Coyote pre-season football camp begins Aug. 12 South Dakota Head Football Coach John Austin and his staff greeted 106 student-athletes when fall preseason football camp began Aug. 12 at the DakotaDome on the campus of The University of South Dakota.
"We are excited to get things going," said Austin, 17-26 in four years at South Dakota. "In 2003, the challenge will be great but the opportunities will be greater. We need to continue to improve as a football team by showing consistency in all phases of our game. We are upbeat and positive about our prospects this season."
Austin's squad went 3-8, 2-6 for eighth in the NCC in 2003.
The Coyotes began daily afternoon practices Aug. 12. On Sept. 3, the Coyotes will practice at 3 p.m.
"Our plan for this season is to establish a high percentage passing game with a consistent, physical running game. On defense, we will work on eliminating big plays while utilizing our athletic ability to pressure offenses," Austin said.
Returning this fall will be 34 letterwinners, including 17 on offense, 15 on defense and two on special teams. USD will also return seven starters on offense and five on defense.
Team captains will include junior wide receiver Chris Mikkelsen of Gregory; senior offensive tackle Tom Moore of Centerville; senior defensive tackle Aaron Dietrich of Emmetsburg, IA; and senior linebacker Josh Gassen of Rapid City.
Mikkelsen will be one of the offensive leaders after a 2002 season with 30 receptions for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Sean McLaughlin saw significant action as a true freshman and begins the fall as the starting quarterback. In six games, he completed 52-of-97 passes for five touchdowns and a 53.6 completion rate. The Coyotes also return three starting offensive linemen, including Moore. The other starters include sophomores Nate Carruthers of Omaha, NE, and Nick Hagemann of New Vienna, IA.
USD returns both of its standout kickers. Jarrod Edelen of Vermillion will return for his final year while attending graduate school. A year ago, Edelen became USD's first Academic All-American since 1986 while earning first-team All-NCC honors. He averaged 40.8 yards per kick, placing 16 punts inside the 20-yard line. Also back is place-kicker Cody Butler of Hastings, NE. Butler made 11-of-18 field goals for 61.1 percent and 20-of-22 extra points for 53 points.
Keying the defense will be second-team All-NCC linebacker Josh Gassen, who had a team-high 88 tackles, including 52 unassisted stops. Gassen also recorded six quarterback sacks. Junior defensive end Tim Schellhammer of Chatfield, MN will also be a force. He had 60 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback sacks.
Senior cornerback Dwight Anderson, one of the fastest players in the NCC, also returns, as does defensive tackle David Bents, a senior from Peterson, IA. The Coyotes will also have the services of sophomore defensive tackle A.J. Schable of Ida Grove, IA and Dietrich, who had 21 tackles for loss two years ago.
South Dakota will open the season on Sept. 6 against Concordia-St. Paul, a squad that went 9-2 a year ago. The Coyotes host CSP at 1 p.m. on Vermillion/Clay County Day at the DakotaDome. A week later, they will face nationally ranked Minnesota-Duluth on Youth Day at 1 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the
USD travels to Wisconsin-LaCrosse on Sept. 20 for a 1 p.m. game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in LaCrosse, WI. The Coyotes will host Nebraska-Omaha in their North Central Conference season opener on Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. Then, the Coyotes travel to Howard Wood Field for a 1 p.m. contest on Oct. 4 with Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
Dakota Days is Oct. 11 when the Coyotes host Minnesota State-Mankato at 2 p.m. at the DakotaDome. A week later, USD travels to St. Cloud State, one of the favorites to win the NCC and a top-10 nationally ranked Division II team. The Coyotes and Huskies will play at 1 p.m. at Selke Field in St. Cloud, MN.
On Oct. 25, the Coyotes will host arch-rival South Dakota State at 2 p.m. in the DakotaDome as part of Hall of Fame Weekend. The following week, USD travels to North Dakota State for a 1 p.m. game with the Bison at the Fargodome. USD will face North Dakota on Senior Day on Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Dome.
The Coyotes conclude the regular season with a contest with Lincoln University at noon on Nov. 15 in the Dome. The game is part of a busy football weekend at the Dome. USD will also be hosting the South Dakota High School Football Playoffs that weekend.