2019 South Dakota Preview: Offense
If South Dakota is going to move back into the upper half of the Missouri Valley Conference standings in 2019, the Coyotes are going to need to find more balance on offense.
USD was one of only two teams in the league (Western Illinois was the other) to put the ball in the air more than keep it on the ground last season with 54 more throws than runs.
That translated into the best passing numbers in the MVFC for the Coyotes (286 yards per game), but only the ninth-best running attack (125 yards per game)
In 2019, the Coyotes have plenty of talent at the skill positions, especially at wide receiver, where preseason All-Conference standout Dakarai Allen is back for his senior season after leading USD in catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2018.
Allen says he's looking forward to getting out there for one final season:
He and the rest of the receiving corp will be catching passes from the top offensive player in The Valley last season, senior quarterback Austin Simmons, who accounted for nearly 3,500 yards of total offense.
Allen says Simmons has come a long way heading into his second season as a starter:
As for the other players who will be Simmons' targets in 2019, juniors Levi Falck and Caleb Vander Esch both return giving USD three of its top four receivers back this season.
The passing game will also benefit greatly from the return of redshirt sophomore Kody Case, who missed seven games last season due to injury. As a freshman, Case racked up more than 400 receiving yards.
Allen says this group is ready for big things in 2019:
On the ground, the Coyotes' top three running backs return, but they'll need to be healthier this season as neither Kai Henry, Ben Klett, nor Canaan Brooks played a complete schedule in 2018.
The offensive line is a work in progress with starters Mason Scheidegger and Braden Schneider returning. Senior Michael Bianchi has seen some limited time in the past, but the remaining 14 linemen on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores.
Head coach Bob Nielson says the freshmen class has some real potential to make an impact down the road.
Allen says he's seen improvement in the running attack during the off-season:
As for what changed from the 2017 USD team that made the FCS postseason for the first time and last season's team that dropped five of their last six to finish 4-7, Allen says the differences aren't that big:
The Coyotes open the season August 31 when they host Montana.