterback position was one of Scott’s biggest concerns. This fall the position is in good hands with All Dakota Athletic Conference quarterback Eric Osborne returning for his senior campaign. Osborne, who had transferred in and was learning the offense on the run finished the season passing for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. Incoming freshman Jordan Lakatos (Sioux Falls, SD) and Drew Hodgs (Douglas, WY) will be expected to mature quickly and provide back-up responsibilities.
Skill wise the Jackets have some talent and field experience to work with. Junior James Lemke will be back after an injury plagued season a year ago. Also in the mix at the halfback position are former Spearfish High School standout John Soriano, red shirt freshman Ryan Palmer, and incoming freshman Tanner Ehrlich (Fort Collins, CO). At the fullback position the Jackets have a pair of solid backs who gained valuable experience during their freshman seasons. Clint Nicholes and Josh Smith shared duties and will now be counted on to carry more of a load this fall. Nicholes is a throwback fullback who has excellent strength, size, and speed. Smith will have a dual roll at both backfield positions where he can come out of the backfield on pass routes and line up behind Nicholes for a big back look.
At the tight end position Matt Minter returns for his final season having improved his speed and pass catching abilities this winter. He was one of the most consistent blockers a year ago and will now expand his talents to the receiving end this fall. Also returning is sophomore Drew Reuman, who played a major role last fall as a freshman, junior Cliff Bryan, and red shirt freshman Matt Gottlob.
The receiving corps is a young talented group who made their marks last fall. Junior Joe Beehler is a multi-dimensional player whether it is on the receiving end or taking handoffs. He had 35 catches in the fall and accounted for over 500 yards in total offense. Sophomore Corey Wheeler who hauled in 26 receptions and four touchdowns is a tall target with exceptional skills. He will draw the attention of every defense he faces this fall. Sure handed sophomore Ryan Fagerstrom will have the opportunity to step up and contribute on a regular basis. Also returning this fall is outside receiver Justin Kloppel, and inside receivers Josh Redden, and J.J. Elm.
Up front protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running backs will be a much bigger, stronger, and semi-experienced line than in previous seasons. Two-year starter and All Dakota Athletic center Matt Frankenfield returns for his third season. Frankenfield is one of the teams strongest players who also has gotten quicker in the off-season. Also returning up front are sophomores Josh Breske, Cody Geffre, and Jason Bodine who all started the final eight games a year ago. Red shirt Kale Deminck, who moved over from the defensive line this winter and incoming guards Shane Cole (Oakdale, CA) and Tom Owsiany (Pine, CO) are going to get plenty of reps this fall which should provide the depth needed to sustain a title run.
Defensively the Jackets find themselves in a similar position as the offense with seven returning starters from a defense that ranked among the best in the conference. But the loses were key and might be a little more difficult to fill right away. The Jackets lost three linebackers and one defensive back to graduation that had started every game of their careers.
Up front the defense will be solid with the entire group returning and the depth will only improve with the addition of a couple kids who red shirted last season. The line will be anchored around All-Dakota Athletic Conference nose guard Rodney Wasche who spent most of his time in the opponent’s backfield where he garnered seven sacks and eighteen tackles for loss. Senior Andy Seamann, juniors Justin Thorpe, and Talon Tucker make up an active front who should continue the trend of creating chaos in opposing team’s backfields this fall. Depth this fall will come from red shirt freshmen Clay Smith, sophomore Wacey Coleman and junior college transfer Kyle King.
The line backing corps can be described as athletic, fast, strong, and with having a nose for the ball. But the big concern is the actual field experience needed to run the aggressive style of defense the Jackets employ. The linebackers won’t all be new – senior Nathan Batteen returns for his third season and has all the tools to earn post season honors. Tyler Tetrault had a solid season with seven sacks and two interceptions a year ago and outside backer Sean Sweet will have the opportunity to be a full-time player this fall. Senior Brandin Santi, moves to an inside backer and senior Sid Colglazier will play on the outside after moving from a safety position in the spring. Sophomore Forest Sainsbury has had a very good spring and is expected to compete for a starting position to go along with his outstanding special teams play. Letter winners Cole Richter and Trey Cannon are expected to provide depth and contribute on special teams. Red shirt freshman Tom Tripp is also expected to make contributions this fall as well as junior college transfer Josh Fundis who both showed growth during spring drills.
The defensive backfield returns Dakota Athletic Player of the Year and All-American safety Tanner Tetrault. Tetrault brings leadership, experience, and a wealth of talent to the defensive backfield. Junior Tony Dill returns at one corner position and has improved every year where he is expected to have a big fall this year. Competition will be fierce at the other corner position where it is a wide-open race. Promising sophomore Darrell Neiman played in all ten games last fall and has the physical attributes to be an outstanding corner. Dwayne Brown who played as a freshman, but red shirted last season, is anxious to regain his form. Sophomore Blaine Braake, and incoming freshman Andrew Johnson (Rapid City, SD) will make it a competitive camp. At the safety position senior Garland Sanders played a major role in the Jackets two-safety, and nickel coverage’s a year ago. Junior Dustin Dooley played quality minutes last season and red shirt sophomore Clayton Schleusner will provide quality depth.
Special teams will also get plenty of attention during camp. Transfer Craig Tafoya had the opportunity to get a head start on the kicking duties. Tafoya has a strong leg and is athletic enough to handle both the punting and kicking duties this fall, but will have plenty of competition. Incoming freshmen Micah Nielsen (Fort Collins, CO) and Tanner Ehrlich (Fort Collins, CO) both have quality legs.
The coaching staff saw a change after spring drills when defensive backfield coach Jon Vance accepted a position in the Wyoming High School ranks. In coming coach Ryan Gatch (Colstrip, MT) brings a wealth of conference experience to the Yellow Jackets. He played four seasons at Dickinson State as a linebacker before serving as an assistant there for a year. After coaching linebackers and earning his Masters Degree at Chadron State for two seasons he continued his coaching at University of Montana-Northern, and most recently was the defensive line coach at Minot State University. Ryan will coach the linebackers and coordinate special teams this fall. Former Jacket standout Shad Schneider will assist at the line backer position this fall and defensive coordinator Pat Fackrell will move to the secondary.
The number twelve ranked (NAIA pre-season poll) Jackets have a demanding non conference schedule where they open the season September 1st on the road against NAIA number four ranked Carroll College. The Jackets then host NCAA Division III opponent the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire on September 8th at Lyle Hare Stadium.