If South Dakota is going to return to the FCS Playoff caliber team of 2017, the Coyotes are going to need to get better, and healthier, on the defensive side of the football.

Last season, en route to a 4-7 finish, USD gave up better than 34 points per game and ranked eighth in the conference against the run, allowing better than 211 yards per game.

In 2019, head coach Bob Nielson is looking to shake things up on defense and has brought in a new coordinator, Travis Johansen, to make that happen.

Johansen arrives from Grand View University in Iowa where he made a name for himself by putting speedy and attacking defenses on the field.

In Vermillion, he takes over a unit led by All-American and All-Conference lineman Darin Greenfield, who's entering his senior season with the Coyotes.

The Sheldon, Iowa native says his game is still evolving as opposing offenses come up with more and more creative ways to try and neutralize him:

Under Johansen's new scheme during this fall camp, Greenfield is enjoying a new freedom along the defensive line:

Greenfield anchors a line with a strong veteran presence with fellow seniors DeValon Whitcomb, Kameron Cline, and Luis Peguero, as well as junior Nick Kramer. That group combined for 11 sacks last season for a defensive unit that saw a number of players either severely limited of sidelined due to injuries. Greenfield says staying healthy has been a point of emphasis this off-season:

Photo courtesy University of South Dakota

At linebacker, there are 18 players on the roster but only one, junior Jack Cochrane, with a ton of experience. Juniors Jake Richardson and Jake Matthew, along with sophomore Jonathan Joanis are expected to make major impacts in 2019. Greenfield says there's plenty of talent at that position:

At defensive back, Mark Collins and Phillip Powell were both limited by injuries last season but when Collins was on the field he tied for the most passes defended in the nation. Cameron Tisdale is coming off an impressive freshman season which saw him get eight starts.

At safety, Elijah Reed and Jakari Starling are both back after appearing in nearly every game last season.

On special teams, the Coyotes return both place kicker Mason Lorber and punter Brady Schutt.

The Coyote open the season August 31 when they host Montana.