Spring football practice has a touch of fall for the University of South Dakota this spring.
“Yeah it’s a little different, in the Dome it’s always 70 and nice and warm and toasty in there, no wind. Out here you kind of have to adapt with the conditions a little bit more,” said senior quarterback Austin Simmons.
With the Dakota Dome under renovation, that moves the Coyotes outside to their new turf practice facility.
“The field we had over there we had was always hard and lumpy, and we didn’t want to get guys hurt. So having this out here is a huge plus for what we want to do,” said senior defensive lineman Darin Greenfield.
That also means no spring game for the Coyotes this year, but .not the only thing under construction.
New this season, Travis Johannsen is taking over as defense coordinator, the Coyotes averaged 34 points against them last year.
“This year with the new defense going in, we’ve got some new terminology, we’ve got some new things we’re doing on that side of the football,” said Head Coach Bob Nielson.
“The scheme that they’re running right now really sets us up for success. I mean it’s a little rusty right now, I mean guys are messing up. But I mean everyday you’ve got to take one step getting better, and we’re starting to see stuff come together as a whole defense,” said Greenfield.
The Coyotes return a core group of players on both sides of the ball including running back Kai Henry and Quarterback Austin Simmons who threw for more than 3,200 yards last season.
“You can’t have a championship team unless you’ve got a quality quarterback and depth at that position. Austin gave us a tremendous amount of experience last year, he’s improved immensely in the offseason. He’s poised to have a really good year,” said Nielson.
“When you get the chance to be a starter for a year, you really gain a lot of experience and a lot of confidence that goes with that. Personally, I feel like I’ve got a long ways to go from last season, a lot of things I need to build on and get better at,” said Simmons.
“We’ve got an experienced group offensively, and we’ve been able to just pick up where we left off in the fall. We’re adding a few things, tweaking a few things, but offensive has certainly been ahead in that regard,” Nielson added.
After finishing 4-7 a year ago, USD says they’ve improved since then and they’re ready for more come fall.
“I think one of the key things in our league is that you’re going to be in a lot of close games, and you’ve got to find a way to win those. You know we had a couple of games last year that we’d like to have back, you don’t get that chance, and that’s really what our focus has been about, you’ve got to find ways to win those games,” said Nielson.
Despite no official spring game, USD will hold their final practice open to the public. That’s Saturday at 2:30 in Vermillion. The Coyotes open their season Saturday, August 31st at home against Montana.