The spring football season has arrived at the University of South Dakota. It’s a busy time for the USD Coyotes, who had a 4-7 season in 2010. Although the fall season is a few months away, the team is already preparing so that they can improve their record.
For senior running back Chris Ganious, this offseason has been positive.
“This year is fun,” Ganious said. “A lot of us are returning. We’ve been with each other through a lot of good games.”
The Coyotes have started a spring schedule
consisting of 15 practices. At the end of the spring football season, the team will have their annual Red/White game at the DakotaDome April 21.
The main goal of the spring season is to “finish,” a slogan for the team that head coach Ed Meierkort has been stressing to his players. The Coyotes coach believes that better work-outs and conditioning will help accomplish the goal for his team.
Meierkort said USD lost multiple games against ranked opponents that they led after the first half. He cited problems in the second half as the reason for the losses.
“We need to be stronger in the second half than we were a year ago,” Meierkort said.
Coach Meierkort said the coaching staff, comprised of multiple position coaches, plans the practices for players. They determine what will occur at each session, and that can include some
experimentation with strategies. Meierkort said the team has been trying out new offensive sets for the upcoming season.
“(Trying something new) isn’t going to cost you time or a game,” Meierkort said, referring to the luxury of practicing in the spring.
Aside from finishing, Meierkort also said spring football is meant to decide who will start for the squad in the fall.
Even though the team is returning 19 of 22 starters, Meierkort said he needs depth on his team, as well as a few players to step up in order to replace starters who have graduated.
“The more experienced players do not need it (spring practice) as much as the younger guys,” Meierkort said. He compared it to NFL Training Camp, where inexperienced players would benefit more from the opportunity to be on the squad than veteran starters who are merely staying in shape.
Because of this, younger players and redshirts are more important to Meierkort. He evaluates his players by watching film of the spring practices, all in order to prepare them for the next level.
“(Spring football) helps give (younger players) a chance to get reps and better themselves for the season,” sophomore Tyler Starr, a defensive end for the Coyotes, said.
At the end of the practices, the team will play in the annual intrasquad game. It is meant to showcase what the players have learned in practices during the spring season.
The Red/White game is nothing major for Meierkort.
“It’s just a show,” he said, “People like to see it. It’s a combination of 15 practices of hard work.”
Fan support is crucial in making the spring game a good experience for players.
“It’s fun to perform for your fans,” Ganious said, “It’s the ending of USD spring football — we just show what we have.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Starr said he is also excited for the Red/White game.
“I’m looking forward to making a name for myself and the USD football program,” Starr said.
The team’s 2011 season will include FBS teams like Wisconsin and Air Force, in addition to the defending national champion of the division, Eastern Washington.
Reach reporter Gabe Mambo at Gabe.Mambo@usd.edu.