The 2010-2011 season was the first season the University of South Dakota football team faced some big-name Division I teams and the team and coaching staff say they’re thankful junior quarterback Dante Warren led the way.
After redshirting during the 2007 football season, Warren slowly made his way from backup quarterback to starter for the 2010 schedule. In his first year starting under center, Warren led the Coyotes against Division I teams such as Central Florida, Northern Iowa and successfully carried USD to the notable, high profile defeat of Minnesota.
“(Warren) is the first quarterback at USD to penetrate these waters,” Meierkort said. “He led us against the best competition we’ve ever had. There’s been a lot of pressure on him but he handles it well.”
Warren said the increased level of competition brought changes to his game, but the coaches deserve a lot of credit for his success.
“(The coaches) pick out my flaws and push me to better those areas,” he said. “From the time I walked on the field to now, I’m a different person and player, for the better.”
Warren averaged 194.3 passing yards a game and finished the season with 18 passing touchdowns.
Sophomore receiver Will Powell saw the results of Warren’s passing ability, leading the team in receptions with 47. Powell said Warren’s commitment to his teammates separates him from the rest.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” Powell said. “When he’s out there, confident and throwing the ball well, he makes everyone else confident and play better. He supports the team.”
Meierkort said one of Warren’s biggest advantages over the competition is his ability to make plays.
“He has incredible arm strength and is accurate with the ball. He understands the game and he’s not afraid to take chances. He makes plays with his arm and feet,” he said, referring to his ground game.
Warren not only led the team in passing, but was also second in rushing — averaging more than 35 rushing yards per game and finishing the season with six touchdowns on the ground.
“He makes the field wide and deep with his ability to throw or run,” Meierkort said. “He’s able to stay open longer which gives our receivers more time to create space and make catches.”
In the 41-38 victory against Minnesota, Warren led in both rushing and passing, with 81 and 352 yards, respectively. Warren out-threw
Minnesota’s quarterback by almost 100 yards and scored five touchdowns — three passing and two rushing.
Powell said Warren is already a great player, but during the seasons he’s matured and improved even more.
“He’s a very hard worker and doesn’t stop until the job is finished,” Powell said. “He’s never going to give up. He’s always pumping up the team, pushing us to elevate our games. He’s the leader of our team and the reason for our success.”
His dedication has always been focused on helping his teammates win games, Warren said.
“You build a camaraderie with your teammates and that makes you work hard,” he said. “The satisfaction of doing well — I like to enjoy that with my teammates. I work hard to do my part for the team.”
For his upcoming senior season, Warren said his goal is to lead the team to the conference championship and help them continue to get better through mentoring younger players.
In the team’s final year in the Great West Conference, Warren will lead the team against D-I schools such as Eastern Washington, Wisconsin and Illinois State.
Reach reporter Cassie Bartlett at Cassie.Bartlett@usd.edu