The trophy above is not the Norwegian championship trophy. It is the EuroCup trophy. It is what the Vikes aim to get for themselves this year. Without it the season will be seen as a disappointment, even if the Vikings take the Norwegian championship for a second year in a row. The Vikes have recruited heavily in front of this season, landing respected players such as Fredrik Nanhed, a bruising and intriguing runningback. Not to forget; there is a new sheriff in town. Chris Gavreau takes over the reigns from Val Gunn. It will be interesting to see how different the Vikings philosophy will be compared to what it was under Gunn.
1998's starter Dennis Johansson returns to lead the Vikes' Offense. He now adds experience to his resúme. The Vikings feel good about Johanssons abilities. He is big, strong of arm, and can move reasonably well. But the depth is a question mark. WR David Rødsand can step in when called upon, but hasn't practised as a QB for a long time. Former Sandnes QB Håkon Strande Henriksen is waiting in the wings, but is more important on the other side of the ball.
For the first time as a Viking, FB Nicolay Aslaksen may not be the centre of attention here. Aslaksen is by no means losing steam, but the arrival of star RB Fredrik Nanhed adds another dimention to the Vikings' offense. Together these two make up the best backfield Norway -and possibly all of Scandinavia- has seen. Aslaksen was hampered by a knee injury last year, but looks to be fine. Behind these two there seems to be little depth. FB Anders Raaer is a converted lineman. Backup RB Alexander Johannessen is smallish, but very talented. He is only 17 years old. Coming in is Peter Arkko, considered by many a prospect for the Finnish national team. Arkko should see some playing time here.
Wideouts David Rødsand and Vilhelm Lae is the best pair of wideouts in Norway at the moment. Rødsand, although young, has experience and is considered the best receiver in the country. Lae has great speed and is probably the best route runner there is. WR Adam Manaf comes in from the Trolls, and could be a dark horse for a starting spot. TE Terje Bakkeli is big, has good hands and blocks well. The Vikings are very comfortable with him.
How much will this unit miss starting center Richard Jansen, who now plays with the Domers ? It all depends on the development of John-Arild Martinsen, a former fullback turned center. T Ola Falck Sprauten is huge, and is only in his second year of organized football. If he continues his development he could soon be the best lineman in Norway. G Matthias Figur is the most experienced of the O'linemen, while Per Kaern and Sten Kagnes are fine linemen who makes up the rest of the starters. Trond Salomonsen is the best of the backups. He would start for most teams.
DE Mikael Berg comes over from the Uppsala 86ers. He makes this unit better. Morten Larsen is a player who got kind of a breakthrough last season, and will surely find a starting spot here. Jan Strøm switches from DB, which should be a good move. Strøm is athletic and a bit of a madman - a perfect fit at DE. Robin Jönsson, Bård Beylich and Anders Geithung are other names to look for in this department.
American import Chris Peltonen leads a group the Vikes feel good about. Peltonen is a graduate of Cal Lutheran, finishing as the school's all-time leading tackler. Hans Erik Sjetnan keeps getting better and better. He excelled in '98, when he also became the defensive captain. Henrik Hammarberg is a former Swedish national team player who joined the team last year. He is brilliant. Helge Hansen is the most underrated 'backer on the team. There is good depth, with former stars André Nesset and Ole Petter Nyhaug both expected back from injury. Asle Melgaard is another player that could see game time.
Gone is Gaute Engebretsen (Vikings 2), Gorm Laursen (Vikings 2) and Jonas Hultman (coaching), who all made contributions last year. The additions to replace these three are Swedish national and Cal Lutheran grad Matthias Wikström and American import Howie Inniss. Not to forget Kristian Syvertsen, who switches from LB. Håkon Strande Henriksen is the DB who also was here in '98. He is a good player with knowledge of the game. Christian Laupsa returns from a year in the States in time for the playoffs.
Nicolay Aslaksen has always been a fine kick returner, to the irritation of many teams. With his knee-brace off, he may do more damage than he did last year. Howie Inniss could be a major contributor in the return game. The Vikes has brought in two new kickers, Hogne Hareide and André Johnsen. Both are valuable additions. The Vikings don't give up many TDs on special teams, so this area looks solid.
Chris Gavreau feels good about his coaching staff, which includes 7 assistants. Defensive Coordinator Lars Lindgren is considered among the finest coaches in Norway. Paul Parlett coaches the offensive backs in addition to being the Vikings 2 head coach. Other assistants include long-time Vikings veterans Henrik Dahl(LBs), Christian Paulsboe(D-line), Jonas Hultman(DBs) & Andreas Begby(O-line). American Chadwick Byrd switches from DBs to Receivers.
Anything less than a national championship repeat must be considered a disappointment. But the big question mark is if this team is good enough to win the EuroCup championship as well. The Vikings are strong enough to win the North group, but will be hard pressed in a championship game which could see them face either the London O's or the Amsterdam Crusaders. If they get past the Kronborg Knights, that is.
Team overall: B+