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Coyotes Hire Tyndall Native Morrell As Defensive Coordinator
In terms of purely title, the new gig for Chuck Morrell is a lateral move.
But that’s where the similarities end.
Morrell, the former University of Sioux Falls defensive coordinator, was announced Wednesday as the defensive coordinator for the University of South Dakota football program — which begins its third season at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level this fall.
The Tyndall native thus leaves the nation’s premier NAIA program for one trying to climb the D-I ladder.
“This was certainly an opportunity I was looking for,” Morrell said Wednesday. “It’s a great move for me, especially being able to keep my family close to home. Overall, I just felt like USD was a good situation.”
While at USF, Morrell helped architect a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally for scoring in each of the last seasons, including leading the country in fewest points allowed in 2008 and 2009.
Then of course, there were the championships.
Led by their dominating defenses, the Cougars have won three NAIA national titles in the last four years, putting together a 56-1 record in that span.
That string of success appealed to USD, which did not have a defensive coordinator last season and had a coaching vacancy after secondary coach Todd Strop left for Minnesota-Duluth last month.
“Chuck has a great track record and we are excited he is bringing that wisdom to the U,” USD head coach Ed Meierkort said in a release. “He was part of a great run at the University of Sioux Falls and now he will bring that attitude of success to the Coyotes.”
Though he admitted the transition from NAIA to NCAA D-I will bring increased challenges such as speed and athleticism, Morrell said his experience in big games while at USF should aid him in Vermillion.
“When it comes down to it, X’s and O’s are the same everywhere,” he said. “It’s just a matter of your guys executing. You’ll be dealing with a different caliber of opponents, especially with the speed, but your scheme week in and week out has to be very sound.”
All of those aspects fell into place last October for the Cougars.
Playing a non-conference game in Grand Forks, N.D., USF stunned FCS member University of North Dakota 28-13 in a game that garnered USF and Morrell regional attention. Defeating UND was something the Coyotes hadn’t done since 2005.
“An opportunity to play a team like North Dakota was definitely beneficial,” he said. “But even our (2009) national championship game against Lindenwood, they were loaded with D-I types of athletes. The only thing now is that you’re seeing that level every single game.
“It’s just a matter of translating that to 11 games a year, and not just one or two monster games.”
And for the Coyotes, they open the season with two such big-time games. USD is at Central Florida on Sept. 4 and at Minnesota on Sept. 11.
“The nice thing about USD is that I have great coaches to work with,” Morrell said. “You’ve got to have guys around you can count on, and even in my short time here, I’ve already seen that. I’m excited to work with this program.”
Morrell — whose father Russ is an assistant coach at Wagner high School — figures to focus specifically on the USD secondary, which was at times suspect last season.
However, the Coyotes ranked first last season in the Great West Conference in scoring defense (27.2 points per game) and rushing defense (108.1 yds), and was second in total defense (388.9 yds).
“I can already tell the guys are excited and ready to work,” Morrell said. “And I’m ready to get going too.”
By Jeremy Hoeck, Yankton Daily Press