A new era of football at the University of South Dakota kicks off this week.

The reigning Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Bob Nielson, makes his debut on the Coyotes sideline Thursday night, as USD plays at New Mexico. Nielson comes over from Western Illinois, where he spent the last three seasons, leading the Leathernecks to the FCS Playoffs in 2015.

New is the key word in Vermillion in 2016. Not only are Nielson and most his staff new, but 40 percent of the roster will be wearing a USD uniform for the first time.

The Coyotes go into the opener without a clear cut starter at quarterback. Senior Ryan Saeger is back after playing in all 11 games last season. But in 2016, he's being pushed by University of Minnesota transfer junior Chris Streveler and redshirt freshman Austin Simmons.

Nielson says he expects to see all three get some time under center Thursday.

One of the keys on offense will be keeping Trevor Bouma healthy. The senior running back has had injury shortened seasons each of the last two years, but has still managed to rush for more than 1,200 yards.

Wide receiver Riley Donovan is back after missing the final nine games of last season because of injury. He was USD's leading receiver in 2014.

Defensively, the Coyotes are without senior linebacker John Wessel, who could miss the first three games of 2016 with an injury. He started all 11 games at middle linebacker last season and was third on the team in tackles.

The USD defense will be in for a test against New Mexico. The Bob Davie coached Lobos are coming off their first winning season (7-6) in eight years. They capped 2015 with a New Mexico Bowl win over Arizona.

Offensively, the Lobos are a base triple-option team with a pair of talented quarterbacks that should both see playing time against USD. Redshirt junior Lamar Jordan ran for better than 800 yards last season and senior Austin Apodaca appeared in 11 games.

Running back Teriyon Gipson rushed for 848 yards last season, as New Mexico tied a school record with 42 rushing touchdowns and finished in the top ten nationally in rushing for the fourth straight season.

Defensively, the Lobos feature a 3-3-5 attack with senior lineman Nik D’Avanzo and senior linebacker Dakota Cox on the preseason All-Mountain West Conference team.

Kickoff in Albuquerque is 8:00 PM Central time, Thursday.

I asked Coach Nielson about the state of his roster coming into the season opener and what he expects from the Lobos: