Mother Nature forced the University of South Dakota Coyotes inside the Dakota Dome for day two of their fall preseason practice slate on Tuesday as head coach Joe Glenn kept the squad fired up with a new season approaching.
Glenn, whose team went 4-8 in 2013, is appreciative that his team is looking strong on its feet.
“I told our team after practice that it’s great to be healthy,” Glenn said. “We were so beat up at the end of last year. We were beat up at running back and didn’t close the season like we wanted. Even after spring ball we didn’t look like we do now.
“We look faster, we look speedier, we look quicker, and that’s what I am seeing on both sides of the ball.”
As the team went through drills and some light skeleton scrimmaging, the Coyotes appeared nimble and fast at a number of skill positions while intensity was high.
Glenn said that along with his now healthy vets the new guys are “starting to move into it.”
“Some things are happening,” Glenn said. “We have our whole team back and I am excited with the direction we are going.”
It didn’t take long to see the offenses and defenses fall into the pattern of backing their own during skeleton, but each side found plenty of time to pick up the other every chance it got.
“I love it, there is a lot spirt and enthusiasm and there should be,” Glenn said. “We haven’t put the pads on yet. They are not tired yet, but every day they need to get better and every day I am going to challenge them to keep that energy and enthusiasm. We need that to get better.”
Jasper the friendly speedster
Senior running back Jasper Sanders is back and blazing trails on the Dakota Dome turf if not outside.
After missing the 2013 campaign, the Kansas City native who rushed for 264 net yards on 81 carries and three touchdowns in 2012, is ready to deliver on the promise he showed two seasons ago.
“He’s a player and started here two years ago,” Glenn said. “We had high hopes for him last year before he got injured before the season started. It’s really good to have him back. He’s a really good player.”
Sanders is just happy to be back.
“I feel like it’s a blessing,” he said. “It seems like I was out three years even if it’s just been a year. It feels so good to be out here with my teammates.
“When they are travelling, you are just sitting at home. So being back with the team is just so much better.”
Glenn said offensive coordinator Wesley Beschorner will have plenty of options with Sanders back.
“You can see we have to find ways to get him the ball, but at tailback, H-back, and Z-back,” Glenn said. “He will be one of our ‘slash’ guys and Wesley will be staying awake at night thinking of ways to get him the ball. He’s fast, quick, and he shows it.”
Despite missing last fall and this spring due to wrist and knee injuries respectively, Sanders did use the time to improve himself off the field.
“I feel like I matured as a person with family, school, everything,” Sanders said. “I don’t take anything for granted anymore.”
In the Valley of expectations
Four Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) teams have been ranked in the preseason FCS coaches poll, with three-time defending national champions North Dakota State ranked No. 1 while the Coyotes’ rivals to the north, South Dakota State have been tabbed as the 10th best team in the country.
All told, the Coyotes battle seven teams from the MVFC that are either ranked or earned votes in the poll and will match wits with two Big Sky teams – the University of Montana (No. 5) and Northern Arizona University (No. 25) – who are in the Top 25.
Add FBS’ No. 4 team, the Ducks of Oregon and the Coyotes have 10 teams of considerable measure on their 2014 schedule.
“It’s a tough schedule, everyone plays a hard schedule,” Glenn said. “But, there are some teams up there in the Top 25 that we beat last year. I don’t know why they deserve to be there more than we do, maybe because they finished with a better record? We got beat up down the stretch and weren’t deep enough and we are deeper now. I hope those things add up to wins. We aren’t afraid of anyone on our schedule and will go toe-to-toe with everybody.”
What’s planned for Wednesday? More installation of “our stuff” according to Glenn who indicated the first two weeks should see a lot of consistent, uniform practices. He mentioned that the team will just build off of each practice and add more to the system while not having any type of scout team to get ready for the Aug. 30 opener at the University of Oregon.
“South Dakota going against South Dakota,” Glenn said of the early practices. “I want to see plays made on both sides of the ball. If you get a chance to get the ball, go get it, make a play.”