BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The SDSU defense was a strong staple for the Jackrabbits a year ago. They held nine of their 15 opponents to less than 20 points on their way to the National Championship.

SDSU allowed just 15 points per game last season, third best in the FCS.

The Jacks return nine of their eleven starters from last year’s squad, but they’ll have some sizeable shoes to fill.

“To say you’re going to replace immediately, a Caleb Sanders who arguably is one of the best interior defensive in FCS Football is hard to do. We’ll do that by staying fresh and the same thing with Reece Winkelman,” Jimmy Rogers said.

While the only players that left were linemen, State is still expecting to have plenty of depth in the trenches.

“We keep replenishing defensive linemen. I think the game is won upfront. I think it’s won between the lines and if you look across college football and every team that’s successful, their o-line and d-line are the heartbeat of the football program,” Rogers said.

“They make our job easier, everytime that they’re pressuring the quarterback. When the quarterback is hectic, he’s not making great choices. Then we’re over the back end. It just helps us out all over the defense,” Dy’Shawn Gales said.

Behind the front four, SDSU returns everyone. Dy’Shawn Gales, Cale Reeder, Tucker Large and Dalys Beanum will fill the secondary, while Jason Freeman, Adam Bock and Isiah Stalbird return as linebackers.

While all seven of those players will make key contributions, it’s the presence of Buchanan Watch Player, Adam Bock that should prove large.

“He makes everything easier for us. If you want to see a guy run east and west on the field, up and down, he’s going to do whatever it takes to make us win on defense,” Gales said. “I just love playing with Bock. He’s a great person and a great leader and it just makes us better as a team overall.”

SDSU will open the season at home on Thursday. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. against Western Oregon.