BURNSVILLE, Minn. (SMSU) – The Southwest Minnesota State University football team was tabbed for a sixth-place finish in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South Division and an 11th place finish overall in the upcoming 2021 season as the NSIC coaches’ preseason poll was released on Tuesday.
SMSU finished the 2019 season at 3-8 overall, 1-6 NSIC South, the last season played due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the 2020 season.
Minnesota State, selected to not only win the NSIC South Division title, but the overall championship as well in 2021, received 12 first place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team) and recorded a total of 168 points in the overall poll. Minnesota Duluth was second overall with two first-place votes and 144 points while also earning the top spot in the NSIC North Division. Augustana was third with 140 points followed by Sioux Falls in fourth place with 135 points while Winona State rounded out the top five overall with 126 points and one first-place vote.
Bemidji State was picked to finish sixth overall with 117 points, followed by Concordia-St. Paul with 96 points, Northern State ranked eighth with 75 points while MSU Moorhead (74) and Wayne State (60) round out the top 10. SMSU earned 46 points for 11th, followed by Minot State (38), UMary (28) and Upper Iowa (27).
In the NSIC South Division Poll, Minnesota State earned 35 points including five first-place votes, followed by Augustana with 27 points and one first-place vote. Winona State (one first-place vote) and Sioux Falls tied for third with 26 points, followed by Wayne State with 15 points, SMSU with 10 points and Upper Iowa closing with eight points.
Augustana senior quarterback Kyle Saddler earned South Division Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors, with Winona State senior safety Cam Ervin earning South Division Preseason Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
Minnesota Duluth senior quarterback John Larson earned the North Division Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honor, while Bemidji State senior linebacker Gabe Ames picked-up North Division Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors.
SMSU senior quarterback Andrew Haidet (Plano, Texas) and junior linebacker Onte Burns (Plymouth, Minn.) were tabbed a “Player to Watch” in the NSIC for the Mustangs. Haidet is a transfer from Northern Illinois University, where he played in four games in 2020. He also spent four seasons at Houston Baptist University.
“Andrew came to SMSU as a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois University in the spring of 2021,” said SMSU head coach, Cory Sauter. “He has natural leadership skills and has earned the trust of his teammates over the past seven months. Andrew loves football, embraces competition, and absolutely enjoys being around his teammates. We are so excited to see him continue to grow as a student-athlete at SMSU.”
Burns, a 2019 first team All-NSIC South honoree, led the conference in 2019 with 104 tackles. He was also tabbed a third team All-American by Don Hanson Football.
“Onte is special as he started for us as a true freshman in 2018 and became a team captain, along with All-America honors in 2019,” said Sauter. “Ever since he stepped on campus, you knew he was going to be a difference-maker. Onte is one of the most dedicated student-athletes that has ever put on a Mustang uniform. He is worth the price of admission.”
Southwest Minnesota State reports for fall practice on Sunday, Aug. 8, with its first on-field practice scheduled for Monday, Aug. 9. SMSU opens the 2021 season on Sept. 2 hosting MSU Moorhead at 7 p.m. at the Schwan Regional Event Center.