VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — While USD struggled to a 3-8 record last season, the team brings back a veteran group looking to write a different story this year.

The Coyotes have 17 upperclassmen on defense this season.

“The depth of leadership we’ve got on our football team this year is different and as a result of that, you know, our team’s desire to win, their melting together has also been different,” USD head coach Bob Nielson said.

The Yotes won just one conference game last season, a 3-point win over then-number 14 Southern Illinois, but use the lack of success on the field as motivation.

“That season’s fresh in everybody’s mind. So that’s always going to be a driving factor. You know, it gets hard in the summer workouts, whatever you’re like, ‘Do I want to go 3-8 again?’ And I want to change things and say, Well, we want to change things,” USD senior linebacker Stephen Hillis said.

“There’s a lot of passion in this football team right now, which I’m really excited about. Maybe that you say, wow, that’s kind of weird coming off the year that we had, but I think that also tells you something about the character of the guys that we’ve got right now,” Nielson said.

Three players on the defense received preseason All-America honors in cornerback Myles Harden and linebackers Stephen Hillis and Brock Mogensen.

“It’s exciting, but we haven’t proven anything yet. I mean, it’s a preseason kind of thing. So, you got to prove it in the season,” USD senior linebacker Brock Mogensen said.

“We’ve got a lot of experience back, a lot of highly touted players there. That group needs to be good. This league forces you to have a good defensive football team if you’re going to compete for a championship,” Nielson said.

The Coyotes open the season tomorrow night against SEC opponent, Missouri. Kick-off is set for 7.