Kanin Nelson has come a long way in his short time on the football field at South Dakota State University.

There's plenty more to be learned, as well, but the redshirt freshman is taking the knowledge from two spring practice seasons into his second fall camp and that's created a lot of confidence for the Mitchell native.

"It's helped me a lot to learn the playbook and to make reads and check the coverage," Nelson said. "And it's more time to learn and meet the other guys on the team and get to know how they work."

In Nelson's words, he's third on the Jacks' depth chart at quarterback, behind starter Taryn Christion and senior Dalton Douglas, who missed all of the 2016 season with injury.

"In my eyes, I have that locked in," Nelson said. "But it's always an open battle and you have to really work for your spot on this team."

SDSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Eric Eidsness said Nelson has done a good job of learning the Jacks' offense. Now he said, it's a matter of learning about what the defenses are doing.

"For him, the next step is really defensive understanding and he's really starting to pick that up," Eidsness said. "First, you have to know what we do and then probably more importantly, you have to know how to take apart a defense."

Eidsness said watching Nelson grow from the spring camp in 2016 after he left Mitchell High School early through the 2016 regular season and into this year has been exciting.

"I think he's going to make more progress because with a much greater understanding of what's going on, it's much easier to work harder because you know what we're working on," Eidsness said.

Jackrabbits head coach John Stiegelmeier said Nelson has matured a lot and learned behind the Sioux Falls Roosevelt alum and reigning Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year Christion.

"Kanin and everyone else has to work on that level, because we're not teaching two different styles of football," said Stiegelmeier, of Christion's ability to set the bar among SDSU quarterbacks. "He has a ways to go to get there but when he's got it, he's really good."

Nelson said Christion couldn't be a better mentor to him in the Jacks' high-powered offense.

"He's a great player," Nelson said. "I look up to him. Everything he does on and off the field is great and he takes care of himself."

Eidsness said the chance to have Nelson evolve from a run-heavy offense with the Kernels has unveiled many of the skills Nelson needed to succeed in a diverse offense at SDSU.

"For him, that was a big learning curve," Eidsness said. "The tools were there and it was a matter of refining some things. We knew he had a big arm. The instincts to run when it's time to run are there and it's nice to have the athletic ability. In today's age of college football, you've got to be able to run the quarterback some and put pressure on the defense because that changes the way the defense calls the game."

Nelson said he's looking forward to the season with high expectations and a top-5 national ranking. The Jacks open Aug. 31 in Brookings against Duquesne (Pa.) and no longer a redshirt, it's possible Nelson could see playing time this season.

"(SDSU) has changed me into a better man and this program and being around good people definitely makes you grow up really fast," Nelson said. "You learn things on your own."