The South Dakota football team will look to build on its most successful season at the FCS level, but will have to do so with a new quarterback.
USD's first-ever FCS playoff run came to a close in early December with a loss at Sam Houston State. The Coyotes' returning players have been itching to get back on the field in the months since.
"After about 8 weeks of winter workouts and just 5:30, 6 in the morning everyday. It's nice to get out here, get the pads back on and hit a little bit," Junior Defensive Lineman Darin Greenfield said.
For head coach Bob Nielson, spring practice gives him a chance to reinforce the basics, while also preparing the Coyotes for their season opener at Kansas State.
"Even though you're preparing for the first game you're not preparing for a game that week. So you can really break stuff down and spend time on the fundamentals," Head Coach Bob Nielson said.
The Coyotes return 16 starters from last year's team, but will have to replace quarterback Chris Streveler. Redshirt junior Austin Simmons is the favorite to step into the starting role. He's appeared in 15 career games, and has impressed during spring ball.
"He's very athletic, he throws the ball really well and this spring we've seem some transformation in him, not just as a player but a leader on our football team," Nielson said.
Simmons served as Streveler's backup the past two seasons and credits the former Walter Payton Finalist for helping him learn how to become a leader.
"You know he was always positive, always pushing guys along so I just always try to have that good energy, that good feel, bring people up, having that excitement," Junior Quarterback Austin Simmons said.
A few days shy of their spring game, Simmons' teammates have also noticed a change.
"He's confident, he's got a little cockiness, a little edge to him. and I mean that's what you need from your offensive leaders and I think the offense is really feeding off him right now," Greenfield said.
South Dakota's spring game is scheduled for 7:00 Friday at the DakotaDome.
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