As USD looks to the 2006 season, the Coyotes will utilize the spring session to plug a few key positions and also build depth. USD returns 39 letterwinners and 16 starters from the 2005 squad.
"The players and coaches had tremendous enthusiasm as spring practice opened," said Meierkort, whose 18-4 record in his first two seasons is the best two-year start by a head coach in school history. "I am very pleased with the energy our team is showing early in spring practice. They are focused and alert and committed to performing at a high level."
The Coyotes with play their spring game on April 21 in the DakotaDome.
Meierkort also is encouraged because of the student-athletes' commitment to the team during an intense and competitive six-week training period, which preceded spring practice under the direction of USD strength and conditioning coach Brett Kramer.
According to Meierkort, finding a replacement at quarterback for Harlon Hill Trophy runner-up Wesley Beschorner will be paramount for the Coyotes.
Carter Black (South Sioux City, NE), who completed 12-of-22 passes for 88 yards and rushed for 10 yards and two TDs in 2005, is one of the leading contenders for the starting quarterback position. Redshirt freshman Noah Shepherd (Thornton, CO) and Dan Skelly (Champlin, MN) also opened the camp with solid efforts and will be in the hunt at quarterback.
"The battle for the quarterback position got off to a rousing start with all of the quarterbacks making big plays and grading out just percentage points apart," Meierkort said.
The Coyotes opened their spring practice session on March 28 for two days of practice in helmets and jerseys only, working primarily on alignment and individual techniques. In both practices, the offense and defense came together at the end of the two-hour session for a 15-minute pass skeleton drill. In the 7-on-7 passing drills competition, defensive back Jordan Davis (San Antonio, TX) looked solid.
"He was in mid-season form, breaking up a pass and nearly picking off another throw," Meierkort said.
The offensive line play was led by returning starter at center Christian Morton (Norfolk, NE), who started all 11 games in 2005.
South Dakota will open the 2006 season against Quincy University in a Thursday night game on Aug. 31.
The game begins at 7 p.m. from the DakotaDome.