BY JEREMY HOECK
For the second time in five days, the University of South Dakota men’s basketball program landed a verbal commitment from a highly-pursued 6-foot-9 post player.
Dan Jech, a senior forward at Rochester Mayo High School in Rochester, Minnesota, told the Press & Dakotan that he committed to USD on Monday night. He said his final decision came down to North Dakota State and USD.
“This morning, I had a gut feeling that it was the place for me, where I wanted to spend the next four years,” Jech said. “I love the coaching staff and love the culture.”
Jech’s decision comes five days after USD garnered a verbal commitment last Wednesday from Tyler Hegedorn, a 6-9 forward at Norfolk High School in Norfolk, Nebraska.
In all, Jech had offers from eight Division I schools, including Green Bay, Lafayette, Lehigh, Montana State, New Hampshire, North Dakota State, Wofford and USD. He also had offers from 7-8 D-II schools.
The opportunity to come to USD and help a new coaching staff build a Summit League contender was an attractive prospect, Jech said.
“I’d be coming into something new,” he said. “It’s something where I could come and help make history with them, with the new staff. That was really intriguing to me.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at http://www.yankton.net.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Things have not gone well for the University of South Dakota football team.
The Coyotes (2-5), the only remaining Missouri Valley team without a league win, are coming off three consecutive conference losses — by an average margin of 20 points. And their offense has scored five touchdowns in the last 15 quarters.
The high of beating a top-25 Northern Arizona team has since evaporated following the last three weeks. And next looms North Dakota State and its three consecutive national championships.
And yet, you’d think the sky is falling.
One brief look at the USD message board shows a thread entitled “Fire Joe Glenn.” As I read through the five (as of Sunday night) pages of posts, there does seem to be a mix of change-is-necessary opinions and others saying firing the head coach would be a huge mistake.
I’d lean toward the second belief.
Let’s be clear: Joe Glenn isn’t getting fired. That’s laughable. Those of us who spend significant time around the program know exactly what Glenn has done in three years. It’s clear. He was hired to right the ship. He was brought in to lead the program; to be its leader. There’s a time to fire a coach (USD did so just three years ago, and it was the right move), but that’s not right now.
What is obvious, though, is that fans are frustrated.
They would tell you (as they did Saturday), there hasn’t been progress since the start of the 2012 season. Glenn didn’t have much to work with that first season, and his team struggled to a 1-10 record. A year ago there were some signs of progress, but injuries and a brutal schedule resulted in the Coyotes losing their final five games. And now this season, the three Missouri Valley losses have fans scratching their heads and voicing their concerns.
It’s their right to do that. And I guess you’d have to expect such views on a message board, right? Fans want results and they want them right now. They’re ready for a turnaround, but right now, they’re frustrated.
I experienced that first-hand on Saturday, as I watched the USD-Missouri State game at a local bar in Yankton. A table of older USD fans behind us were clearly upset with the way their Coyotes were playing, mixing in a few comments I’m not going to repeat. It certainly didn’t help that at the time the fourth quarter in Springfield was wrapping up, South Dakota State was starting strong against Northern Iowa on the other TVs in the place. That didn’t sit well with the USD fans, who during breaks, had to hear Jackrabbit fans cheering.
All the Coyote fans wanted was for the game to be over.
And yet, the page is turned and you find yourself asking, what’s next for USD over the remaining five games?
In the near future: Top-ranked and three-time defending national champion North Dakota State — and its huge throng of fans — will be in Vermillion on Saturday. Yikes. The Bison have absolutely owned the Coyotes the last two years, winning by scores of 54-0 and 42-0.
In the long term: You have to be realistic. Was USD going to win 8 games this season? No, probably not. Was USD going to improve on its three league wins? Possibly. Is that still possible? Of course it is.
This is a team that can (and has) compete in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, we’ve all seen that. But then you take a step back and look at USD’s conference record since joining the league: 3-16. It’s statistically the best FCS league in the country and could very well send four teams to the playoffs this season, but right now, the Coyotes are struggling to gain traction.
A major theme last season was an inability to make plays in close games (a lot was made, by me included, about all of the close losses), and that was the difference from 2012 — there’s a fine line between winning and losing. And now this season, the Coyotes had a chance to beat Montana, but didn’t. The Coyotes had a chance to beat Northern Iowa, but didn’t. So realistically, if USD makes a couple more plays, they could be sitting 4-3 and not 2-5.
I’m of the opinion, though, that a couple more strong recruiting classes will turn this thing around. It was clear from last year, that USD’s 2014 class was a step forward. You can slice those classes any way you want (schools they’re beating out, etc.), but the Coyotes wanted some immediate playmakers. You add in another strong class for 2015, and now you’re cooking.
The tough part, however, is that while you’re doing that, NDSU and SDSU are doing the exact same thing, and with the Bison, a few giant steps better. The fact is, you’re not going to beat North Dakota State for a kid right now. It’s just not going to happen. The Bison, based on their three national titles in a row and who knows, maybe a fourth, can pretty much have the pick of the litter (as Glenn likes to say). What you do is look for recruiting advantages; certain pockets where you can rely on (for USD, one of those areas of late is Oklahoma).
Now, to be fair, when you talk long term like this, it doesn’t help the current situation. It’s easy to say, ‘One game at a time’, sure, but consecutive performances like USD has experienced of late weigh on you. It’s only natural. People can toss all the road-struggles stats and records at you they want, but it’s not anything the program doesn’t already know. It’s the black cloud right now that the Coyotes can’t shake. Eventually USD will win on the road again, and you never know, it might come Nov. 1 at Youngstown State. Or it might come in Brookings in the regular season finale.
But make no mistake, this isn’t a bad team. There are certainly some really talented dudes on this team, but they’re not getting it done. That’s the bottom line: USD is not making plays.
The way the schedule is set up: This is going to be a rough week for the Coyotes. They had to come back from a frustrating trip to Missouri State and are faced with a fanbase that’s frustrated, and yet, have to get ready for the No. 1 team in the nation.
There are wounds to be licked, sure, but the sky isn’t falling.
BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — Regan Bye will join his cousin at the Division I level.
Bye, a senior at Vermillion High School, verbally committed Friday to wrestle at Nebraska. His announcement came three months after his cousin Brett, also a senior, committed to South Dakota State.
Both wrestlers have been linked throughout their high school careers, capped off by both winning an individual Class A state championship last season.
“We know that what we’ve done for the last ten years hasn’t been for nothing, it’s been influential,” Regan told the Press & Dakotan on Friday.
“All the work we’ve done in the summers and in the mornings has paid off.”
For Regan, a two-time state champion at 145 pounds, his college decision wasn’t all that difficult, he said.
He and his family — including father Hazen, who is also the Vermillion head coach — visited Lincoln for Regan’s official visit on Sept. 26. It didn’t take long for him to know that was his future home, Regan said.
“It was one of those feelings when you just know,” he said.
Down at the Nebraska campus, Regan was able to spend time with the Nebraska coaching staff, which includes former national champion and Olympic gold medalist (Jordan Burroughs).
“It might have wowed his mom more than anyone,” Hazen Bye joked.
The culture around the Husker program was one that impressed not only Regan, but his family, his father added.
“The program is very impressive in how much they stress academics, and the team aspect,” Hazen Bye said. “They’re all friends in the wrestling room, and the coach has really surrounded himself with good guys.”
That head coach, Mark Manning, is a Vermillion native, so there were obvious ties. Regan maintains, though, that he didn’t want that to affect his decision.
“We’ve known him my whole life,” Regan said. “It’s awesome to be able to know someone in the program.”
Former Wagner standout Robert Kokesh will enter his senior season for the Huskers in 2014-15.
BY JEREMY HOECK
With the prospect of an 0-3 conference start on the line Saturday, the University of South Dakota will face Missouri State for homecoming Saturday afternoon in Springfield.
Both sides understand what’s at stake.
“We’ve got to do something special,” said coach Joe Glenn, whose Coyotes (2-4, 0-2) are looking for their first victory outdoors in four years.
The last two meetings between the programs have been decided by three points: Missouri State won 27-24 at home in 2012, while USD won 17-14 in Vermillion last season.
“I expect it it’ll probably be that way this week,” Missouri State coach Terry Allen said. “Joe’s done a great job with that team, they’re better than they’ve been in the past.
“They’ve got their quarterback back, so they’ll be a handful.”
Though junior quarterback Kevin Earl returned for last Saturday’s game, the Coyotes were dealt a couple other dings to some offensive weapons in the loss to Northern Iowa.
Wide receiver Riley Donovan passed a concussion test Tuesday morning, Glenn said, while tight end Aaron Ramsey will have an MRI on a knee.
Despite the 0-2 league start, spirits remain high in Coyote land, according to Glenn.
“We’re capable. We can do this,” he said. “We can get in the ring with pretty much anyone in our league, and we’ve got to keep improving and do it right.”
BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — Pass rush was the one key difference in Saturday’s meeting between the University of South Dakota and Northern Iowa.
In short: The Coyotes struggled to contain the pressure from the No. 21-ranked Panthers, who won 27-16 on Dakota Days in Vermillion.
Northern Iowa recorded seven sacks and picked off two passes against USD, which fell to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the Missouri Valley.
“The game was won in the trenches, and their front seven was just sensational,” Coyote head coach Joe Glenn said.
Not only did the Panthers sack USD quarterback Kevin Earl seven times, they got to him on a handful of other times — pushing their way right through the Coyote offensive line.
“That’s a lot of sacks,” Earl said. “It wasn’t all of my o-line’s fault, I could have gotten out of a few of them.”
And once again, the Coyote defensive line did not record a sack.
This season, opponents have amassed 20 sacks against USD, while the Coyotes have one (from Drew Iddings).
While injuries have limited a couple defensive linemen for USD, there was bound to be a little bit of a drop-off after Tyler Starr graduated and found a home in the NFL.
“It’s just who we got,” Glenn said. “It tells you how good that guy last year was, doesn’t it? We sure miss him.”
Having only one sack on the season doesn’t exactly mean the Coyotes aren’t bringing any pressure, the coach added.
“We get a lot of push with (Iddings), and (Keyen) Lage can come pretty good off the edge,” Glenn said, “but we’re just of young with the rest of the guys.
“Maybe if you send more guys, but then you’ve got an all-new secondary.”