USD football returns this Saturday, when the Coyotes travel to Des Moines, IA, to take on Drake University.
Over the summer, the football team has been preparing for a season which could see them improve on last year’s effort.
“We have a lot to prove to our fans and our community,” said Adam Harris, a senior defensive back.
Last season the Coyotes finished with a 4-7 record. Five of the team’s seven losses were by seven points, while each win was by a margin of three points.
With Miles Bergner graduated, the team is missing the man who was the difference in three of the team’s four wins last year. His departure means a new kicker will be called on for extra points, field goals and punting.
Head coach Bob Nielson said there are several options for a replacement.
“We have some new guys that are going to be filling Miles’s shoes,” Nielson said. “Obviously, he’s a very difficult guy to replace. He was one of the best in the country at both punting and kicking. We feel good about the development of the guys and what they’ve been able to do.”
In addition to finding a replacement for Bergner, the team is focusing on two things, Nielson said.
“On defense, we need to be a better run defense, and offensively we need to work on our consistency,” he said. “We had some really good games, some good stretches in games, but not consistently enough to be the kind of offence I think we’re capable of being.”
Last year, the offense was centered around QB Chris Streveler, who led the team in passing and rushing. Streveler said he’s looking to keep his play steady.
“I think that’s everybody’s (goal),” he said. “The more consistent you are, the better you are going to be able to play on game day. I think as an offense and personally, consistency is going to be a big thing this year. The more we can be more consistent and sound on our fundamentals, the better we’re going to be.”
Trevor Bouma led the running backs in rushing last year, topping 700 yards. His departure will see junior Michael Fredrick, who rushed for 300 yards a year ago, step up to bolster the team’s ground game.
“With Bouma gone, there’s a lot of running backs looking to step up this year, and Mike Fredrick is a guy who played a lot last season,” he said.
Harris said the Coyote defense is focused on giving the offense more opportunities.
“(The defense) has to come out and make offenses go three-and-out every time we get on the field,” Harris said. “That has to be our mentality. It can’t be, ‘Oh, the offenses are going,’ we have to get out there and go 100 miles an hour. We have to get to the ball and pursuit has been our biggest thing (we’ve been working on).”
Harris said he’s expecting fellow defensive back Mark Collins Jr. to have a breakout year.
“He’s had about 12 picks throughout camp,” he said. “I think that kid is going to perform this year, and we’re going to need him. We’re going to need everybody. It’s kind of hard to single out who’s going to be that player, because we want everybody to be that player.”
While coaches are planning for the first game of the season against Drake, Harris said he’s looking forward to every game this season.
“So every game I’m looking forward to it and I hope the defense is on the same page as me,” he said.