Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0 PFL)
vs. Marist (0-2, 0-1 PFL)
Game #3 Saturday, Sept. 23, Noon CT
Brown Field (5,000) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Pioneer Football League opener is always a big deal. The first home Valparaiso University football game of the season is an even bigger deal. And the homecoming football game is the biggest deal of all. This year, all three of those dates are wrapped up into one as part of a Brown Field extravaganza on Saturday as Marist comes to town for a high noon kickoff and a big game for the Beacons, who are coming off a bye week. The program will also honor the past this week as homecoming weekend represents a 20-year anniversary celebration for the 2003 Pioneer Football League championship team.
Previously: Prior to a week off from game action, Valpo fell 24-22 at Indiana Wesleyan on Sept. 9 in a game where a late rally fell just shy. Tytus Ragle had three big catches in the second half including a 14-yard touchdown from Michael Appel Jr. with seven seconds left to cut the lead to two. That set up a 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game, and the pass was completed but the Valpo player was tripped up shy of the goal line, allowing the Wildcats to hold on for the two-point win. Valpo nearly overcame a minus-five turnover disparity and six giveaways thanks in part to stout defense, led by eight tackles apiece from Sam Hafner and Evan Annis. Valpo scored the game’s first touchdown on a 32-yard heave to Solomon Davis, while kickers Patrick Oliva and Ryan Hawk combined to go 3-for-3 on field goals.
Series Notes: Valpo went to Marist and picked up a 45-24 victory last season, the program’s first-ever win in Poughkeepsie. That helped Valpo improve to just 2-9 all-time against the Red Foxes. Marist came into Brown Field and spoiled homecoming in 2021 by pulling out a 27-24 overtime win over the Beacons. The road team has won three straight in this series. Valpo led 24-3 at halftime en route to the road win at Tenney Stadium a year ago. Running back Aaron Dawson rambled for 199 yards in his home state, while Kolton Sherman set a program record for longest interception return with a 95-yard pick six.
Following the Beacons: Saturday’s game will air on ESPN+ with legendary Valpo voice Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Valpo Athletics Hall of Famer Tom Byrne (analyst) on the call. In addition, the radio commentary will be available on 95.1 FM WVUR, The TuneIn Radio App and ValpoAthletics.com. For in-game updates, follow @valpoufootball on Twitter. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Landon Fox: Landon Fox (14-29) is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Valparaiso University football program in 2023. Over the last three seasons, Fox has led Valpo to 12 Pioneer Football League victories, the most in a three-year period in program history. The program finished with a PFL record of .500 or better for a third consecutive season in 2022, the first time that has occurred since 1998-2000. Prior to that, Valpo had not had a stretch of three straight years with a league record of .500 or better since 1961-1964. The program won four PFL games in the same season just once in the 26 seasons prior to Fox’s arrival. Now, the program has reached that threshold in three straight seasons and three of the first four years under his direction (Spring 2021, Fall 2021, 2022). During his four years in charge of the program, Valpo has boasted 43 All-PFL honorees and 22 academic all-PFL selections. During his second season at the helm in Spring 2021, Fox was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award – which is presented annually to the FCS National Coach of the Year – after guiding Valpo to its best winning percentage since 2003 and tying for the squad’s best winning percentage since 1999. He led his team to Pioneer Football League runner-up honors, the program’s highest finish in the league standings since the PFL championship season of 2003. Fox’s defensive roots paid dividends on that side of the football in his second year at the helm, as the team enjoyed its best defensive season in four decades. Valpo held opponents to 283.3 yards per game, the program’s best total defense in the last 40 years. In Year 1 of the Fox Era in 2019, Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense (32.0, fifth), total defense (381.6, fourth), rushing defense (184.2, fourth) and passing defense (197.3, fifth). After spending the previous 11 seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Dayton, Fox was named the head football coach at Valpo prior to the 2019 season. He helped the Flyers finish with 10 winning seasons in his 11 years on staff and guided a defensive backfield that produced one All-American, four Academic All-Americans, two PFL Special Teams Players of the Year and three corners who were invited to NFL Rookie Minicamp. Prior to joining Dayton’s staff, Fox served as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Wayne State University in Detroit from 2005-2007. He also spent time as a defensive graduate assistant at Ball State University (2004), Dayton (2002-2003) and Lakeland College (2001). Fox began his coaching career as an assistant varsity coach at Preble Shawnee High School in Camden, Ohio during the 2000 season. During his playing days, Fox was a team captain and all-conference performer at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio from 1995-1999 and graduated with a degree in physical education and health in May 2000 before earning his master’s degree in education from Lakeland in May 2002.
Valpo in PFL Openers
- Valpo will attempt to open the league portion of the season with a victory for the fourth consecutive season.
- The Beacons went on the road to beat Butler to start the Spring 2021 season before kicking off the 2022 league slate with a 24-21 win at Drake. Last season, PFL play started with a 28-21 win over San Diego at Brown Field.
- Prior to the Spring 2021 PFL-opening victory, Valpo’s last win to begin league play was in 2016 vs. Davidson.
- Valpo owns wins in three straight PFL openers for the first time since the league was founded in 1993. This marks the team’s first stretch of three straight conference-opening wins since starting Heartland Collegiate Conference play on the right foot in three straight years from 1985-1987 under the late Bill Koch.
- With a win on Saturday, Valpo would own a four-game winning streak in conference openers, the program’s longest such streak since starting Indiana Collegiate Conference action with a win in four straight years from 1958-1961.
- Last season’s 28-21 victory over San Diego snapped a three-game losing streak in homecoming games.
- Each of the last six Valpo homecoming games have been decided by seven points or fewer. Valpo enjoyed tight wins in 2016 (24-20 vs. Davidson) and 2017 (27-24 vs. Stetson) before close losses in 2018 (40-35 vs. Davidson), 2019 (19-13 vs. University of Charleston) and 2021 (27-24 in OT vs. Marist).
- Valpo has not had a homecoming game decided by more than seven points since 2015, a 38-6 loss to San Diego.
Home at Last
- Valpo started the season with back-to-back road games for the seventh time in the last 15 years. For the sixth straight season in which Valpo has started with back-to-back road tilts, the Beacons enter the home opener at 0-2.
- Because last week was an early bye week, Sept. 23 represents a late start to the home slate. This will mark Valpo’s latest home opener since 2009 (Sept. 26).
- Valpo will look to start the home docket with a win for the second straight season. Last year’s home opener was a 20-17 win over Indiana Wesleyan.
- Prior to last season, Valpo had dropped five straight Brown Field lidlifters dating back to 2016.
- With a win on Saturday, Valpo would start the home portion of the season in victorious fashion in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007 and 2008.
Extra Prep Time
- Facing Valpo coming off a bye week has been dangerous for Valpo opponents over the last two seasons.
- Head coach Landon Fox and his staff took advantage of extra preparation last season with the Oct. 8 41-21 win at Presbyterian. Valpo produced 463 yards of total offense, the highest of the Landon Fox Era, and enjoyed its second most lopsided win of the Fox regime.
- During the 2021 season, Valpo followed the bye week with a 45-28 home win over Dayton, outscoring the guests 17-0 in the third quarter. That marked Valpo’s largest margin of victory ever against Dayton and just the program’s fourth win in 30 all-time matchups.
- Saturday’s homecoming game will feature a celebration of the 2003 Valpo football team, commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the squad’s Pioneer Football League championship.
- The Brown & Gold went 8-4 under head coach Tom Horne, tying for first in the PFL North with a 3-1 mark and earning a place in the PFL Championship Game.
- The team outdid Morehead State in a high-scoring affair at Brown Field, 54-42, to claim the PFL title.
- Quarterback David Macchi led the PFL in passing yards per game (313.6) and total offense (339.9), while wide receiver Rob Giancola led the league in receiving yards per game (124.7). Defensively, Brad Smeja ranked second in the league with 9.4 tackles per contest, followed by teammate Lawrence Canada at 9.3.
- Numerous individual and team records were established during the 2003 season that still stand 20 years later.
Remembering Coach Koch
- Saturday will mark the first Valpo home game since the passing of Bill Koch at the age of 93.
- Koch served as the head coach of the Valpo football program from 1977-1988.
- The Valparaiso University graduate played for the 1950 team that went undefeated in the regular season and qualified for the Cigar Bowl.
- Coach Koch regularly attended Valpo football and basketball games in recent years and was a dedicated supporter of the University.
- Valpo’s 24-22 Week 2 loss at Indiana Wesleyan marked the latest in a trend of close contests that have become the norm during the Landon Fox Era.
- Valpo played six one-score games in 2022, four in Fall 2021, four in Spring 2021 and four in 2019. The Week 2 game against Indiana Wesleyan was the 19th game decided by seven points or fewer in Fox’s 43 games as Valpo head coach.
- The Beacons are 7-12 in those 19 one-score games but played .500 in those contests over the last three seasons at 7-7.
- The loss to the Wildcats was Valpo’s first defeat by three points or fewer since a one-point setback vs. Butler on Oct. 15 of last season.
Splitting the Uprights
- Despite losing an all-conference kicker at the end of last season, Valpo is 4-for-4 on field-goal tries over the first two weeks of the 2023 campaign with a pair of kickers that entered the season without any collegiate field-goal attempts.
- Patrick Oliva made a 33 yarder on his first career attempt at Youngstown State before going 2-for-2 at Indiana Wesleyan with makes from 30 and 28.
- Ryan Hawk drilled a 47 yarder against the Wildcats on his first collegiate field-goal try. That tied for the longest made field goal by a PFL kicker over the first two weeks of the season.
Other Notes Wrapping Up Week 2: Indiana Wesleyan 24, Valpo 22
- Tytus Ragle made three key second-half receptions including a 14-yard touchdown with seven seconds remaining. Ragle entered the season with six collegiate receptions over his first three seasons and already has five this year including his first career score.
- Solomon Davis’ TD catch was his first of the season and the fifth of his collegiate career.
- Wade Abrams recorded his first career interception and also blocked a punt. The block was Valpo’s first rejected kick of any kind since Kurt Kessen blocked a PAT on Oct. 15, 2022 vs. Butler and the team’s first blocked punt since Brett Bittner on Oct. 30, 2021 at San Diego.
- Sam Hafner paced the team with eight tackles including a pair of TFLs. He accounted for one of the team’s three sacks. Evan Annis was among the team leaders in tackles for the second straight week, notching eight stops to share the team lead with Hafner.
- Valpo committed six turnovers, the team’s most in a single game in the last 20 years.
- The Beacons tossed five interceptions, the team’s most since throwing five on Sept. 14, 2019 vs. Central Connecticut.
- Indiana Wesleyan, ranked fifth nationally in NAIA, has been difficult to beat on its home field. The reigning NAIA national semifinalists picked up their 14th consecutive home victory.
- Appel went 19-of-39 through the air for 194 yards and two scores. Several of the five interceptions were tipped passes and others were nice defensive plays. He was under heavy pressure throughout the game.
- The rushing attack was led by Barret Labus, who netted 61 yards on 13 attempts.
- Nine Valpo players caught passes, led by Davis and Ragle with three apiece.
- Valpo moved the chains 24 times for first downs, double as many as Indiana Wesleyan. The Beacons outgained the Wildcats in total offense 281-225 including a 225-171 advantage through the air while permitting just 54 rushing yards.
Scouting the Opponent – Marist
- Picked seventh of 11 in the PFL preseason poll, one spot behind Valpo.
- Started the season with a 49-7 loss at Georgetown before opening PFL play last week with a 49-21 home loss to Davidson.
- Under the direction of veteran head coach Jim Parady, who is in his 33rd
Other Notes Wrapping Up Week 1: Youngstown State 52, Valpo 10
- A two-yard TD plunge by Ryan Mann represented his first score in a Valpo uniform.
- Youngstown State improved to 41-2 in its last 43 nonleague home games. They brought back the bulk of their starters from a team that went 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the MVFC.
- This marked Valpo’s first Thursday night game since 2019 at Eastern Kentucky, the first game of the Landon Fox head coaching era.
- The defense was paced by Colin Graves, who accumulated eight tackles, while Evan Annis registered seven in his return to the gridiron after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
Captain Corner: Valpo has four team captains for the 2023 campaign – redshirt senior linebacker Evan Annis, senior offensive lineman Tyler Eberhert, redshirt junior defensive lineman Sam Hafner and redshirt senior wide receiver Solomon Davis. Annis is a captain for the third straight season, while the others hold the distinction for the first time this year.
- Valpo was picked sixth of 11 in the preseason poll.
- WR Solomon Davis and TE Evan Jernegan were recognized with Preseason All-PFL honors.
- Evan Matthes was named to the FCS Punter of the Year Award Watch List.
- Six Valpo players earned Phil Steele First All-PFL honors – WR Solomon Davis on the first team; TE Evan Jernegan, DL Sam Hafner, DL Kevin Spelman and P Evan Matthes on the second team and LB Evan Annis along with Spelman (as a long snapper) on the third team.
2022 Valpo Football Feats
- Winning on the road is never easy, but Valpo finished out a successful season in terms of Pioneer Football League games away from Brown Field with the 45-24 win at Marist in Week 11. The team finished 3-1 in league road games, the first time Valpo has won three PFL road games in the same season since the league was founded in 1993.
- In addition, 2022 marks the first time Valpo has won three league road games in the same season since 1962.
- Valpo finished with a PFL record of .500 or better for a third consecutive season. This is the program’s first such stretch since 1998-2000. Prior to that, Valpo had not had a league record of .500 or better in three straight years since doing so in four straight seasons from 1961-1964.
- The program has won four PFL games in the same season for the third straight year and just the fourth time ever. Prior to the Spring 2021 season, Valpo had won four league games in a season just once since 1968, with the one instance coming in 2017.
- To put the last note in further perspective, Valpo had won four Pioneer Football League games once in 26 seasons prior to Fox’s arrival. Now, the program has reached that threshold for league wins in three of his first four seasons. (Although, in fairness, the program played only four to five league games per year in each of its first 13 PFL seasons.)
- Fox’s team achieved yet another program first with the Week 11 win at Marist. That marked the program’s first-ever win in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (previously 0-4) and the team’s second win over Marist in any location (previously 1-9, last win in 2017 at Brown Field.)
- That one was the latest on a growing list of the program’s feats, as earlier in the season Valpo garnered the program’s first win at Morehead State since 2006.
- Also during the Fox Era, Valpo has achieved its first-ever win at Drake, its first win over Drake in any location since 2003 and its first win over San Diego since 2003.
- During the 2021 campaign, Valpo prevailed 47-3 in a game at rival Butler, setting a program record for margin of victory in a game against a Division-I opponent. Valpo and Butler are instate foes who play for the Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy.
2022 PFL Postseason Plaudits
- Seven members of Valpo’s program earned All-PFL First or Second Team status, while three others received Honorable Mention nods as the league announced its postseason awards on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
- Redshirt junior wide receiver Solomon Davis, fifth-year senior running back Aaron Dawson, redshirt senior offensive lineman Aaron Byrd and redshirt senior linebacker Ben Hines were named to the All-PFL First Team.
- Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Sam Hafner, fifth-year senior defensive back Kohlton Sherman and redshirt senior punter Evan Matthes were tabbed to the All-PFL Second Team.
- Redshirt freshman tight end Evan Jernigan, redshirt junior wide receiver Matt Ross and redshirt freshman defensive lineman and long snapper Kevin Spelman (at both positions) received PFL Honorable Mention.
- All 10 players recognized were first time All-PFL honorees, with the exception of Byrd, who had earned All-PFL Honorable Mention twice previously but was a first time First Team choice.
2022 Academic Accolades
- Five members of the program were recognized as Academic All-District selections by College Sports Communicators (CSC, formerly known as CoSIDA).
- Redshirt sophomore linebacker James Doerer (communication), redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Sam Hafner (biology), junior defensive lineman Kurt Kessen (mechanical engineering), redshirt junior wide receiver Matt Ross (digital media) and fifth-year senior defensive back Kohlton Sherman (business) were all recognized.
- In order to qualify for the honor, an individual must have at least a 3.50 cumulative grade point average, be a starter or important reserve, have reached at least sophomore academic and athletic status and have been at their institution for at least one calendar year.
- Valpo shattered a program record for PFL Honor Roll members in 2022, placing 64 individuals on the honor roll. The previous program record of 60 was established in 2018 and tied in 2021.
Inside the Staff: Head coach Landon Fox has welcomed several newcomers to his staff for the 2023 campaign.
- Matthew Symmes (offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach) is in his first season. He has an impressive resume that features Power-5 FBS and NFL coaching experience. Prior to his most recent assignment as senior defensive analyst/assistant linebackers coach at East Carolina University, he was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff from 2018-2020, serving as quarterbacks coach and offensive assistant. He was the NFL’s youngest QB coach in 2019, and helped the Steelers to the 2020 AFC North Championship. He was also on staff at ECU when the team went to bowl games in 2021 and 2022.
- David Marquis (defensive coordinator / defensive backs coach) is in his first season at Valpo after previously serving as defensive coordinator at Wittenberg University. He was the linebackers coach at Dayton under then Flyers defensive coordinator Landon Fox from May 2017 to March 2019.
- RJ Ghilarducci (co-defensive coordinator / recruiting coordinator / linebackers coach) is in his fourth season at Valpo, the staff’s longest-tenured assistant. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator prior to the 2023 campaign and shifted to linebackers coach after previously working with the defensive line.
- Andrew Prevost (offensive line coach / run game coordinator / assistant head coach) is in his first season at Valpo after a stint on staff at the University of South Dakota since 2016. He helped the Coyotes reach the FCS Playoffs in 2017 and 2021. Prevost was elevated to offensive line coach at South Dakota in 2018.
- Other offensive coaches include Bryan Parker (wide receivers), Trevor McConnell (running backs), Nate Van Asperen (tight ends) and Cam Burnette (quality control). Other defensive coaches include Jackson Smith (defensive line), Curtis Harper (assistant defensive line) and Owen Chandler (assistant defensive backs).
- Symmes, Van Asperen and Burnette will be in the press box for the offensive staff, while Prevost, Parker and McConnell will be on the field.
- Ghilarducci and Chandler will be in the press box for the defensive staff, while Marquis, Smith and Harper will be on the field.
- The staff also features Nathan Richards (Director of Football Operations), Luke Campbell (Associate Director of Sports Performance), Nicole Mioduski (primary football athletic trainer) and Mason Williams (head equipment management).
Transfer Tracker: While developing homegrown talent remains a key element of Valpo’s program, the team has also found success recruiting via the transfer portal. Defensive back Tyler Geiman (Dubuque), linebacker Mohamed Kamara (Hope), wide receiver Johnny Foley (Lehigh), linebacker Kobey Fitzgerald (UCLA), wide receiver Brandon Jimenez (Albany), wide receiver Brandon Barthel (American River), linebacker Jimmy Pouba (College of the Sequoias), defensive back Kalil Brown (Albion), wide receiver Moise Tezzo (Millsaps), running back Jashon Butler (Arizona), tight end Mike York, offensive lineman Ryan Pauley (Presbyterian), kicker Liam Shepherd (Ball State) and defensive lineman Onye Nwosisi (Miskingum) have all joined the program as transfers.
Roster Rundown: The program has continued to bring in talent from all over the United States. This year’s roster features athletes from nearly half of the 50 states as 22 states are represented. Illinois is the state most represented on Valpo’s roster as 21 players hail from the Land of Lincoln. Other states in double figures are Indiana (17), California (15) and Ohio (14). The program has over doubled its instate talent, featuring 17 Hoosiers this year after having eight a year ago.
Who’s Back: The 2023 Beacons boast five returning starters on offense and seven on defense.
- LB Evan Annis has a pair of older brothers who played college football. Brett played at Division-III Capital, while Kyle played at – and we’re going to whisper this one – Butler.
- Wide receiver Cam Livingston is a third-generation Division-I football player. His grandfather Brian played at Ohio State and his father Robert played for – here we go again – Butler.
- QB Michael Appel Jr. has two family members who played football at Morehead State University – father Mike (1993-1997) and uncle Jim (1989-1992)… The Morehead State annual academic award is named after his father and uncle as both were Academic All-Americans at MSU.
- Kicker Patrick Oliva’s cousin is Tad Boyle, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Colorado.
- WR EJ Locke’s father Eric Locke Sr. played football at Illinois State.
- LB Hayden Bedell’s cousin is former Valpo offensive lineman Drew Parrish.
- DB Etwood Williams’ father Arthur played football at Illinois State from 1991-1993, cousin Rodney Peete played at USC and went on to a long NFL career from 1989-2004. His cousin Shawn Buchanon played baseball at Nebraska and went on to a five-year minor league career in the Chicago White Sox organization.
- DL Amar Elmore’s cousin Markus Wheaton played college football at Oregon State and went on to play in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2013-2016), Chicago Bears (2017) and Philadelphia Eagles (2018).
- TE Jalen Jones’ uncle Derrick Coleman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Coleman went on to play in the NBA from 1990-2005, was the 1991 NBA Rookie of the Year and was an NBA All-Star in 1994.
- DL Sam Hafner’s great aunt Louise Erickson played professional women’s basketball for three years (Racine Belles one year, Rockford Peaches two years).
- DL Logan Chastain’s father Dan was a catcher at the University of Portland, was drafted out of high school by the Montreal Expos in the 57th round of the 1991 MLB Draft and played minor league baseball in the Marlins organization.
- QB Caron Tyler’s father is rapper Aaron Tyler, better known by stage name MC Eiht.
- DB Mark Johnson’s father Mark played football at Vanderbilt form 1986-91.
- OL James Owsley’s father Kent played football at Iowa from 1986-1990.
- WR Bennett McCormick’s paternal grandfather Thomas McCormick signed to play football at Wisconsin when they had a freshman football team before he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, but instead left to join the Korean War.
Did You Know? #BeaconBits
- Quarterback Jeffrey Jackson was a 2010 Jiu-Jitsu World Champion.
- Linebacker Evan Annis played lacrosse for 10 years.
- Both of WR Solomon Davis’ parents retired from the Navy.
- DB Ousmane Dabo is ambidextrous, as is OL James Owsley.
- DB Austin Chilton lives a few minutes from Walt Disney World and can hear the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from his neighborhood every night. His career goal is to design and build rollercoasters for Disney World.
- DB Andy Cole was adopted from Ethiopia, Africa when he was 8 years old.
- LB Justin Jurmu’s oldest brother Jordan was a national finalist in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship in 2015 at Augusta National.
- DL Alex Goworowski has never seen Star Wars, Rocky, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones or Caddyshack.
- DL Dawson Rye had a pet aquatic frog for over 15 years.
- TE Evan Jernegan has built out the biggest Lego set, the UCS Millennium Falcon.
- DL Kurt Kessen was his high school’s valedictorian.
- K Ryan Hawk is a certified advanced scuba diver.
- NFL QB Colt McCoy came to DB Johnny Bebie’s house and drove him and his brothers to school in first grade.
- OL Noah Kline’s extended family is so large that at one point he had a relative living in every state except Maine.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
*Based on two-deep, starters subject to change
- WR-x #10 Solomon Davis, R-Sr. – Ranked among the PFL leaders in receptions per game (3.48, ninth), receiving yards per game (62.33, fifth), yards per catch (17.4, fifth), total receptions (43, fifth) and total receiving yards (748, second) last season after he had just one career catch in his first three seasons on Valpo’s campus… Preseason All-PFL choice, Phil Steele Preseason All-PFL First Team... Hauled in a 53-yard catch in Week 1 at Youngstown State... Had his first TD catch of the season and the fifth of his collegiate career in Week 2 at Indiana State.
- LT #55 Brett Gray, R-So. – Played in 11 games and made eight starts in 2022.
- C #62 Carter Woody, Sr. – Started all 12 games in 2022.
- QB #12 Michael Appel Jr., R-So. – During the 2022 campaign, had the best single-game passing output by a Valpo player in five years with a career-high 323 passing yards in Week 9 at Dayton… Ranked among the PFL leaders in the following categories in 2022 – total offense (155.36, seventh), passing yards per game (170.7, fifth), total passing yards (1,878; fifth), pass efficiency (129.55, fifth), pass attempts (253, sixth), yards per completion (12.6, third), completions (149, fifth), yards per attempt (7.42, third), passing TDs (10, eighth) and completion percentage (58.89, third).
- LG #50 Nico Paic, R-Fr. – Was converted from offensive line to defensive line prior to the 2023 campaign.
- RG #65 Mason Smith, R-Fr. – Saw action in two games in 2022 including the season finale at New Mexico State.
- RT #78 Keith Szczepanski, R-Jr. – Played in all 12 games and made four starts in 2022.
- TE #89 Jake Vickers, R-Jr. – Made seven catches for 105 yards and one touchdown while playing in nine games in 2022.
- WR-z #8 Brandon Jimenez, Jr. – Joined the program prior to the 2023 season as a transfer from Albany.
- RB #34 Ryan Mann, R-So. – Played in all 12 games in 2022 after transferring from Northern Illinois... Scored his first career touchdown, plunging in from two yards out, in Week 1 at Youngstown State.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
*Based two-deep, starters subject to change
- DE #90 Sam Hafner, R-Jr. – Named to the All-PFL Second Team, Academic All-PFL First Team and CSC Academic All-District Team in 2022... Played in all 12 games... Had 65 tackles (26 solos), nine TFL, five sacks, three forced fumbles and three QB hurries... Ranked ninth in the PFL in sacks per game at 0.42... Tied for the PFL lead with three forced fumbles... Had a season-high 10 tackles in the Sept. 3, 2022 opener vs. Indiana Wesleyan... Shared the team lead with eight tackles in Week 2 of 2023 at Indiana Wesleyan including a pair of TFLs.
- DT #93 Kurt Kessen, Sr. – Named to the Academic All-PFL First Team, CSC Academic All-District Team and was the team’s Scholar-Athlete Award winner last season... Played in all 12 games, totaling 46 tackles (12 solos), a sack, eight QB hurries, three pass breakups and one blocked kick... Accrued a season-high 10 tackles on Sept. 24, 2022 vs. San Diego... Blocked an extra point on Oct. 15 vs. Butler.
- NG #96 Logan Chastain, So. – Named the team’s Newcomer of the Year last season... Played in all 12 games in 2022 and had 23 tackles (eight solos), 2.5 TFL, two sacks and three QB hurries... Had two sacks on Oct. 8 at Presbyterian.
- DE #91 Kevin Spelman, R-So. – Was the only PFL player and one of 25 players nationally named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List for the honor presented annually to the nation’s top FCS freshman last season… Tied for fifth in the PFL in sacks and was one of nine players in the league with multiple forced fumbles in 2022... Ranked fourth in the nation in sacks by a freshman in 2022... Earned All-PFL Honorable Mention at both defensive line and long snapper last season.
- LB (W) #40 Wade Abrams, R-Fr. – Played in three games during his first year on campus in 2022, retaining four seasons of eligibility.
- LB (M) #2 Evan Annis, R-Sr. – Earned all PFL honors in Spring 2021 (Second Team) and Fall 2021 (HM) but missed all of last season with a knee injury... Tied for the team lead in tackles with eight in Week 2 at Indiana Wesleyan.
- LB (nickel) #3 Mohamed Kamara, Sr. – Transfer from Hope College, where he was MIAA all-conference.
- CB #6 Caleb Rao, R-So. – Had an interception and a fumble return touchdown in Week 2 of 2022 at Illinois State… Recorded 22 tackles (16 solos), had 1.5 TFL, two fumble recoveries, five pass breakups and an interception last season.
- S #20 Austin Chilton, R-Sr. – Had 28 tackles (16 solos) while seeing action in all 12 games last season.
- S #26 Colin Graves, Jr. – Had 61 tackles (23 solos), four TFL, 0.5 sacks, an interception and four pass breakups last season... Paced the team with eight tackles in Week 1 at Youngstown State.
- CB #1 Tyler Geiman, R-Sr. – Transfer who was a Division-III All-American at Dubuque.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- P #11 Evan Matthes, 6th – Ranked second in the league in punting average at 41.38 yards per punt last season... Named to the All-PFL Second Team, the Phil Steele All-PFL Second Team and was tabbed the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2022... Booted a 70-yard punt in Week 1 at Youngstown State, the second-longest punt in the FCS nation that week.
- K #99 Ryan Hawk, R-So. – Did not see game action last year… Played in two games in Fall 2021... Made a 47-yard field goal in Week 2 at Indiana Wesleyan on the first attempt of his collegiate career.
- K #21 Patrick Oliva, R-So. – Has played in one career game prior to this year, Sept. 18, 2021 vs. Dartmouth, when he made one kickoff... Made his first career field goal in Week 1 at Youngstown State, a 33 yarder.