VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — South Dakota head football coach Bob Nielson is pleased to announce the signing of 12 student-athletes to a National Letter of Intent. In addition, Nielson announced that five other high school standouts have accepted an offer of admissions to the University of South Dakota and plan to join the Coyote football program.

Student-athletes from nine different states are represented in this early signing class. Five hail from South Dakota and four from Florida, but there is also a quarterback from Texas, a linebacker from Maryland and an offensive lineman from Lawrence, Kansas, where the Coyotes battled the Kansas Jayhawks three months ago.

“We feel really good about the guys who have committed to our program and how they will fit in building the kind of depth that we need to pursue a championship,” said USD head football coach Bob Nielson.

“Our staff did a great job of working both in the upper Midwest region and nationally in places like Florida, Maryland and Texas. The goal every year, but perhaps more so this year with the uniqueness of the pandemic’s impact on rosters, is to fill specific needs. We felt that we did that as we lost some seniors within our linebacking crew and some really good specialists. You’ve got to have quality depth in your line to play in the Valley, that’s obvious, so that was another area of emphasis.”

Of the seven offensive linemen, four hail from the Sioux Falls area and a fifth is from nearby LeMars, Iowa. Gage Tennyson, a linebacker, is from Custer. The Coyotes also signed one of the top punting prospects in Tyler Ebel from DeForest, Wisconsin, to help replace record-breaker Brady Schutt.

This group joins a program that finished with seven wins, turned in its best Missouri Valley mark at 5-3, and hosted its first FCS playoff game. That game was played inside a newly renovated DakotaDome that opened with no fan restrictions this fall.

“Everything is important in recruiting,” said Nielson. “Our commitment to facilities and what we’ve done here is certainly beneficial in our process and will be to future signees. Playing at a nationally competitive level is something that student-athletes look for and want to be a part of. We talked openly with this group about not being satisfied with where we’re at, but helping us get to a higher level in 2022 and beyond. This group is ready for that challenge.”

2022 South Dakota Early Signing Class
Gary Bryant III, LB 6-0 220 Baltimore, Md. Our Lady of Good Counsel
Joe Cotton, OL, 6-6 290, Sioux Falls, S.D. Roosevelt
Tyler Ebel, P, 6-5 215, DeForest, Wis. DeForest
Cory Hollinger, TE, 6-5 225, Stromsburg, Neb. Cross County
Brady Koupal*, OL, 6-5 250, Brandon, S.D. Brandon Valley
Jordan Larsen*, OL, 6-4 285, Harrisburg, S.D. Harrisburg
Josh Larsen*, OL, 6-4 285, Harrisburg, S.D. Harrisburg
Caleb McKenzie, DB, 5-9 160, Carver Ranches, Fla. Miami Central
Mackenson Owens, LB, 6-2 215, Aurora, Neb. Aurora
Cergio Perez, QB, 6-1 205, Rowlett, Texas Garland
Charles Pierre Jr., RB, 5-10 190, Orlando, Fla. Ocoee
Colton Rada*, OL, 6-2 285, Chaska, Minn. Chaska
Dominic Reaves, DB, 5-10 170, Tampa, Fla. Hillsborough
Alex Saunders, WR, 6-3 185 Orlando, Fla. Oviedo
Noah Smith, OL, 6-3 305, Lawrence, Kan. Lawrence
Gage Tennyson, LB, 6-4 195, Custer, S.D. Custer
Brandon Vander Sluis* OL 6-3 290 LeMars, Iowa LeMars

*Players have accepted an offer of admissions to the University of South Dakota and plan to join the Coyote football program.