Sioux Falls, SD
The Augustana football team finished 4-7 last season, tied for tenth place in the ultra-competitive Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. This fall, the Vikings are confident that they have nowhere to go but up.
Augustana head coach Jerry Olszewski has placed an emphasis on consistency in all phases of the game throughout fall camp. Defensively, the Vikings return four all-NSIC players, and the offense is reaping the benefits.
"We know we have a pretty good defense returning. Top four defense last year, and we expect to be better this year, and the bar has been raised there. We have to keep pace offensively. That was a major objective by our staff, and our kids knew that we wanted to make sure every practice was a competition day," head coach Jerry Olszewski said.
"Offensively, we're clicking a lot better, and it helps going up against, what we think, will be one of the best defenses in the NSIC," sophomore quarterback Trey Heid said.
The strength of Augustana's defense is in the front seven.
"The secondary is a little bit younger, but we have athletes all-around. Overall, we're a good defense, but definitely the front seven. There's a lot of experience, a lot of teaching going on, especially by the older guys, which is helping the younger guys," senior defensive lineman Jake Lee said.
The Vikings are picked to finish sixth in the NSIC preseason poll, which barely registers on coach OJ's radar.
"That really doesn't mean much to us, where other people rank us. We know who we are and who we want to be. I was shocked a little bit that we were ranked as high as we were. But, at the same time, that's great. We'll find out in the first four weeks if we belong in that ranking or not, and I'm excited for that challenge," Olszewski said.
Augustana opens the season at Minnesota-Crookston, and coach Olszewski is confident the Vikings will take care of business if they play with purpose.
"Focus on your job. Everybody do your job, and at the end, Augustana will be singing the school fight song when it's done, if everybody does their job. So, that is the focus, and very single-mindedly so," Olszewski said.
"It's been a while since I've been around a group of guys like this that trust in each other and trust I the coaching staff, and they believe in what they do. So, I'm looking forward to see how the season goes," Lee said.
The Vikings will be seeking their third straight season opening win when they plat at Crookston Saturday afternoon, at 1:00. Augie plays its home opener on September 13th, against Minnesota-Duluth.