BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — When John Wessel says he is “thinking less,” it’s actually a good thing.
The sophomore linebacker at the University of South Dakota has settled into the schemes and has risen to one of two inside starters for the Coyotes, who host Western Illinois on Saturday.
Wessel, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound graduate of Sioux Falls Roosevelt, has played in all nine games and ranks second on the team with 67 tackles.
After seeing significant time as a freshman a season ago, Wessel has — as he says with a smile — started “thinking less” out on the field.
“I’m not worrying about where I’m going or where that guy’s going, just playing ball,” he said this week after a practice. “That comes with more confidence.
“I know what I’m supposed to do on this play, you just have to do it.”
That wasn’t always the case as a freshman, as he was thrown right into the fire of the Missouri Valley Conference, which led to moments of, ‘Oh man, what if this happens?’
“He’s been doing a great job, not only at linebacker but on special teams,” head coach Joe Glenn said.
“He’s a guy that has fun playing the game, very spirited, and is fast and tough,” Glenn added. “He’s a leader, and he’s really been our point man on defense lately.”
Wessel has also been rather consistent for the Coyotes (2-7, 0-5).
He has recorded games of 8-6-7-6-7-10-6-8-9 tackles, and trails only converted wide receiver (now safety) Tyson Graham for the team lead in stops.
It’s not been easy for the Coyote defense, though.
Through the first five league games, USD has allowed 41, 27, 31, 47 and 28 points.
“There’s a process, and we trust the coaches,” Wessel said. “They put up great game plans, and we have to come out and do our best to execute it, because we know they’re putting us in the best possible position.”
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