After back-to-back 4-6 seasons, Carroll College Fighting Saints football is looking to return to the top of the standings.
Six-time national champion head coach Mike Van Diest enters his nineteenth season looking to build a resilient squad.
"You're grading them on toughness and competitiveness. Not a toughness that they've got to prove their manhood to anybody. But just a toughness physically as well as a mental aspect," said Coach Mike Van Diest.
The offense returns eight starters and looks to be more consistent on the ground to take pressure off senior quarterback Tanner Gustavsen.
"Offensive line, you've got to get those guys to gel and we've got three starters returning. That's what we're looking for because we have some good skills positions but we've still got to be able to run the football first," said Mike Van Diest.
The defense returns six starters and the safety position is expected to be a team strength.
"It's not always awesome getting yelled at or making mistakes. Things like that. But just being out here with the guys, in the sun, there's nothing like a little football," said senior safety Tucker Johnson.
The Saints are picked to finish third in the Frontier Conference preseason poll.
"It's like a chess game. We're moving around guys and trying to get guys in the right fit. At the same time, get these guys knowing what it is to be competitive each and every day," said Mike Van Diest.
Once the games start, Carroll won't have to wait long to see how they measure up. They open the regular season Thursday, August 31st on the road against rival Montana Tech. The Orediggers are the back-to-back Frontier Conference champions and the 2017 preseason favorite.