Augustana football making offensive progress at spring practice

Vikings working in new coordinator as quarterback competition begins

Augustana quarterback Thomas Scholten throws a pass during spring practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Jim Heinitz Field in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service<br/>

SIOUX FALLS — The Augustana football team won seven games last year but missed the Division II playoffs, and inconsistency on offense and at quarterback were a factor.

That led coach Jerry Olszewski to make a change at offensive coordinator, replacing James Schrenk with former USD Coyotes tight ends coach Tyler Paopao. As the Vikings approach the midpoint of spring practice, the transition to the new coordinator and development of the offense has, naturally, been a main focus.

"It's going good," said senior wide receiver Logan Uttecht, who caught 35 passes last season. "It was nice that (Paopao) came in before spring so we had some time to get used to this offense and get our timing with the quarterbacks. We're not changing everything but it's still a change. I mean, I've had to go back and study my playbook again, which I haven't had to do for years. But that's good. It's good for us to get together as an offense and learn and build together."

The Vikings were by no means bad on offense in 2022 — they averaged 26 points per game and surpassed 30 points on five occasions. But some of their biggest games came against bottom-dwelling teams, and they scored just 21 total points in consecutive midseason losses to eventual playoff qualifiers MSU-Mankato and Winona State.

Augustana offensive coordinator Tyler Paopao talks to running back Kyle Graham (26) and quarterback Casey Bauman (6) during spring practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Jim Heinitz Field in Sioux Falls.

So Paopao is being asked to make some improvements to the offense, but not necessarily to revamp it.


"We want to keep the things we think are core to our offense and good, but also give (Paopao) the opportunity and creativity to bring what he brings to the table," Olszewski said. "That's why you make a change. So I think there's been a good blend (of new and old). We haven't called a game yet but it seems to be going well. There's a great understanding of what's being asked of our players. It's been a pretty smooth transition."

The offense dealt with injuries last year — most notably to former 1,000-yard rusher Jarod Epperson, who ended up playing in only four games — but quarterback play was inconsistent, whether 6-foot-7 transfer Casey Bauman (a former Division I starter at Montana State) or Thomas Scholten were under center.

As the Vikings work toward this fall, they'll have to settle on a starter. But Olszewski seems less worried about who will be QB1 and more interested in getting the entire offense in-sync and in a better place to be explosive.

Augustana assistant coach Kelly Scholten directs a drill with the Vikings defensive line during spring practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Jim Heinitz Field in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

"Those guys have really developed," Olszewski said of the quarterbacks. "They've embraced what we're asking them to do — their reads, getting the ball out on time, being efficient. There's a lot of confidence flowing through that group right now."

Bauman, now in his final year of eligibility, showed flashes of excellence last year as both a runner and thrower, rushing for over 400 yards (not counting sacks) in eight games while completing 57 percent of his throws for 1,282 yards and 14 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Scholten, who will be a junior in the fall, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a win over Bemidji State in what was essentially his college debut, but also experienced growing pains, ultimately throwing for 883 yards and eight touchdowns with six picks.

"I will say this," the coach said. "Casey is playing at a really high level right now. The changes we've made have brought out the best in him. Thomas has had a good camp so far, too. I'm happy with both of them. The great thing is they know what they're supposed to be doing. They're not asking as many questions and coaching each other."

Outside of the quarterback position, the Vikings are getting a long look at younger players all over the field because of how many regulars they're holding out for injury or precautionary reasons. Among those not currently participating are much of the offense line and a handful of skill guys, but that opens the door for others to get valuable reps that can build quality depth.

"Some of us old guys are a little beat up right now," Uttecht said. "So a lot of young guys are getting a lot more experience. We're trying to put them in those game situations in practice, get them game-like reps so they can trust themselves and make us better as a unit."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, and began a long career in amateur baseball and sports reporting. Email Matt at
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