The University of South Dakota football team began their spring practices Thursday despite some snowfall and near freezing temperatures in hopes of moving forward from last season’s 2-10 finish.
They followed that up with a second practice on Saturday under sunny skies if not a brisk wind that put a slight chill on the hyped up action on the field.
“I think we’re off to a good start - the thing you can measure easiest of all is their spirit and their attitude,” said head coach Joe Glenn. “The attitude and just the effort and the spirit, really good. The guys, they’re working at it. We get better by working hard and that’s what they’re doing.”
Glenn isn’t focusing on any certain area to improve on, but instead he is looking to develop the team as a whole.
“(We need to work on) every area right across the board,” said Glenn when asked about the focus of the spring practices. “We ended up our season, in our last game, with two seniors playing that were healthy. We, right now, have, coming into that class, 17 seniors, right behind them 20 juniors.”
He’s hoping the age and experience of returning players as well as the raw talent of new recruits will make for a perfect combination to improve from last season.
“Most of our recruits are here and so I think they want it,” Glenn said. “I hope the talent level is capable of winning at our level but regardless, those are the guys we’ve got. They’ve got to keep working to get to be the best they can possibly be.”
The Coyotes also have 20 redshirt freshmen from last year practicing with the team this spring.
“There’s a lot of them in there and we think a lot of those guys can help us,” Glenn said. “They didn’t run our plays much last year, they were on the scout team, so now they’re running our plays learning South Dakota’s offense, South Dakota’s defense, South Dakota’s special teams and it might take them a little while. This is a really critical time for those guys that are working their way into our program.”
A few changes in the coaching staff were made in the offseason including defensive line coach Marquice Williams adding special team coordinator to his duties. Williams is coming into his third year with USD.
“He’s gone to camp with the Chicago Bears the last two summers for a period of time and he’s worked with their special teams so he’s brought a lot of the Chicago Bears flavor with him from his time having worked with the Bears in fall camp,” Glenn said.
Along with Williams, Marty Biagi has been brought on to coach corners.
Biagi comes from the University of the South in New Orleans and spent time coaching in Arkansas. Glenn is pleased with the new techniques Biagi has brought to the corners in the secondary.
“I think they brought some life into the coaching staff a little bit with some coaching points and some spirit so I think things are going real good,” Glenn said.
Teams are allowed only 15 practices in the spring and 29 in August before the fall season starts where they will face four-time defending national champions North Dakota State and national runner-up Illinois State as part of the Missouri Valley Football Conference slate.