BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – It’s been nine months since the last game. And six months since National Signing Day.
For Joe Glenn and his coaching staff at the University of South Dakota, the waiting game is almost over: Fall practices begin today (Thursday) in Vermillion.
As construction work picked up steam this summer in the DakotaDome, the sound emanating from the weight room may not have been as loud as the cranes and drills, but it was a welcome sound.
“I saw our kids work all summer,” Glenn said this week. “The things they went through, they’ve proven to me that they want to win, and do whatever it takes.”
There hasn’t been much talk of last season’s 2-win campaign other than the injuries that again piled up late on the Coyotes, but Glenn has maintained all pre-season that – using one of his favorite adages – “hope springs eternal.”
“They’ve done everything they possibly can to get their bodies and hearts right for the season,” he said.
Barring any unexpected surprises, USD figures to have 95 players (the maximum number allowed) report for today’s first practice at 3:15 p.m. in Vermillion. On Wednesday, players went through meetings (introductory welcome, compliance, academics, etc.) and were issued equipment.
For the freshmen, in particular, there was a lot of information thrown at them right away.
“They’ll get a lot in hurry,” Glenn said. “I like to say, ‘They’ll be drinking out of a fire hydrant.’”
Perhaps more than in any recent season, the incoming freshmen class will likely be counted on for instant impact at certain positions – USD signed a handful of running backs, for example.
Before depth charts get to that point, the staff is just glad to finally see those newcomers take the field with the returning players, Glenn said.
“It’s like a farmer going out to check his crops after some rain,” Glenn said, chuckling.
“The kids have grown a little bit. And when it’s their first time all together, it’s really exciting.”
The Coyotes will have four weeks of preparation heading into the Sept. 5 season opener at Kansas State. Though injuries have derailed the past couple of seasons in Vermillion, optimism doesn’t seem to be an issue.
“Everything doesn’t shake down perfect, but in the end, you go with the guys you have,” Glenn said. “I’m looking forward to it, and I know the kids and the coaches are too.”