Another year, another preseason top-20 ranking for the Butler Grizzly football team, as the Grizzlies are No. 13 in the NJCAA preseason rankings. Every year, the Grizzlies have high expectations, but this time they will have to replace almost all of their offensive production from last season, and reload on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Butler head coach Tim Schaffner enters his fourth season as head coach, and comes into the season with an overall record of 24-10. The Grizzlies finished second in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference last season with a record of 8-3 (5-2 KJCCC).
The coaching staff also features three new faces this season. Nate Haremza (Offensive line), Byron Williams (Wide receivers), and Aaron Rodriguez (Running backs) have already begun working with their specific groups.
The QB battle will likely come down to two athletes who redshirted last season. Chase Oberg of Andover, and Trae Self of Richland, TX.
“We had two red-shirt quarterbacks that will be back with us,” said Butler head coach Tim Schaffner.
“It was nice to watch them mature into their position.”
At running back, Butler lost 90 percent of it’s production from last season, so the Grizzlies will have to rely on newcomers for the majority of the carries this year.
The wide receiver corps will also be largely made up of new faces.
“We had five guys that were with us in the spring that we expect things from, but we lost all but 10 catches out of our wide receiver corps, so these guys are going to have to step up,” said Schaffner.
One area where the Grizzlies will return some much-needed experience is the offensive line.
“The strength of our offense right now will be our offensive line.” Zach Ingram and Jaden Rosenthall both started 10 games a year ago, so they’re back and will hopefully provide leadership,” added Schaffner.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Grizzlies will rely on their strength on the defensive line.
“Defensively, our strength is our D-line, especially with coach (Steve) Braet there. That’s where the most depth is.”
Braet, who is now entering his 39th season with the Grizzlies, has been a staple of the Butler football program for decades, and has been instrumental in establishing the reputation that the program has.
“He’s a mentor to anyone he comes in contact with. Coach Braet and I hit it off from the moment we got together and I don’t know how I would do the job without him. He is a legend,” said Schaffner.
The defensive line will also feature Jacoby Jones, the No. 1 junior college defensive end in the nation. Jones already has over 15 Division I offers and will cause problems for opposing offenses this fall.
At linebacker, the Grizzlies will have to replace their top four from last season, but the coaching staff is excited to see what the newcomers will be able to accomplish.
“Hunter Kier and Amare Barno had a real nice spring, we saw them grow and mature into their role,” said Schaffner.
Schaffner is also confident in the Grizzlies kicking game for the upcoming season.
“Ty Zentner is a kid from Topeka, and he traveled around this summer to various kicking camps and did really well. I know he’s excited to come back and show his improvements.”
The KJCCC is always one of the toughest junior college football conferences, and this year is no exception. Two other KJCCC teams are ranked ahead of Butler in the preseason poll, with Independence at No. 5 and Garden City at No. 10. Coffeyville and Hutchinson also received votes.
“The conference is a grind, if you look at the scores a year ago, how many one possession games there were. You got to be on your A-game,” said Schaffner.
“If we can stay injury free, take care of the football, and do the little things, and get our culture— I hear a lot of guys talking about chemistry and culture, which is so important— get that instilled in a really short window and then create that depth to where injuries aren’t a problem. If we can do that and get a little bit of luck, hopefully we can be competitive every Saturday.”
Collin Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter.com @collinBCTG