Change is everywhere as Coyotes get rolling in spring practices

Minus 23 players from last season, there is naturally a different feel to the University of South Dakota football team this spring.

Change is everywhere.

New University of South Dakota head football coach Joe Glenn, right, instructs offensive lineman Chris Kruse during a practice Monday afternoon in Vermillion. (Photo by Jeremy Hoeck/P&D)

Even on such details as where the Coyotes play. These are such things new head coach Joe Glenn referenced during Monday afternoon's practice in Vermillion.

Looking beyond the softball complex to the south of the current practice field, Glenn pointed to where the old practice area was when he was at USD.

"Hey, at least we have grass out here," he said, chuckling. "When I played here, it was the Dust Bowl. There were times I was in one end zone and I couldn't even see the other end because of the dust.

"Things have certainly changed," he added, with a long pause. "And definitely for the better."

That's the goal for the Coyotes in 2012: Improvement.

To do so, USD — which had 23 seniors last season — will rely on mostly new faces. The offense will see seven new starters, while the defense will have six new starters.

For good measure, there are five new coaches on the staff.

"There's a lot of adversity here when you think about it," said junior defensive back D.J. Wakes, one of three transfers already on campus. "I mean, just look at all the new stuff. New coaches, new players, new conference, and then they're building a new arena.

"It's everywhere."

The last game action for the Coyotes, a frustrating loss at North Dakota last November, has helped spur the motivation to improve this spring, senior receiver Will Powell said.

"The new guys caught that right away," he said. "We didn't even have to really explain it, they could just feel that we were frustrated."

That's where spring ball helps, Glenn said. Even though the Coyotes have just 72 players in action now (until the freshman class gets to campus in the fall), most of the practices are basic anyway.

"We're putting in our stuff; everything we're doing is USD stuff," Glenn said. "We don't have a game Saturday, so for the next five months, it's all about us."

The program calls it "installation," Glenn said. The offensive, led by coordinator Wes Beschorner, is using the same terminology, though the Coyotes will eventually add a "few wrinkles," according to Glenn.

One of the biggest changes on offense will be at the quarterback position.

Sophomore Josh Vander Maten, for now, is the team's top signal-caller, though Kevin Earl (R-Fr.), Nick Meyer (R-Fr.) and Kyle Cichos (Jr.) are also seeing action this spring.

"I'm real high on them," Glenn said of the quartet. "Josh and Kevin have really showed us something. Nobody knows what to do with (defensive lineman) Tyler Starr yet, even without pads."

Much like former quarterbacks Beschorner, Noah Shepard and Dante Warren before him, Vander Maten gives the Coyotes a dual threat — with his arm and his feet.

"In college football, running quarterbacks can be really successful, which is why you see so many of them," Glenn said. "You just teach them to get down. You can definitely expect us to throw some more option out there."

On the defensive side, Wakes and fellow transfer d-back Devin Taverna are seeing plenty of action and figure to be key components in the secondary.

"We'll get better just by competing," Wakes said. "Spring ball is good for that, just getting all the guys on the same page."

With 12 practices remaining before the April 21 spring game, the Coyotes aren't exactly preparing for Wisconsin. Though by the time the team returns in the fall, things should be clicking, Powell said.

"We have a lot of inexperience, but that's what spring ball is for," he said. "It looks sloppy now, but we'll get there. By the time the season starts, we'll look like a different team."

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