The University of Sioux Falls football program posted its 20th consecutive winning season last fall. The 2014 season doesn't open for another four months, but the Cougars are hard at work at Spring Practice.
"It's 15 practices. It gets tough when you're not preparing for a game right away, and you're trying to get through it healthy and learn some things and have some competitions. You just hope you get through it healthy, and that's what we've been trying to do," USF head coach Jed Stugart said.
The season opener against Minot State can't get here soon enough for Sioux Falls, but Spring practice is an opportunity to evaluate talent, implement new systems, and improve as a team.
"Sometimes it's about a lot of evaluations, competitions at every position. So, you've got a little bit of that going on, and this year we've installed a new defense, so that's been something where we've got 15 practices to get that on film and learn from and that's been going really well. A lot of it though, is just sheer evaluation. You're trying to get out of Spring ball with a two-deep set-up as you come into the Fall camp," Stugart said.
The Cougars finished 6-and-5 last season, but lost three games by a combined 14 points. Stugart is confident Spring drills will only help close that two touchdown gap come Fall.
"Where did we struggle? We struggled in the red zone on both sides, offense and defense, and that's where we put a lot of our emphasis this Spring. It's just fine tuning the little mistakes that we didn't capitalize on last year, and make sure we don't repeat those going into next year," Stugart said.
Sioux Falls will play its Purple and White game Friday night, another checkpoint on the road to the opener.
"Every play we make is not necessarily against ourselves, but it's against Minot in a roundabout way. You're working every rep to get better, and trying to get as prepared as you can for our home opener, so obviously, it's fun to get out and play, but as a coach you just want to get through it and get out off it healthy, too," Stugart said.
The Purple and White game is Friday night, at 7:30, at Bob Young Field. Gates open at 6:30, and admission is free.