Brown and Gold Rush
Jake Hutson (Blanchard, Mich./Montabella) opened up the Valpo offense last season as the then-redshirt freshman averaged 5.0 yards per rush en route to a 753-yard season. The sophomore can expect to receive the lion's share of the carries with the forceful Brandon Hall (Muskegon, Mich./Orchard View) spelling relief.
With a formidable ground attack established, options will be created for quarterback Eric Hoffman (Manitowoc, Wisc./Lincoln) and a deep receiving corps. Redshirt junior Fred Gladney (Milwaukee, Wisc./Dominican) is coming off a 2012 season that saw the receiver haul in a team-high 42 catches. Head coach Dale Carlson also envisions big things out of junior receiver Tanner Kuramata (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont). Kuramata represents a trusted target as he led the Crusaders with three touchdown receptions last year.
On the Defense
Tyson Silveus is in his second season as defensive coordinator with the Crusaders. Silveus saw modest gains out of his defensive core last season and expects that trend to move forward in 2013. Last year's team allowed 27 fewer first downs than the season prior. What was perhaps more impressive was the fumble factor. In 2011, Valpo forced just nine fumbles. Last season, the defense caused 24 fumbles, recovering half of them.
All the ingredients are present for sophomore John Guilford (Spencer, Ohio/Black River) to have a massive season. The defensive lineman reported to training camp considerably stronger than in his freshman campaign. Still, Guilford was atop the team leaderboard in sacks (3) and tackles for a loss (6.5) a year ago. Providing both adept tackling and senior leadership in the secondary is Alex Grask (Naperville, Ill./Central). Grask recorded 113 tackles in 2012 and the three-time PFL All-Academic Honor Roll member possesses an advanced ability to read offenses. Senior Pat Derbak (Schaumburg, Ill./Schaumburg) has become a consistent force at linebacker. Derbak ended the 2012 season with 73 tackles, six for a loss.
Last season's First Team All-PFL punter Greg Wood has graduated and Carlson will now rely on redshirt junior Mike Pando (Hamilton, Mich./Hamilton) for both punts and kicks for Week 1 with sophmore Josh Young (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) also available for kicking duties. Redshirt freshman punter Alex Kozlowski is expected to get a look in subsequent weeks and true freshman kicker Jacob Newman (Lawrenceburg, Ind./Lawrenceburg) carries an impressive prep resume.
Carlson expects Hutson to work punt return duties. Hutson returned eight punts last season and averaged over 12 yards per return. Junior Devan Gadson (Orlando, Fla./Freedom) is slated to return kickoffs. Gadson ran back eight kickoffs for 172 yards in 2012.
Scouting the Opposition
The early half of the schedule provides the Crusaders with an opportunity to gain momentum towards a tougher latter half. After the North Dakota game, Valpo will be given the chance to exact revenge on Saint Joseph's in Week 2. Last season, the Pumas constructed a 93-yard drive in the final three minutes of the game to defeat the Crusaders 36-34 and spoil the season opener. William Jewell will come to Brown Field on Saturday, September 14th before Campbell makes its trip to Northwest Indiana to kick off Pioneer League play. The Crusaders handed the Campbell Camels a 41-21 loss in Buies Creek, North Carolina last November. First-year program Mercer will host the Brown and Gold in Week 6.