WICHITA, Kan. - The Butler Grizzlies are the coaches' pick to finish atop the 2013 Jayhawk Conference football standings, as the annual preseason poll was released at the KJCCC media day Friday.
This marks the 11th straight year that the Grizzlies have been predicted by the conference coaches to win the Jayhawk Conference. Butler has won 10 of the last 11 conference championships - including the last three titles. The Grizzlies (11-1 overall, 7-0 KJCCC last year) finished No. 2 in the final NJCAA football poll after falling to Iowa Western in the 2012 National Championship game.
Hutchinson was picked second, followed by Coffeyville and Garden City, who hired former Kansas State quarterback Matt Miller as their new head coach back in January. Miller served as the Broncbusters' offensive coordinator last season. Rounding out the bottom four in the poll were Fort Scott, Dodge City, Highland and Independence.
In his address to the media, Butler head football coach Troy Morrell said that experience was a concern for the upcoming season after losing 18 players to NCAA Division I programs last season.
"We had such a sophomore-ladened team," said Morrell, who has a 137-17 record entering his 14th season at Butler. "A lot of guys went on to bigger and better things and continue to play football on a high level, but at the same time, you're saying 'How am I going to replace those guys?'"
Butler has 17 returning letterman (nine on offense, eight on defense), including one defensive starter - lineman Owen Williams (6-2, 283, Macon, Ga.) - along with kicker Robert Rawlings (5-10, 194, Wichita) and punter Ty Suggs (5-11, 207, Manhattan).
In addition to Williams, Morrell said Gabe Luna (6-2, 250, Garden City), Bradyn Butcher (6-1, 225, Wichita) and redshirt freshman Stephon Hall (6-3, 267, Detroit, Mich.) are expected to contribute up front.
Defensively, Morrell said that linebackers appear to be a strength this season, despite losing four players at that position to graduation. Backups Nick Cook (6-2, 205, Wichita) and Dominik White (6-0, 211, Junction City) both saw time last year. Also in the mix are transfer Phillip Williamson (6-3, 250, Durham, N.C.) and Devon Durant (6-1, 220, Greenwood, S.C.)
In the secondary, Butler returns safety Branden Dozier (6-0, 190, Topeka). Transfer Derron Reddick (6-0, 190, Houston, Texas) excelled in spring ball, while redshirt defensive back Antwan Hadley (6-3, 210, Lake Wales, FL) also will compete for playing time.
Offensively, redshirt quarterback Hunter Vaughn (6-3, 200, Robertsdale, Ala.) enters fall practice atop the depth chart.
"He's got the ability to throw the ball," said Morrell of Vaughn. "He's probably a little more athletic than some of the quarterbacks we've had in the past."
In the backfield, Ty Suggs is the lone returner with experience. Suggs had 66 carries for 516 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. Redshirt back Kenno Loyal (5-11, 230, Decatur, Ga.) will also compete for time. Fullback is one of the more experienced spots on the field as both Riley Oharah (6-0, 235, Goddard) and Miles Thomas (5-10, 222, Downs) saw playing time last season.
At receiver, the Grizzlies return three in-state players - Trey Hallman (5-8, 182, Dodge City), Michael Glatczak (5-11, 174, Centralia) and Dawson Elliott (5-10, 190, Goddard). Steven Walker (6-3, 225, Wichita) also returns at tight end.
Up front, the Grizzlies lost all five starters on the offensive line, but return Luke Hayes (6-6, 284, Scott City), Tyler Uselton (6-3, 330, Great Bend), Parker Whitney (6-3, 313, Rose Hill) and Mateo Kambui (6-2, 282, Wichita) - all of which had some playing experience.
Butler opens the season at home on Saturday, Aug. 24 against Dodge City at 7 p.m. The Grizzlies will also host Independence (Sept. 14, 7 p.m.), Highland (Sept. 21, 6 p.m.) and Region VI runner-up Hutchinson (Oct. 26, 6 p.m.).
|2013 BUTLER FOOTBALL SCHEDULE|
|Saturday, Aug. 24||Dodge City||El Dorado, KS||7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Aug. 31||at Blinn (Texas)||Brenham, TX||7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Sept. 7||at Fort Scott||Fort Scott, KS||1 p.m.|
|Saturday, Sept. 14||Independence||El Dorado, KS||7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Sept. 21||Highland||El Dorado, KS||6 p.m.|
|Saturday, Sept. 28
||at Air Force Prep||Colorado Springs, CO
|Saturday, Oct. 5||at Garden City||Garden City, KS||7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Oct. 19||at Coffeyville||Coffeyville, KS||7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Oct. 26||Hutchinson||El Dorado, KS||6 p.m.|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Region VI Semifinal||Site of higher seed||1:30 p.m.|
|Sunday, Nov. 10
||Region VI Championship
||Site of higher seed||1:30 p.m.|