One area on offense that has been really clicking the past few practices is the receiving corps. After losing four receivers to graduation, including the school's all-time receptions leader Brooks Little, quarterback Noah Shepard has had the task of developing rhythm with a new set of players. Over the past few days it has been apparent that he is developing a strong bond with Dominic Artis, Dustin Nowotny and another Little, Dustin.
"He's been throwing the ball really well, Noah's been real sharp," said USD head coach Ed Meierkort. "It's clear his favorites are Nowotny, Little and Artis. He (Shepard) really likes throwing to Dan Skelly, but he has been out with an injury. Noah has really gained a lot of confidence in Artis. Nowotny continues to get better and looks more comfortable and Little just needs to learn to play as fast as he runs."
Meierkort also noted that there is an intense battle for the No. 2 spot at quarterback between Tyler Robinson and Dante Warren. Added Meierkort, "Robinson and Dante have both been impressive this spring. They're throwing the ball sharp and it's a dog fight for the backup job behind Noah."
Another group on offense that has garnered plenty of attention this spring due to vacant spots created by graduating seniors is the offensive line. After an inconsistent scrimmage and week of practice, the line put forth its best week of practice this spring. One player who has caught the eye of the Coyote skipper is guard Luke Nordquist, a sophomore from Lake City.
"He (Nordquist) is looking like he could be as good of guard as we've ever had around here," said Meierkort. "That's really saying something about Nordquist's play. Tom Compton has steadily improved and overall the line had a much better week. They have been hit by some injuries, we've had to shuffle guys in and out at different positions, but when the smoke clears we are going to be very good up front as we always are."
Matt Lee continues to hold down the top spot in the backfield, but now has some competition for carries. Chris Ganious has emerged as a more than viable No. 2 back, displaying his explosiveness that he was famous for in high school. The Coyotes have also experimented with safety Joel Gentile in the offensive backfield, although the experiment does not signal the end of his days on defense.
"Lee and Ganious had a very good week of practice," added Meierkort. "High school running backs tend to always look for the outside corner, and now Ganious is starting to learn to hit the inside hard and go. Matt Lee would have been a 1,000 yard rusher for us last season if it wasn't for (Amos) Allen. We've given some reps to Gentile, who was an outstanding running back in high school. We have some small backs and this is more for insurance in case one of them goes down."
The theme on defense for USD continues to be physical play. The Coyotes will have a lot of experience back on defense in 2008 and it is something that the team will need to rely on to be successful.
"Blake Hojer has been very physical against the run and it has really showed," commented Meierkort. "Abe Booker has truly been our shining star on the defensive line. He's been able to make some things happen up front. Ryan Routh has been a physical presence at outside linebacker. Mychal Bogan has made a strong pitch to be either a No. 1 corner or free safety and (Byron) Bullock is showing that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with."
The Coyotes will have two more practices next week before the spring game on Friday, April 18.
USD will begin its first year of transition to NCAA Division I in 2008. They will be members of the Great West Football Conference in 2008 and will be eligible for the conference championship immediately.