Who's Back: The Crusaders return their leading rusher Gabe Ali-El (249 yards), leading passer Eric Hoffman (2,302 yards, 14 touchdowns), leading receiver Tanner Kuramata (30 catches for 354 yards) and leading tackler Pat Derbak (87 tackles). Coach Dale Carlson played a lot of youth last season in order to have a high level of experience this season.
Who's New: Newcomers are littered throughout the depth chart, especially in the trenches. The Crusaders are expected to start three newcomers on the offensive line, headed up by Harper transfer Tom Ehrlich at left guard. True freshman Sam Manternach will start at right tackle, while redshirt freshman Nate Koeneman will start under center. Redshirt freshman Nick Moffitt will start on the defensive line, while Aaron Brandt and Austin Broshar will see early playing time.
Outlook: There are three parts to Valparaiso's season this year. Tonight against St. Joseph's, the following three games against Youngstown State, Duquesne and San Diego, and then everything else. Playing their best football, the odds are still stacked heavily against the Crusaders in the three September games. Winning against St. Joseph's would give the team positive momentum that it can build on for the rest of the season. Morale is high on the team this year, higher than it's been in the past, and the team believes that the worst of the rebuilding is behind them. Winning against St. Joseph's would prove that and jump-start the first multi-win season since 2008. !~ Paul Oren