Coyote football squad opens fall practice

Coyote football squad opens fall practice The 2004 South Dakota Coyotes football squad, led by first-year head coach Ed Meierkort, opened its fall pre-season practice on Sunday, Aug. 8.

More than 95 student-athletes reported for camp.

South Dakota, 5-6 a year ago, will try to post its first winning season since the 8-3 squad of 2000.

Meierkort begins a new era at South Dakota, a proud football program that is one of the most successful in NCAA Division II. In 108 years of football, USD owns a 462-447-34 (.508) record, which is the 17th most victories by a school in NCAA Division II However, Meierkort's task is to turn around USD's recent fortunes.

Since 1986, USD is 72-102 and just 18-25 since 2000.

"South Dakota has great pride and tradition and I am excited about the opportunity to rekindle its past success ? This program is on solid ground with a talented group of student athletes. I believe we can be competitive right away, while striving for the long-term goal of being successful every year."

The Coyotes will play six games in the friendly confines of the DakotaDome, including its home season opener on Thursday, Sept. 2., at 7 p.m. That game follows the season opener on the road at Truman State in Kirksville, MO, on Saturday, Aug. 28 at noon.

After playing Peru State, the Coyotes host Minnesota State, Moorhead, on Hall of Fame weekend on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. Then, the Coyotes host Wisconsin-LaCrosse at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18.

The Coyotes will open the NCC season on the road at Nebraska-Omaha on Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. USD's NCC home opener is also Dakota Day against Augustana on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

The Coyotes head to Minnesota State-Mankato for a 1 p.m. game on Oct. 9 before returning to the Dome to host St. Cloud State on Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. Next up is a nonconference game with Upper Iowa in Fayette, IA, on Oct. 23 at 1 p.m.

USD closes the season with a pair of NCC battles. The Coyotes host Minnesota-Duluth at 2 p.m. on Oct. 30 and travel to North Dakota for a Nov. 6 game. The UND-USD clash begins at 1 p.m. at the Alerus Center.

USD returns 37 letter winners and 15 starters from a year ago.

Offensively, USD returns eight starters, led by All-NCC wide receiver and kick returner Chris Mikkelsen. The Coyotes will also feature sophomore running back Stefan Logan, who is the leading returning rusher in the North Central Conference.

Another key player is junior quarterback Wesley Beschorner, who comes off a season when he completed 113-of-197 passes for 1,424 yards with seven interceptions and eight TD passes.

On the offensive line, USD returns four starters, including senior Todd Bladt center, juniors Nathan Carruthers, Nick Hagemann and junior Brian Alderson. Tight end Paul Tschetter also returns as a starter.

With six starters returning on defense, the Coyotes will need to fill some holes but have invaluable experience in several key positions. Senior Tim Schellhammer will start for the second straight season at defensive end. Junior A.J. Schable returns to start for the second straight year at nose tackle.

Both senior Mike Meekins and sophomore Ryan Hedden return as starters at linebacker.

Experience blended with youth defines the defensive backfield for the Coyotes. Returning after a one year absence is junior Kellen Burch. Senior Garrett Hartwig returns at strong safety.

Another returning starter is Tim Dacy. Chris Reid also saw plenty of action in 2003. As a true freshman in 2003, now sophomore Jordan Davis started at a corner.

The special teams will be led by one of the best place-kickers in NCAA Division II � Cody Butler. Sophomore Luke Mikkelsen will handle punting chores.

A strong week

The South Dakota football squad concluded its first full week of Fall Camp Saturday, Aug. 14 with a two hour practice, which included individual drill work as well as several live situational drills.

At mid-week, coach Meierkort moved his players into full pads.

"It is always exciting for the players and coaches when we get to put the pads on for the first time," said Meierkort. "These guys have been waiting since April to hit someone."� ���

The team spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday in full pads. On Friday, the Coyotes held its first two-a-day practice.� The Coyotes will alternate one and two-a-day practices for the remainder of Fall Camp.

The Coyote offense hit the ground running with sharp sessions this week, particularly with its inside rushing game.�

In addition, the offensive staff was very pleased with the pace at which the offense was being installed.�

"There is a tremendous amount of retention among our veteran players," Offensive Coordinator Glenn Caruso said. "Our returners were able to pick up where left off in the spring, and that's a great feeling."�

Logan and Mikkelson have been consistant playmakers.� Logan rushed for 1,155 yards a year ago, which is the third best total in school history. Mikkelsen, who led the NCC in kick return average, ranks third on the Coyote all-time receiving chart with 104 receptions.

In addition the staff is pleased with the play Alderson and senior center Todd Bladt, Harlan, IA.

According to Meierkort, the Coyotes defense has gained depth in the secondary and in its linebacking core. Reid and Burch have had great fall camps, according to Meierkort.�

Dacy has shown leadership in the secondary.�The defensive front is led by Schable and sophomore defensive tackle John Barker (Sioux City, IA), who have had strong performances during the first week. In addition, the defensive staff is pleased with the play of sophomore linebacker Eric Weiman (Howells, IA) and junior linebacker Alex York (Guthrie Center, IA), who have improved their run-stopping play.

All in all, fall camp has been very physical. The Coyotes "Inside Run Period" has been the highlight of each practice.�

Injuries to Dacy, Luke Hoffkamp, Burch, Eric Lorenzen, Nick Cunningham, Ryan Hedden, and newomer Darnell Pitts have slowed their individuals progress, according to Meierkort.�

Senior tight end Paul Tschetter (Sioux Falls) was also given three days off to prepare for the MCAT test.

In terms of the play of newcomers, Ricardo Sorell (junior, Las Vegas, NV) is working his way to a prominent role in the secondary. Freshmen defensive back Matt O'Hanlon (Bellevue, NE) is also getting varsity reps.�

On the offensive side freshman Brandon White (Chester) is working at tight end and freshman Alex Perkowski (Hindale, IL) is moving up the depth chart at wide receiver.�

Freshman linebackers Derek Zacharias (Hartford) and Blake Hoyer (DeSmet), freshman defensive back Mykelle Wright (Minneapolis, MN) and offensive lineman Jacob Wilkinson (North Platte, NE) also had a solid opening week.

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