South Dakota Preview: Coyotes at Kansas State
Long before the South Dakota football team won its first-ever FCS Playoff game last season, the Coyotes notched the program's second victory over an FBS team with a 35-27 win at Bowling Green in week two of the 2017 slate.
USD's next chance to notch a win against the 'big boys' comes in the 2018 season opener, Saturday (September 1), at Kansas State.
The Coyotes, who were picked no better than sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference pre-season poll, will be debuting Austin Simmons as their full-time starting quarterback, after he backed up Chris Streveler the past two seasons. Simmons is no stranger to the USD offense, appearing in 15 games already in the first two years of his career, throwing for seven touchdowns and just one interception.
Simmons will have a deep group of receivers to throw to in 2018, led by Shamar Jackson and Dakarai Allen, who combined for 75 catches and eight touchdowns a year ago. Five other players who had receptions last season return as well.
The running game features a pair of talented sophomores in Kai Henry and Ben Klett, who combined for nine scores in 2017. The Coyote coaching staff is so confident in their talent pool in the backfield that they moved their most productive running back from last season, Mike Fredrick, to defensive back.
The offensive line features five players who each have starting experience, including senior left tackle Nick Jensen, who is healthy after missing six games in 2017.
Defensively, the Coyotes return talented end Darin Greenfield, who had nine sacks last season and led the MVFC with 19.5 tackles for loss.
Greenfield will be called upon to do a few new things in the USD defense this season as new coordinator Brian Mohnsen is looking for a more varied attack than in previous years.
Returning starters Alex Gray and Alex Coker anchor the linebackers.
The Coyote secondary, which was a bit of a mess at times last season because of injuries and suspensions, returns five players with starting experience and the addition of the speedy Fredrick into the mix. They will need to improve greatly after giving up more than 260 passing yards per game last season, next-to-last in the Valley.
The 2018 season starts in Big XII country as the Coyotes travel to Kansas State.
The Wildcats are coached by the seemingly ageless Bill Snyder, who at 78 is beginning his 27th year in Manhattan.
K-State has a new offensive and defensive coordinator and feature a two-quarterback attack. Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson each started four games in 2017, each throwing for better than 600 yards.
Running back Alex Barnes has been having an impressive fall camp after being inconsistent at times last season.
The Wildcats are trying to replace 2017's top receiver, Bryon Pringle. Juniors Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen combined for 74 catches and seven touchdowns last season.
The KSU offensive line returns all five starters.
Defensively, All-Big XII tackle Trey Dishon and All Big-XII end Reggie Walker anchor the line, which was third best in the conference against the run last season.
The Wildcats are trying to shore up a secondary that was dead last in the Big XII in 2017, allowing more than 300 passing yards a game.
Kickoff in Manhattan, Kansas is 6:00 PM, Saturday.
I talked with Coyotes head coach Bob Nielson about the the match-up with Kansas State: