With a new head coach and a quarterback competition underway, there's a lot of intrigue surrounding the Augustana football team this season. While the Vikings were picked to finish 9th in the preseason NSIC coaches poll, many feel they have the talent to do much better.
Maxed out, that's the phrase new Augie head coach Jerry Olszewski uses to describe his guys at the moment. With just spring practice and now fall camp to install his playbook so far, he's pushing the team to the limit.
"I can't ask more of what I'm asking of them right now. We are maxing out every second of practice and they are selling out for what we're doing. As a head coach, that's all you can do. Teach them right and let them play," Jerry Olszewski said.
There's a lot of playing going on right now at the quarterback position. It looks to be a two-man battle between 6'4" junior Justin Heinrich and 6'2" redshirt freshman Trey Heid.
"I'm putting them through a hard camp. I just told them last night, 'I love you boys, but I am not going to stop being hard on you.' Coach D gives us a great look every day. Our kids give us some challenging looks and our quarterbacks have to be smart. Thankfully I'm at Augustana College and that already happens for them to get to school here," Olszewski said.
Whether it's Heinrich or Heid, one will have to replace the production of former QB Josh Hanson. That guy have plenty of help behind him though. The backfield features two solid runners in Dajon Newell and C.J. Ham. The two combined for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last season.
"I think we'll have as good a tandem in our backfield at running back as anybody in the country to be very honest with you. That's a bold statement, I understand that, but I stand by it," Olszewski said.
While the Augie offense was third in the Northern Sun last season, the defense finished ninth overall and second to last in pass defense.
"We got to get better from last year. There's been some great players that have come through here at defensive back like Nick Andreas, Dan O'Keefe. Those are the kind of guys that I kind of look to try and put myself up there with them. It takes a lot of work. Everyday come out and try and do something a little bit better than the day before," Vanasek said.
Stopping the run will also be key. Augie will look to several players including junior Jake Lee and big man Mo Kromah to get the job done in the middle.
"D-line's fun right now. We were pretty thin in the spring. Couple days here and there you were running 1, 2s and 3s. Right now we're healthy. A lot of athletes, big athletes too. It's fun right now. It's been a while since it's been like this," Lee said.
On top of a battle at quarterback, there's a good one going on at linebacker. Coach Olszewski says that position is the deepest on the team and it will be fun to see how it shakes out. Nate Kirby, Sam Thorson and Brandon Mohr are the leading returners as far as tackles go from last year.