Inside the Vikings
Last season: 13-1
Returning starters: 13 (8 offense, 5 defense)
Returning offensive leader: Andrew Kittridge, Jr., RB (191 carries, 1,008 yards, 11 TDs).
Returning defensive leader: Drew Schooler, Sr., DE (56 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 tackles for loss).
Everybody's All-American: Andrew Kittridge, Jr., RB. Kittridge broke the century mark last season while in a time share for most of the season with Bryon Duncan. The two-headed backfield returns with Kittridge now up to 200 pounds. A state qualifier in the high hurdles, he will hit the second level with even greater downhill force.
He's got next: Drew Schooler, Sr., OL-DL. Last year, Adam Peterka spent most of his time in opponents' backfield. This year, Schooler figures to be that guy. He weighs 262, yet can run and has his predecessor's motor. Offensive tackles are already twitching.
The Times' breakdown
Valpo returns an experienced offensive group and some key defenders from a team that ran the DAC table and made it within a game of the state finals. A strong line and two veteran backs give the Vikings the strongest ground game around. Third-year quarterback Paul Andrie can throw if Valpo ever needs to do so and brings a steady hand running the show. Schooler and Grossnickle head a defense that lost plenty of star power but looks to remain quick and aggressive. "If we can fill those holes, we can compete," Hoffman said. Its kicker, Sam Ficken, is at Penn State, but the Vikings' special teams will remain better than average. Valpo's got the makings of another deep run and with it being Hoffman's last year, his players are looking to send him out on top. !~ Jim Peters