The Augustana football program has plenty of reasons to celebrate. The Vikings boast some of the finest facilities in NCAA Division II (I dare you to find a better stadium than Kirkeby-Over), recruits are pouring in like never before, and they're coming off the most successful season in school history.
Despite all that, second year head coach Mike Aldrich is still sore over his team's quarterfinal loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Needless to say, the Sept. 3 rematch with the reigning national champions was a hot topic when we caught up with him this summer.
Q. Can you do it again? Can you repeat the success that you had last year?
A. We don’t feel that we did good enough. There’s only one team that did. That’s why we’re playing them the first week of the year.
Q. UMD is up first. How’s that scheduling work for you?
A. We asked for it. We wanted them to come in. Saint Cloud State wanted to play us again, that was our open date. We wanted to approach Minnesota-Duluth first because that was the team that bounced us in the playoffs…take our shot back at them and see where we measure up.
Q. Offensively, how large of a hole is there to fill now that some really talented kids have moved on?
A. Obviously the graduation of Joe Clark, our all-time leading rusher, is tough. Tyler Schulte was probably the most electric player in the conference last year. You can’t replace anybody, but with their departures there’s going to be new opportunities. And, just like when Joe and Tyler came up when they first got to play as freshmen, at some point they got their chance and so now it’s somebody else’s.
Q. How excited are you to have Josh Hanson back at quarterback?
A. He came onto the scene as a sophomore and was leading the league until he broke his hand. He’s been great for us both mentally and physically. That’s a calming influence as we go into this coming season, knowing that your quarterback is back, four returning starters on the offensive line are back, your tight end is back. There’s definitely cause for excitement on the offensive side, there’s no doubt about that.
Q. How about the defensive side of the ball?
A. We lost really the interior of our defense, three linebackers and two defensive linemen. All of those guys have played for a long time for us. That’s going to be tough because those guys have been in our system for so long that they were kind of an extension of me on the field. But now you’ve got some young guys that are ready to fly around and try to make a name for themselves. I’m kind of excited to see what they can do in that first game.
We just have to replace the guys up front. You lose a 300-pounder and a 270-pounder, that’s hard to breed those all the time. But we’re looking forward to it. I think the strength will be our defensive backfield. Three returning starters, two of them preseason All-Americans, and they weren’t really tested too much in that last game that we lost in the playoffs. We’ll see if they get a chance to be tested here the first game of the year.
Q. Talk about recruiting...Have you been more well received because of the season you had last year?
A. There’s some recognition now when you go out. There’s high school coaches, former players, recruits that are excited about where the program is going, what they did this last year. There are still a lot of people congratulating us on what we did. The tough part is, we don’t think we did good enough, like I said before. We’ve got to keep building that tradition so that everybody else expects the same as we do.
We're televising more games than ever before on MidcoSN this season, and Augustana is a big part of our schedule. You'll see the Vikings four times, twice at home and twice on the road.
- Sept. 3: UMD at Augustana, 1 p.m.
- Sept. 17: Augustana at UMary, 2:30 p.m.
- Oct. 1: Concordia-SP at Augustana, 1 p.m.
- Oct. 8: Augustana at Northern St., 2:30 p.m.
***Follow @ElsenMidcoSN on Twitter for blog updates, regional sports news, MidcoSN schedules, etc.