It was a long process just for the University of South Dakota to transition to the NCAA division one level. Being competitive at that level -- especially in football -- can also take some time. The Coyotes are trying to speed up that process.
USD was 1-10 last season and was winless in their first season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Coyotes did play six top-25 teams, and four of their losses were by only three points.
USD had 13 starters back -- 7 on offense. Junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten from Boyden-Hull-Rock Valley is back after providing over 2,100 yards of total offense.
But USD is picked to finish last in the Valley.
"I think we'll be above .500 for sure," said USD senior offensive lineman Marc Murtha. "People may disagree with me but it doesn't matter what other people think. I believe that we will be a great team."
Six starters are back on defense. The defensive leader will be linebacker Tyler Starr of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, who ranked third in tackles and second in sacks in 2012.
The defense did get run over at times, giving up almost 200 yards per game on the ground.
"I get a little angry, a little upset I guess because I know our team will be better than that this year," said USD sophomore defensive lineman Drew Iddings. "We just have to go out and prove it. We have a lot of catching up to do and I think we're doing that."
"I like being the underdog. It's fun," says USD sophomore linebacker Keyen Lage. "When nobody expects you to do anything and you come out of nowhere, it surprises people. I would rather be in that situation than at the top and feel comfortable. I like not feeling comfortable so you always are getting better all the time."
South Dakota kicks off the season August 31 at home against UC-Davis at 2 o'clock. The Coyotes visit Kansas in week two.
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