In the 1st division to stay ?
Nidaros Domers are playing in Norway's top division for the first time in its 9 year history. The turning point came last season, when American Jason Ready and Finn Ari Laukkonen accidentally showed up at practice. Since then the Trondheim-team has developed local talents such as HB Sindre Veland and WR Eyvind Fossbakk. Last season the team took it's pride in not importing or paying players on it's roster. This year it seems likely they have to enforce their team with a few imported Finns and another American. Almost 90 % of the Domers' roster are university students. That makes them very unstable in May and June, when the regular season runs, which is in the middle of the exam period. They will have problems starting the same 1st string players in consecutive games. On the bright side, they are young, they are hungry and they are humble. Running a wishbone offence, Domers put their trust in HB Sindre Veland and FB Jason Ready to do most of the TDs this season. From last season they had to strengthen their O-Line, and with Richard Jansen -the league's best lineman- and some foreign improvements they might get the line they need to get the offence going. On defence they've got an impressive improvement in Swedish veteran LB/DE Anders Sjöström, and an agressive Finn in player/coach Ari Laukkonen. The Domers always have tiring and expensive away-travels, with all their away games 500 km's down south. As Nidaros Domers have joined NTNUI (Norges Tekniske Naturvitenskaplige Universitets Idrettslag) and got an active new board, they have both got a better economy and a hands-on ambitious management.
Henning Tveit has been the Domers' QB for the last 3 seasons. He is one of the team's veterans, a re-educated WR. Henning might not be a physical player but has a fairly strong arm, and does a brilliant job when it comes to fakes. He's not afraid to run with the ball. Tveit is one of the minds behind the Domers offensive playbook. This year the veteran must fight for the 1st string position with the young and promising rookie Atle Prange. Atle played much of the 2nd division final against Vikings 2, and impressed many with his head-on quarterbacking. Still has a tendency to force the ball into heavy traffic. Prange is one of the Nidaros players with the highest discipline in practice. He has great physique and is a true leader. 3rd string will be either Jan Erik Weidemann or promising junior QB Fredrik Nilsen.
Sindre Veland was the rushing leader for Domers last season. He was also voted as team MVP. Good speed, great moves at his best, but Veland is sometimes a little bit nonchalant, especially in plays he's not a major factor in. Jason Ready, the team's only American, is a former San Francisco State player. A true «I-brake-for-nobody» fullback. A head-first playmaker with a very strong neck. He was a bit troubled with a hamstring injury last season. HB Torger Tokle together with HB Terje Østmo, FB Trond G. Aagesen and Thomas Tveit makes the Domers backfield pretty loaded.
The Domers have a speedy receiver in former sprinter Eyvind Fossbakk, but that's pretty much it. Eivind can do blazing route running, has good hands, but is fragile to heavy hits. Rookie Sølve Olsen is promising, but not as fast as Fossbakk. Jan Erik Weidemann might also see some playing time at this position. TE will be Anders Olav Ottervik, a tall and disciplined player. The team needs more quality and depth at wideouts to succeed in the 1st division.
Maybe Nidaros' strongest position. C/G Richard Jansen is considered the league's best offensive lineman. Richard was out of regular training until February because of an ankle surgery, but has done a lot of weight-training and looks very impressive; he is expected to be more horrifying for defenders than ever. Veteran OL/DL Geir Ove Buseth has good experience and always gives his best while in uniform. 2nd year player Håvard Sivertsen did an impressive effort last season. Jan Morten Kristoffersen and the two Finnish players -Nikko and Harry- will probably make an impact on this line. The o-line has been the Domers' no.1 priority during the preseason.
Domers defensive MVP 1998 Petter Tetli (DE) is a young player who plays with great intensity. He seemed a little bit lazy last season, but has worked with his condition this year, and enlarged his range a lot. Tetli is one of the largest players on the team. 7 year veteran OL/DE Geir Ove Buseth will play both ways this season. DT Marius Mikalsen played a good '98 season, and hopefully will follow up with a strong performance this year as well. The tall Finn Tommy (last name unknown as of yet) will be a good addition to the D-line.
One of the most impressive and promising new players for the Domers this year is 30 years old Anders Sjøstrøm, an 8 year veteran from Swedish side Westerbotten Huskies. With an awesome physique, great attitude and excellent technique, he has a big influence on the Domers, both team-wise and on the coaching. Playing coach Ari Laukkonen, switches from DL to LB this year. Has played 5 years in the Finnish 1st division with Kouvola Indians, and is in his 2nd year with Nidaros Domers. This is one angry Finn ! American Ron Miranda -currently playing semi-pro in US-, a former room mate of coach Ready will hopefully bring attitude and skill to an otherwise relatively inexperienced Domers roster. The only Norwegian starting LB on the Domers will probably be Tommy Hoem Thordarson, playing his 5th season with the team. Jason Ready, the HC himself, is also a name that could figure here. He is a hard hitter; its hard to forget when he sent the Vikings 2 QB out of the game in the championship game with a terrifying blind-side blitz.
Maybe the Domers weakest part of defence in '98, must improve radically in '99. Corners Sindre Olsen and Jan Erik Weidemann will meet heavy passing this year. In danger of getting burned against teams such as the pass-happy Vikings they will need to work on both speed and technique. Strong Safety Olav Svartøien owned the top-spot on the Domers tackling-stat last year. He will definitely need his head-on attitude when the heavy rushers from down south comes into the Domers secondary. Thomas Tveit and junior player Fredrik Nilsen are additional DBs.
The Domers have yet to score with their kicking unit. K Anders Aune , coming out of McBain College, or 1998's K Trond G. Aagesen will hopefully be the first one to do so. The punting duties will belong to Tommy Hoem Thordarson. Kickreturners Sindre Veland, Jason Ready and Torger Tokle might do some damage in the return game this year.
The team has yet to see a full-time coach. This might be the last time without it, as they step into the top division. Finn Ari Laukkonen has got help from Swede Anders Sjøstrøm in the coaching department. With the Nordic influence on the defence, and west-coast American Jason Ready handling the offence, the coaching staff has lot of experience. It remains to be seen if they can coach the game while playing themselves. Common for all of them is that they are not paid by the team (they actually have to pay); they've come to Norway for education or their profession. They put their time down for the Domers just for their love of the game.
The Domers know they are the poorest rated team in their division this year, but they want to think ahead. This first year in top-division is just the first step in a 5 year plan to become a serious part of the Norwegian gridiron scene. With a decent introductional season (i.e Getting some yards, some points on the board and hopefully a victory or two) to the 1st division they might just achieve that goal.
Team overall: C+
*= Preseason game.