Position battles are always a big part of preseason practice. And with USD's season opener at Montana now just days away, here's a quick introduction to the players that have climbed to the top of the Coyotes' depth chart.
The USD offense averaged over 330 yards and 27 points per game last season. But graduation took a serious toll, leaving the Coyotes with only a handful of returning starters.
USD's pro-style offense will feature five seniors, three juniors, and three sophomores.
- 2011 Stats: 22-38, 221 yds, 3 TD | 24 rush, 94 yds, TD
One of the biggest changes comes under center, with sophomore Josh Vander Maten taking over as the ‘Yotes starting quarterback.
Vander Maten appeared in seven games as a redshirt freshman, but has zero career starts.
He fits the mold of recent USD quarterbacks in that he is a dual threat, and has he coaching staff has been impressed the coaching staff with the way he's embraced his new leadership role.
- 2011 Stats: 10 Games/10 Starts | 2 rec., 11 yds, TD
McMartin's hasn't exactly been a stats machine with the Coyotes, but don't underestimate his value.
The former Sioux Falls Washington standout appeared in 30 games over his first three seasons, and has helped clear the way for some very good USD running backs.
He's one of the leaders on this side of the ball.
- 2011 Stats: 11 Games | 127 rush, 678 yds, 4 TD | 6 rec., 53 yds
Sims is a guy who's waited his turn. After playing mostly on special teams his first two seasons, he saw his carries increase dramatically last year after an injury to Chris Gainious. Sims responded by leading the team in rushing, while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
He followed that up with a great spring, and has looked solid in fall camp is well.
- 2011 Stats: 42 rec., 763 yds 5 TD
Powell, one of the top pass catchers in USD history, gives the team a big-time play-maker. He enters his senior season with 19 career touchdown receptions, which ties him with Dan Skelly (2005-09) for tops all-time. Powell also ranks sixth all-time in receiving yards (1,896) and receptions (103).
Offensive coordinator/Associate Head Coach Wesley Beschorner admits Powell is not the most straight-line fast guy he's coached, but says he makes catches outside his body "better than anyone I've ever been around."
- 2011 Stats: 9 Games
Koch has appeared in 13 games over the last two seasons as a reserve wide receiver, but spent most of that time earning his stripes on special teams. He made 13 tackles last season.
- 2011 Stats: 10 Games/4 Starts | 5 rec., 32 yds
Burns joined the Coyotes last year after two seasons at Butler Community College (Kan.). He's more of a blocker than a pass catcher.
- 2011 Stats: 7 Games
- 2011 Stats: 7 Games
- 2011 Stats: 10 Games/10 Starts
Ross, a two-time honorable mention All-Great West selection, is the unquestioned leader of what is a very inexperienced offensive line.
He accounts for all 21 of the group's career starts.
- 2011 Stats: 2 Games
- 2011 Stats: 8 Games
Like the offense, the USD defense will feature a host of fresh faces this season. The Coyotes return just five starters from a unit that surrendered less than 25 points per game in 2011.
- 2011 Stats: 10 Games/2 Starts | 26 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 5 Sacks
With the injury to fellow senior DE David Giese, Eaton will start the season as the most experienced player on the defensive line.
Despite making just two starts as a junior, Eaton managed to finish second on the team with five sacks. Getting pressure on the quarterback is pivotal in the high-powered Missouri Valley Football Conference and, at least for the time being, Eaton is the only guy up front that's proven he can get the job done.
- 2011 Stats: Redshirted
Big guy with a lot of potential. He was an all-state, all-metro and all-conference selection in his senior season at Delano (Minn.) High School.
- 2011 Stats: Redshirted
The injury to David Giese has opened for Iddings, who's in line to make his first collegiate start. He's scary athletic for his size.
Iddings, a three-sport standout at Rapid City Stevens, won two state high jump championships, posting a career best of 6-feet, 9-inches.
His name was on the list of guys that Coach Glenn mentioned as being the most impressive in fall camp.
- 2011 Stats: 11 Games/11 Starts | 51 tackles, 19 TFL, 14 sacks, 7 forced fumbles
Starr is coming off an incredible sophomore season. His 14 sacks not only led the team and the Great West Conference, but also ranked in the top 10 nationally.
That kind of performance thrust Starr onto the national radar. He's been named to several FCS preseason All-America teams, as well as the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given annually to the top defensive player in the FCS.
- 2011 Stats: 8 Games | 23 tackles
Marlette has been stuck behind some talented linebackers for the last three seasons, but will finally get his chance to start in 2012.
- 2011 Stats: 11 Games/11 Starts | 59 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Fumble Rec.
Hogans will be helping man the middle for the Coyotes for the second straight season. He finished fourth on the team in tackles as a junior, and is the top returner in that category.
- 2011 Stats: Redshirted
Another youngster with a lot of potential.
Hillier was runner-up for Missouri's Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010 after posting 89 tackles, five interceptions, and three and a half sacks during his senior season at Lee's Summit West High School.
- 2011 Stats: 1 Game | 3 tackles
Lundy has made a lot of progress since last season and has earned his chance. He's got the quickness to be a solid cover corner.
- 2011 Stats: 11 Games/11 Starts | 54 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 PBU, 2 Fumble Rec.
Swift will be the secondary's anchor. He's started 21 of 22 games in his Coyote career and has finished in the top five in tackles in each of his first two seasons.
- 2011 Stats: 68 tackles, 2 INT (Palomar College)
Taverna, a junior college transfer, was listed behind Swift at free safety at the start of fall camp, but has worked his way into the starting lineup.
He racked up 145 tackles and five interceptions in two seasons at Palomar College (Calif.).
- 2011 Stats: 57 tackles, 7 PBU, 2 INT (Butler CC)
Knox was a second team all-conference selection at Butler Community College (Kan.) last season.
He's filling in for Chris Frierson who was supsended for the season opener (violation of team rules).
The field position battle is pivotal each and every week, and that's one spot where the Coyotes will almost certainly have a leg up (pun intended) on nearly everyone they play.
- 2011 Stats: 43.1 avg, 11 Inside 20
Punting in the comfy confines of the Dakota Dome certainly hasn't hurt Zwiefelhofer's career numbers, but the most common description you'll hear from the USD coaches is, "big time leg."
Zwiefelhofer earned first team All-Great West honors after ranking in the top 10 nationally in punting average last season.
He blasted a career-long 72-yarder at Air Force and finished with 13 kicks of 50 yards or more. He also displayed some touch, pinning opponents inside their own 20 yard line 11 times.
- 2011 Stats: 17-20 FG (51 yd Long), 34-36 XP
Robb also earned first team All-Great West honors last season after tying a school record (Adam Hicks, 2000) with 17 converted field goals. The Rapid City native also led the team in scoring with 85 points.
“Kicks the ball deep and in between the uprights, just what you need out of your kicker," special teams coordinator, Tim Triplett says of Robb. "He doesn’t look very impressive, but, I’ll tell you what, he’ll show you up.”