Butler Community College football notes: A quarterback battle highlights early practice storyline

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Sophomore quarterback Nick Davenport attempts a pass at practice on Thursday, August 12 at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. Davenport had five passing touchdowns last season for Butler

EL DORADO, Kansas — It's no secret the Butler Grizzlies' football team like to utilize multiple quarterbacks as they have done since Coach Tim Schaffner took over in 2015. As the is coming off a shortened offseason, they are prepared to do it again.

"We're going to play our best players," Schaffner said at media day. "Even if that means playing two quarterbacks."

Last season, Nick Davenport (Brookville, Kansas) and Gavin Screws (Jacksonville, Florida) split time at quarterback, mainly alternating possessions. There were highs, such as big wins against Dodge City and Highland. Then, there were lows, like the loss to Hutchinson and last second loss to Independence to start the season. Neither quarterback has really separated himself as "the man."

"All of these guys have been in this situation before," Schaffner said. "They've always been the leaders and now we're looking for them to do that here."

Davenport will be a third year quarterback and has gone through the adversity before. He was a third string quarterback two seasons ago when Steven Frank was the No. 1 guy. He found his way on the injured list and then his back up did two weeks later, leaving the door open for Davenport to make a name for himself. 

And did he ever. 

Davenport came in as the true freshman third string quarterback and stunned then No. 3 Garden City, knocking the Broncbusters out of the national championship race and stopping them from winning the conference as the cherry on top.

He would lead Butler to an eventual bowl win as well. 

"I think I've taken every class I can think of," Davenport said. "I came back because I love Butler and this family."

While fielding offers, Davenport made the decision to try and right the wrongs of last season that saw everything go against Butler last season. Whether it was a last second play against Independence and Coffeyville or just tough losses like against future national champion, Hutch. Davenport and Butler has something to prove. 

"I feel like everybody is fueled by last season and they feel that fire of being so close to winning a lot more games than we should have," Davenport said. 

Davenport didn't go through that alone. Him and Screws split snaps last year. 

Sophomore quarterback Gavin Screws catches the snap at practice on Thursday, August 12 at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. Screws transferred to Butler CC from Troy University.

"I fully had his back," Screws said. "I told him what I saw from the sideline. He if I was in it. Do the same for me. I think we're all behind each other we want everybody else to succeed. Because ultimately, we can control we can control and wherever place we're put it's on us."

The two quarterbacks have become close over the last year, dealing with everything from the pandemic to the competition. It's a friendship that has blossomed beyond football. 

"I love building relationships like that," Screws said. "I have no problem with any quarterback in my room, we're all close."

Screws, who could have moved onto the next level like Davenport saw something at Butler that he wanted to finish. 

"I just loved being around this atmosphere," Screws said. "I love the coaches here and I love the family that built, and we have unfinished business to do from last season."

Both quarterbacks though have little time to be complacent as the coaches put their stats on the wall for full transparency. From normal everyday stats as incompletions and completions. To more advanced, player-specific stats like bad reads, tips, etc. This keeps everyone on their toes. 

Other way to keep every one on their toes is to continuously bringing in top talent to challenge everyone. 

Enter Jacob Knight. 

Knight, a transfer from James Madison, a Football Championship Series school in Virginia, Knight has the size and strength to come in and will make a real push for the job. 

"Don't put too much pressure on yourself and just go out there and kind of do what you do," Knight said. "At times, it is harder said than done. You might mess up on the play here or here. Just take it day by day that's really how I try and do it."

For Knight, the adjustment from NCAA Division I to NJCAA has been an adjustment as El Dorado is a tad bit smaller than Harrisburg, Virginia. 

"The facilities are still way nicer here than I expected," Knight said. "I wasn't expecting anything like that [Criss indoor practice field]."

At the end of the day, Knight and the other quarterbacks know what's the most important thing and that is to win games. When you win a lot of your problems and injuries can be overlooked. Winning also gets everyone to look at you a little differently.

"My goal here is really, after last season, is to help put Butler back on the mat, win a national championship," Knight said. "When you win football games, everybody gets out."

Battling the heat

Kansans are no stranger to the heat and those who aren't from Kansas and play for the Grizzlies are getting accustomed to the scorching August heat as Butler enters their fourth day of practice. 

When they started practice on Thursday, the tempature broke into triple digits, hitting 101 degrees, with a heat index of 107 degrees. It would have been easy to move practice to earlier in the morning to avoid the high degrees but Butler sees it as a chance to build some toughness through the heat.

"The fact that we're not in pads has helped us a lot," Schaffner said. "We only get one a day so we need to make it as difficult as possible. We're not going to push them to the point of when there's not a return. They need to realize that I can work through this, It's uncomfortable."

"The good thing is this breeze is probably the lightest breeze of the week so the breeze kind of nullifies on the humidity. Then, one day some clouds rolled over so it's been hot but nothing that those guys can't handle."

Teams no longer do two-a-day drills, the process of having two practices in one day, so maximizing their time is key. Butler had breaks every 20 minutes and multiple managers had water readily available for the players to drink at a moment's notice. 

A Butler Grizzly ball carrier is tackled by a Butler defender in practice on Thursday, August 12 on the campus of Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.

No pads, no problem

The first week of practice for Butler has been without pads and it hasn't bee much of an issue so far for the Grizzlies. They looked as crisp and clean running their drills and plays as they have in almost two seasons. 

"We're already different than last season," Schaffner said. "I can't tell you that we're any better or worse, I don't know but we look look different."

It helps that the offensive side returns nine of 11 starters from the final game of the season against Garden City where they put up over 500 yards of offense and 40 points. 

"If there's a positive that came out of this rule [of having to be no pads it's that we get to teach a lot," Schaffner said. We still get the normal amount of padded time before our first game. We're getting all this instructional technique."

Butler will go live hitting on Monday, August 16 for the first time this season. Then, they will have a live scrimmage against Rezolution Prep Academy on Aug. 21. RPA is a prep school who often plays other NJCAA programs around the United States. 

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.