'We have to be better': Butler Community College football's Tim Schaffner looks to improve defense in fall

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Butler Community College head football coach Tim Schaffner answers questions from the media during the 2021 KJCCC Media Day event at Riverfront Stadium Wednesday afternoon. Butler CC was predicted to finish in fourth place in the Jayhawk conference preseason poll.

WICHITA —Tackling was the word of the day for Butler Community College's head coach Tim Schaffner in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. 

The third most winningest coach in school history and the longest tenured head coach in the KJCCC isn't happy about how last season played out, with Butler finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1997.

He knows it starts with defense. 

"If you watched us play last year, you knew we weren’t very good," Schaffner said. "We have a lot of work to do when camp starts."

Butler struggled on defense last season, finishing with the fifth most yards allowed per game in the NJCAA, which goes against everything Butler had built on their reputation as a physical defensive team. They allowed broken tackles and time after time a big play put them behind early and forced the offense to dig them out. 

Butler started their first three games of the season falling behind by double digits. Each time, they fought back but only against Dodge City on April 11 were they able to climb out. 

"We have to spend even more time on the fundamentals of tackling," Schaffner said. "We can recruit better players because I can't go out there and tackle some of these guys. Hopefully, we brought in enough new guys to do it. We have to be infinitely better at tackling."

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Butler Community College head football coach Tim Schaffner talks to the media during the 2021 KJCCC Media Day event at Riverfront Stadium Wednesday afternoon. Butler CC was predicted to finish in fourth place in the Jayhawk conference preseason poll.

Another issue was the lack of bodies at times last season for Butler. Whether it was due to injuries with Adrius Thomas, a preseason All-American out with an injury or other injuries across the team, Butler was forced to play guys who probably should have sat out the season as a redshirt. 

"I think everyone in the league, we heard them talk about it up there, had to play guys that were quite ready yet," Schaffner said. 

Expectations at Butler are still at an all-time high with a preseason national ranking of No. 17 by College Football America, who ranks both California and NJCAA schools together.

The Grizzlies are looking to lean on their running game once again as it was a bright spot in the spring of 2021. They were a top 12 team in rushing yards per game last season (184.7 per game) and they are expected to have Thomas back healthy this season. He's considered one of the top five running backs in JUCO football.

"We want to continue to develop our running game," Schaffner said. "We have to be better efficiently at the quarterback position so we can take some pressure off our running game."

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He'll have some experience under center as third-year quarterback Nick Davenport returns and Gavin Screws returns as well. 

This league is tough and many coaches referred to it as the "SEC" of JUCO football. Schaffner knows this and knows the work ahead as the season gets underway in just over a month.

"Just the level of talent and the product we put on the field is second to none," Schaffner said. "Once the season gets started it's a gauntlet. You dont have time to catch your breath.

"If you don't come loaded and ready to go or you'll get your butt handed to you."

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.