For the 12th straight year, Butler was predicted to finish first by the Jayhawk Conference football coaches for the upcoming season, as the 2014 preseason coaches poll was announced at KJCCC Football Media Day on Friday.
The Grizzlies (9-2 last season), who open the season on Thursday, Aug. 28 at home against Independence, have won 14 of the last 16 KJCCC titles. Butler continued its dominance of the Jayhawk Conference in 2013, winning its fourth consecutive KJCCC and Region VI title while earning a bid to the Graphic Edge Bowl.
Butler returns just four starters from last year – two on offense, two on defense – and return 22 lettermen. Offensively, the Grizzlies will rely on running back Chris Carson (109 carries for 611 yards and eight touchdowns) and wide receiver Brady Moore (12 receptions, 166 yards) for experience. Defensive back Antwan Hadley (34 tackles, two interceptions) and linebacker Phil Williamson (7.5 sacks, 41 tackles) are the key returnees on the defensive side.
"We will be a much more experienced team in 2014 than we were in 2013," said Morrell. "We will have size and speed at every position on the field and we should have good depth at most positions."
Morrell feels that running back, defensive backs and the defensive line will be strengths for the 2014 team, while special teams and the kicking game is considered a weakness as the Grizzlies lost kicker Robert Rawlings and punter Ty Suggs to graduation.
In addition to the returning starters, Morrell indicated that Will Smith will be a key addition to an inexperienced offensive line. Defensively, defensive lineman Ulric Jones and defensive back Toby Omli will contribute. Defensive back Bakari Triggs, who played two seasons with the Grizzly basketball team, will also be an impact player, as Morrell said he appears to be one of the fastest players on the team.
The 2014 schedule will be a challenging one for Butler, as there are no open dates and two trips to Iowa, as the KJCCC enters a new affiliation with the three Iowa schools – Iowa Western, Iowa Central and Ellsworth. Also new for 2014 will be an 11-game schedule with no conference playoffs for the first time since 1980.
The Grizzlies will travel to Council Bluffs in Week 2 to face Iowa Western in a rematch of the 2012 national championship game. Butler then returns home to battle rival Hutchinson, who was predicted to finish second.
"I think it will be an exciting thing for fans – for junior college fans across the country" Morrell said about the addition of playing the Iowa schools. "We definitely have to be ready to play our best right out the gate with the competition we are going to have."
Beginning with Hutchinson on Sept. 13, the Grizzlies will have three straight home games at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex. Butler will host Fort Scott and Air Force Prep, then finish out the schedule with four road games in the last six weeks. The Grizzlies will square off against rival Coffeyville on Oct. 18, then end the home portion of the schedule on Nov. 8 with a 1:00 p.m. kickoff against Ellsworth, Iowa.
Following Butler and Hutchinson in the preseason coaches' poll, last year's runner-up, Dodge City, was picked to finish third. Fourth was Coffeyville, while Garden City and Highland tied for fifth. Fort Scott and Independence were predicted to finish seventh and eighth, respectively.
KJCCC FOOTBALL COACHES POLL
2014 Predicted Order of Finish
Rank Team 2013 Record
1. BUTLER 9-2
2. Hutchinson 8-4
3. Dodge City 6-4
4. Coffeyville 4-5
t5. Garden City 2-8
t5. Highland 6-4
7. Fort Scott 2-7
8. Independence 2-7
2014 BUTLER FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 28 INDEPENDENCE 7:00 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Iowa Western 6:00 p.m.
Sept. 13 HUTCHINSON 7:00 p.m.
Sept. 20 FORT SCOTT 7:00 p.m.
Sept. 27 AIR FORCE PREP 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Iowa Central 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Dodge City 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 18 COFFEYVILLE 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Garden City 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Highland 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 8 ELLSWORTH (IA) 1:00 p.m.