Phase one of the new era of South Dakota football is complete with the conclusion of Spring practice under new head coach Bob Nielson.

The former Western Illinois and Minnesota-Duluth head coach finishing off a 15-practice run with his new squad last weekend, with the defense putting up a goal line stand late, beating the offense, 68-65, in the Spring Game.

Nielson says the two main goals of Spring camp were to cut down on execution errors and improve on fundamentals.

Some of the Spring headlines:

  • Senior Ryan Saeger is back for his final season. Redshirt freshman Austin Simmons was impressive in the Spring game, completing 7-of-12 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. The biggest challenge for the offense will be learning a new up-tempo style.
  • Senior running back Trevor Bouma was held out of the Spring game to ensure his health. In his absence, junior Khorey Kilgore and sophomore Mike Fredrick combined for 135 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
  • Junior receiver Riley Donovan was also sidelined for the Spring game as he works his way back from an injury that forced him to miss the last nine games of 2015. Another junior, Brandt Van Roekel, also missed the Spring game. Fullback Drew Potter has been converted into a tight end under Coach Nielson's system.
  • Senior Nile Banks and sophomore Nick Jensen are returning starters on the offensive line. Ed Kennedy also saw considerable playing time last season.
  • Defensively, senior Colin Mertlik anchors an experienced line.
  • There is depth at linebacker with a pair of Sioux Falls seniors, Devon O'Farrell (O'Gorman) and John Wessel (Roosevelt), back for their final seasons. Defensive back Jet Moreland has also transitioned to linebacker this season.
  • At defensive back, seniors Tyson Graham and Jacob Warner are surrounded by a lot of unproven young talent.
  • Senior punter and placekicker Miles Bergner has been one of the most accurate in the Missouri Valley Conference during his career. He was 3-for-3 kicking field goals during the Spring game.

I talked with Coach Nielson about his first Spring camp in Vermillion:

The Coyotes open the regular season at New Mexico, September 3. The home opener is a week later with Weber State.

Here is the complete 2016 schedule:

  • 9/3 - at New Mexico
  • 9/10 - WEBER STATE
  • 9/17 - at North Dakota
  • 10/1 - at Youngstown State
  • 10/8 - NORTHERN IOWA
  • 10/15 - at Indiana State
  • 10/22 - ILLINOIS STATE
  • 11/5 - at Southern Illinois
  • 11/12 - at South Dakota State

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