Butler Community College football coach Troy Morrell is not scared of change.
In the world of junior-college football, he just can't afford to be.
"That's just the nature of the beast, the turnover from year to year," Morrell said. "You bring in kids and you put them on the big stage and wonder if they're ready for it... and you can never be completely sure until you get them out there."
Morrell will unveil the 2010 version of his team tonight in the season opener against fourth-ranked Navarro (Texas) College at Cessna Stadium, and it's a team with few faces Butler fans will recognize.
A pair of all-Jayhawk players are the lone returning starters for the Grizzlies in wide receiver Marcus Kennard and defensive end Cornelius Carradine.
After that, it's a new group essentially, headlined by 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a transfer from the University of Georgia.
Mettenberger, who was in a two-way battle to start for the Bulldogs before being kicked off the team because of legal issues in the spring, has won over Morrell and his teammates in his short time in El Dorado.
"Since the very first day, he's been outstanding for us," Morrell said. "Tremendous character, tremendous leadership, he's everything you want out of a quarterback."
Mettenberger's presence also changes the make-up of what Butler — a traditionally run-first team — will do on offense. Expect the Grizzlies to run as much as they pass, if not lean a little more toward putting the ball in the air.
"If we didn't have Zach it would be different, we'd have to think of something else," Morrell said. "But we'll play to our strengths."
Running back will be a by-committee approach until someone separates from the pack, with Derby product Aaron Wilson splitting time with, among others, 6-1, 210-pound freshman Ben Axon, who originally signed with South Carolina before sitting out last year at Eastern Michigan.
Freshman Jasper Sanders and Jace Banner could also be in the mix.
"There was a really, really good competition at those spots," Morrell said. "In order for us to be balanced, we're going to need those guys to come through."
It's the second time in three years that Butler, ranked No. 6 in the NJCAA preseason poll, has opened up the season with a top-10 matchup at Cessna.
In 2008, the Grizzlies were ranked No. 1 and lost to No. 2 Blinn — the only loss on the way to their second straight national title.
"It's a bowl-game atmosphere to start the season, which is a lot of fun for us to be a part of," Morrell said. "Navarro is a team that we feel like is a national-championship contender."