VERMILLION, S.D. | Everyone on the South Dakota football team is anxious for Saturday’s season opener at Drake, but none more than talented senior quarterback Chris Streveler.
Streveler begins his second season piloting the Coyotes’ up-tempo offense instituted by second-year head coach Bob Nielson when he came from Western Illinois.
The University of Minnesota transfer put up some impressive numbers last fall and with his comfort level even higher, expect more of the same this season.
“We’re so excited to get things rolling here, it’s been a long camp, longer than me or any of these guys are used to and we’re just excited to get it rolling,” Streveler said. “I think everyone is feeling so much more comfortable with the plays and being able to progress forward from what we did last year and being able to add more variations onto our plays and formations. It will be fun to do it against another team instead of our own defense.”
Streveler accounted for 31 of USD’s 41 touchdowns in a 4-7 campaign last year, passing for 1,947 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for a team-high 823 yards and nine more scores. He finished fourth in the nation in points responsible for per game (18.6).
The Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Year was the league’s fourth-leading rusher and sixth-leading passer in terms of yards per game.
So what can he do for an encore?
“I know Chris is more confident in our offensive system and will see things better and faster,” Nielson said. “He’ll be able to make decisions at a different tempo than he was a year ago. As we move into the first week one of the things we’ll be looking for is him being able to distribute the ball better in our passing game as well as his continued ability to make plays with his feet.
“Certain football players have the unique ability to create offense and that’s what he does. He does that by extending plays with his feet, identifying things within the defense that we can attack and he’s also a tremendous leader. Chris is one of those players that makes everybody around him better because of the type of player that he is.”
South Dakota returns six of its top seven wide receivers and both tight ends, a fact not lost on Streveler. Nine Coyotes finished with double-digit receptions last fall.
“We have so many different guys and different skill sets at those positions,” Streveler said. “The thing about our offense that is unique is that we can cater it to get our playmakers the ball, which is something we’re looking forward to be able to do this season.
“Having those three true freshmen with some game experience this year will be huge. We have good older guys in Brandt (Van Roekel) and Riley (Donovan) leading those guys. Our tight end group may be our most improved position group as a whole and I’m looking forward to getting the ball in their hands too.”
And, the fact that all but two starting offensive linemen return should provide Streveler with much better security, both in the running and passing games.
“Everyone knows the game is won and lost up front and those guys have really taken it upon themselves this off-season to get stronger,” Streveler said. “There’s not another group of guys that I want in front protecting me and the running backs and I’m really excited about those guys.”
That includes senior Stetson Dagel from Cherokee, Iowa, at right guard and Nick Jensen, a junior from Vermillion, at left tackle. Mason Scheidegger, a 6-5, 300-pound redshirt freshman from Newell-Fonda, has won the job as starting center.
Just two of USD’s 11 games last season were decided by more than seven points. Six were decided by three points or fewer.
“It’s not something we dwell on but something that has been on the back of my mind,” Streveler said. “It leaves a sour taste in your mouth but in the off-season on those days when it’s 5 a.m. and hard to get up or it’s day 17 in camp and you’re tired. You think about those games where it comes down to one or two plays and you remember that and it pushes you.
“We’re looking to change that narrative this season where we’re not right on the brink and losing those games.”