June 28, 2017

(STATS) - Nestled in the back corner of the South Dakota State locker room since they arrived into the program in 2013 are the most-likely-to-be-successful, though not necessarily the best-dressed Jackrabbits.

Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke have seen a lot of each other's wardrobe and grown comfortable with having fun over it.

"The funniest thing he does is he just comes in with some crazy clothes on," Wieneke explained, "like not matching anything, some crazy socks, tight shirts."

"He rocks the Russell Westbrook jersey every day," Goedert said. "It doesn't matter how dirty it is."

The pair also have seen a lot of each other's pass catching talent and, oh, is that stylin'.

The two best pass catchers in FCS college football just may be the pair of rising seniors coming out of the same huddle in Brookings. Goedert, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound tight end, and Wieneke, a 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver, combined for 170 receptions, 2,609 receiving yards and 27 touchdown catches last season as South Dakota State won a share of its first Missouri Valley Football Conference championship.

This season, they hope to lead the Jackrabbits to their first FCS national title.

"We're really excited being ranked (high) going into the season," Goedert said. "We've got high goals, we want to win the national championship. We have a lot of guys back at school right now, lifting every morning, we're all grinding, working really hard. So that's really exciting to see a team bonding, getting better each and every day, like we are."

With the All-Americans Goedert and Wieneke helping to lead the way.

Wieneke, from Maple Grove, Minnesota, has been a model of consistency over three seasons, while Goedert, who's from Britton, South Dakota, exploded to a higher level last season as quarterback Taryn Christion, the MVFC's offensive player of the year, also took flight in South Dakota State's 9-4 season.

Both receivers are spending the summer working on their route running and getting stronger and faster. They are two of the top FCS prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, although such talk is basically on hold because they're focused on their senior season.

Wieneke enters it with 223 receptions, 4,192 receiving yards and 43 touchdown catches in his career - all highs among active FCS players. As a junior, Goedert set South Dakota State record with 92 receptions, adding 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air.

"Any way we can get him the ball, we're going to do it," Wieneke said. "And I think we started utilizing that more and more last year. It's just fun to watch him play."

"He's so good," Goedert said. "I don't think there's ever single coverage, and if (defenses) are in single coverage, we go to him and, more than likely, it's a touchdown. We're just kind of playing off each other."

With their high-powered offense returning nine starters, expectations have grown for the Jackrabbits. They're seeking a sixth consecutive playoff appearance under coach John Stiegelmeier after reaching the national quarterfinals for the first time.

They were eliminated by North Dakota State in the playoffs, but that was a team the Jackrabbits beat at the Fargodome during the regular season. Both teams went 7-1 in the MVFC, sharing the title.

This season, they will meet on Nov. 4 at South Dakota State. Will there be a second matchup in the playoffs again?

"We have the confidence that we can beat anybody whether it's NDSU or we're playing an FBS school," Wieneke said.

"We just feel like no matter who we're playing, we're going to go and compete. They're just college athletes like us."

"We know we're going to have a target," Goedert said. "We're just kind of excited. We know every game we're going to have to compete, we're going to have to play our best. I think a lot of guys kind of thrive on that pressure or whatever it is to us. We're really excited for that and we think that it's going to make us a better team knowing that we are going to have to play great every game."

Of course, the vibe coming from the back corner of the South Dakota State locker room - where senior defensive tackle Kellen Soulek has been a fixture as well since the standout recruiting class entered the program - can defuse some of the pressure. The Jackrabbits' fun-loving receiving tandem can keep them on target for what's ahead.

"The dude is a goofball. He's always cracking jokes, always saying something to somebody," Goedert laughs about Wieneke.

"If you're coming in and you're not smiling," Wieneke adds about Goedert, "you're going to start smiling when you see him because he's going to be cracking jokes, he's going to say something funny or he's just going to smile."

There's a lot to smile about at South Dakota State.

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