FARGO — The refurbished new car on the University of South Dakota campus barely went for a test run last spring. The renovated DakotaDome, home to the Coyotes football team, had only one game with limited attendance.
The nearly $30 million project included new seating on one side with suites and a new locker room.
“I think we have one of the best indoor venues in all of FCS football,” said USD head coach Bob Nielson. “I’m excited to see this place full and the home field advantage it can create for us.”
Whether USD will be able to put a team on the field for the fans to cheer this fall is another question. Its most decorated player is a punter. Senior Brady Schutt was named to the STATS Perform All-American preseason team after his 46.0 yards per game average from 2109. He led the FCS in net punting.
Fellow specialist Dalton Godfrey was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason first team as a long snapper.
The key for the Coyotes is if they can shore up their defense. They were last in the spring conference season in rushing defense, giving up 219.2 yards per game. They gave up 412.0 yards per game overall, which was next to last in the league.
Sophomore linebacker Brock Morgensen is back and was a second team all-Valley preseason pick. Cornerback Myles Harden was one of the better freshman defensive players in the conference, picking off two passes against Illinois State and ranked fifth nationally in passes defended.
All five starters on the offensive line returned from the fall to last spring. USD is hitching its quarterback hopes on redshirt freshman Carson Camp, who as a true freshman, showed some glimpses of having a bright future.
He completed 82 of 130 passes (63%).
“It’s all about consistency with our young quarterbacks and developing a high level of consistency,” Nielson said. “He’s got a great skill set and we’re excited about his future. He’s really taken a major step forward in the leadership areas, which is of critical importance at that position as much as the level of play.”
It was a haphazard spring for USD. It had five games canceled or postponed, two to the same team. The schedule wasn’t kind with a Saturday road game at Illinois State followed by a Thursday game at North Dakota.
“We struggled a bit,” Nielson said. “In every game we had the opportunity to evaluate a lot — evaluate the coaching and every player. It was valuable in that regard.”
The schedule isn’t the greatest this fall, either. The Coyotes have nonconference road games at Kansas and Cal Poly and only have one home game in September against Northern Arizona.
It won’t be until October before the renovated DakotaDome starts getting a workout.
Here's a look at the schedule for the Kicking Through COVID series:
Aug. 5: South Dakota
Aug. 6: South Dakota State
Aug. 7: Southern Illinois
Aug. 8: Western Illinois
Aug. 9: Youngstown State