USD Coyotes prep for a new era By: Vance Janak
Yankton Press & Dakotan The University of South Dakota football team took the first footsteps toward the Division I Football Championship Subdivision era of the program with the Red/White spring game Friday, April 18, in the DakotaDome. The thing is, it really didnâ�?�?t look any different than the previous four spring games Coyote head coach Ed Meierkort has had in his time guiding the program into the North Central Conference and a shot at the Division II playoffs. The D-I FCS bound Coyotes wrapped up its spring practices with the scrimmage that saw the USD offense â�?�? Red team â�?�? defeat the defense 34-28 in front of 750 fans. Once it was over, Meierkort said nothings changed with the team, even though they will be playing at a higher level and in the Great West Conference. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s just another spring game with kids competing against each other,â�? Meierkort said. â�?�?Until you start playing Division I games, then itâ�?�?ll be different.â�? The positives Meierkort and the fans in attendance saw were a defense that came up with three interceptions and put constant pressure on starting quarterback Noah Shepard. Senior linebacker Blake Hoyer said if there is one difference with first year defensive coordinator Jarod Dodson, itâ�?�?s the amount of pressure the defense is bringing. The extra blitzes, which he said the Coyotes utilized about 85 to 90 percent of the time Friday night, are needed to play at the higher level. â�?�?At the Division I level, itâ�?�?s going to be a lot faster so you canâ�?�?t just stand there on the back of your heels waiting for something to happen,â�? Hoyer said. â�?�?Weâ�?�?ve got to attack at all times because thatâ�?�?s the way itâ�?�?s going to be next year.â�? Although Dodson has been a member of the USD coaching staff for the past four years, the Coyotes have two new coaches working on the defensive side of the ball. Coaching inside linebackers is Todd Strop, a veteran coach of 14 years with D-I coaching and playing experience. Defensive line coach Jake Sprague is in his first assistant coaching job after spending the last four years as a graduate assistant at the University of Wisconsin. The former Badger was drafted by the New York Giants and spent time in NFL Europe. Hoyer said the knowledge the new coaches bring is important. â�?�?They all bring their own experiences,â�? Hoyer said. â�?�?For the most part, our coaches are young. Most of them are right out of college and most of them played so they know what itâ�?�?s all about.â�? The USD offense also saw some changes as Gordon Shaw takes over as offensive coordinator. Zack Hood was also hired on to coach running backs. Both bring D-I knowledge. Shaw spent the last 14 seasons at the University of Minnesota and has a wealth of knowledge, which Shepard said is huge for the offense. â�?�?It helps in every aspect of the game; rushing, passing, picking up blitzes, everything,â�? Shepard said. â�?�?I was so happy when we got him. His knowledge and him being around the game so long is good and that brings a lot of positive energy.â�? While Shepard said the move to D-IAA is a big jump, itâ�?�?s still football. â�?�?Anybody that plays football on this team is a competitor. I havenâ�?�?t met anybody who isnâ�?�?t,â�? Shepard said. â�?�?Weâ�?�?re going to be ready. I know weâ�?�?ve got our doubters and we will probably be underdogs in every game, but weâ�?�?re going to come ready to play each week.â�?