In the FCS Huddle: Coaching at South Dakota re-energizes Glenn

Monday's forecast in Vermillion, S.D., was a high into the 50s. Of course, that's not quite the sunshine and 75 degrees being enjoyed in Phoenix.

Some of the friends whom 62-year-old Joe Glenn left behind in Arizona might be getting a kick over his approach to retirement.

"They're doing a better job of it than I did," the new South Dakota football coach said with a laugh.

Glenn hopes a return to his alma mater in Vermillion lasts much longer than a senior moment. South Dakota athletic director David Sayler handpicked Glenn to be the Coyotes' head coach as they head from the disbanding Great West Football Conference into the rugged Missouri Valley Football Conference this year.

There weren't a lot of head coaches on the open market who already had won a FCS national championship. USD gained just that in Glenn, who led Montana to the 2001 NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) national crown and went on to coach on the FBS level at Wyoming.

"This is the swan song for sure. I'm exhilarated," Glenn said. "The place has kick-started my heart for football. I was a little beat up after the Wyoming thing (he was fired after his sixth season in 2008), to tell you the truth. I got into some broadcasting for a while living in Phoenix, but I know right now the coaching staff, the players have given me a real sense of belonging. It's wonderful to be at my university. I had no idea I'd feel this great. I'm having a ball."

Known for his positive approach, the 1971 USD graduate jumped right into recruiting and assembling his coaching staff following his hiring on Dec. 5.

The recruiting class, to be announced on national signing day Wednesday, features such commitments as Chris Wiseman, a touted defensive end out of Montana, and appears to be on a higher level now that USD is moving to the Missouri Valley, home of the reigning national champion, North Dakota State.

"I'm having more fun recruiting this year than I have in all my years of coaching," said Glenn, whose 188-100-1 career record includes stints at Doane and Northern Colorado as well as Montana and Wyoming. "I have a bunch of coaches that are cracking and hustling and are great at it, very personable people.

"I was talking to Wesley Beschorner, our offensive coordinator and associate head coach, and I asked him, 'How does this compare with classes of the past?' I've been out of it for a little while and I haven't been at South Dakota, certainly, for a long time. I flat-out felt like this is a special class provided we finish strong. We have won over schools that we haven't won over for a while. If you kind of gauge from that, you feel like you're having success."

The Coyotes' recruiting class includes three junior college transfers, Butler Community College (Kan.) teammates Jasper Sanders, a running back, and Dennis (D.J.) Wakes, a safety, and Palomar College safety Devin Taverna, whom Glenn believes will make immediate contributions.

"You have to have an idea of who you can and can't get," Glenn said. "You can sit here, chase around guys whose visits are at Southern Cal and Washington and Notre Dame - and it's hard to get in those homes - but we are competing at a very high level against other schools that are in FCS Division I. It feels good."

As South Dakota moves into a stronger conference, Glenn is faced with improving on what was a solid eight seasons under head coach Ed Meierkort, whose contract was not renewed after the season despite a 54-35 record. The Coyotes, who were 6-5 this past season, would have shared the Great West title if not for a fourth-quarter meltdown against North Dakota in the finale.

Glenn will use spring practices to open up competition at all positions. The Coyotes are losing an influential senior class, including quarterback Dante Warren and All-America offensive tackle Tom Compton, but will return some key players such as leading running back Marcus Sims, wide receivers Will Powell and Jeremy Blount, and defensive end Tyler Starr.

Starr's production on the edge - a Great West-best 14 sacks - plays right into the multiple 4-3 defensive alignment that the Coyotes will use under new defensive coordinator Jason Petrino.

With Beschorner returning to run the offense, USD will no doubt rely on the run because of the talent in the backfield and the need for a new quarterback.

"We're not going to change much. Things aren't broken here," said Glenn, whose new team won at Big Ten member Minnesota two years ago and defeated 2010 FCS national champion Eastern Washington in the DakotaDome this past season.

"The cupboard isn't bear, that's for sure. When I go into the weight room, we've got some big dudes. There's some big corn-fed Midwestern linemen on the team that kind of tip the dome when they walk in. So we've got good size, good skill people, people that can run. Their jumping ability as far as their athleticism - we measured that a little bit - there's some really fine athletes in the program. I'm anxious to see how spring ball turns out."

It's always sunny in Vermillion.