Tony Adame looks at the Kansas teams in the conference.
Coach: Garin Higgins, seventh season, 29-38
2012: 10-2, 9-2 MIAA
Outlook: The Hornets surprised the MIAA with a second-place finish last season, which was thanks in large part to a weak schedule. The MIAA pollsters made as much clear by picking the Hornets seventh despite 14 returning starters and a Kanza Bowl victory to end last season. The biggest hole to fill for Emporia State will be at quarterback, where Brent Wilson and Corben Jones will compete in camp for the right to replace Tyler Eckenrode, who ended his career as one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history. Whoever becomes the starter will have seven of the top nine receivers from last season back, including Ray Ray Davis, who had 61 catches for 899 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
All-MIAA safety Chris Poston, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior, is at the heart of the defense. Poston is a three-year starter and had four interceptions last season. Emporia State might have one of the best linebacker corps in the MIAA with returning starter Jordan Sanders (97 tackles) and some high-profile transfers led by Hutchinson native Deshawn Dinwiddie (North Dakota State) and Tariq Allen (Texas), who was rated one of the top 20 linebackers in the nation in high school.
|Sept. 5||at Fort Hays State||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 12||Neb.-Kearney||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Central Oklahoma||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Northeastern State||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Lincoln||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Southwest Baptist||2:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Lindenwood||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||at Missouri Western||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||Northwest Missouri||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Washburn||1 p.m.|
Fort Hays State
Coach: Chris Brown, third season, 9-13
2012: 5-6, 4-6
Outlook: Brown and the Tigers have struggled mightily since the former Washburn defensive coordinator was hired before the 2011 season. Fort Hays has yet to show it can be competitive on the field or in recruiting in the MIAA, finishing tied for sixth in 2011 and tied for 10th in 2012. On offense, four starters return, led by senior wide receiver and Cheney native Tanner Hageman, who was second on the team in receiving last season with 31 catches for 388 yards and four touchdowns. On the offensive line, Matt Erbert and Jarred Stindt both started last year, but the biggest weakness the last two seasons has been at quarterback, where sophomore Treveon Albert will be the starter. Albert (6-foot, 205 pounds) played both wide receiver and running back last season and is a dual-threat under center — he threw for more than 2,100 yards and 25 touchdowns while rushing for 450 yards as a senior at Atlanta’s Grady High in 2010.
On defense, Fort Hays has its only All-MIAA performer back in defensive back Micheal Jordan, an honorable-mention pick. Jordan was second on the team with 87 tackles last season, but will need some help on a unit that gave up 442.8 yards of offense. A pair of transfers at defensive back who will be counted on to contribute right away — twin brothers Daniel and Nathan Lindsey from Eastern Arizona — were arrested for possession of hallucinogenic drug and possession of drug paraphernalia but Brown told the Hays Daily News it was “blown up into being something that probably wasn't so much” and that both will play this fall after being punished internally.
|Sept. 5||Emporia State||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Washburn||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Northwest Missouri||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Missouri Western||6 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||William Jewell||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Lindenwood||1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Southwest Baptist||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Lincoln||2:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||South Dakota Mines||2 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||at Central Missouri||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Neb.-Kearney||2 p.m.|
Coach: Tim Beck, fourth season, 26-10
2012: 7-3, 7-3
Outlook: The Gorillas have two legitimate Harlon Hill candidates in senior wide receiver/returner John Brown and senior linebacker Nate Dreiling, both preseason All-Americans and two of the best players at their positions in all of NCAA Division II for the last two seasons. But as Pitt State showed last year, it can’t win games with just the two of them. Junior quarterback Anthony Abenoja returns as starter after a solid 2012, although his team had a hard time getting used to his pocket-passer style of play versus the running style of Zac Dickey, who led the team to the national title in 2011 and could control the clock with his feet. Abenoja, an honorable mention All-MIAA pick last season, threw for 2,330 yards and 15 touchdowns with only eight interceptions last season. Offensive tackle Cody Holland (6-6, 334 pounds), is a three-year starter, preseason All-American and one of seven returning starters on offense.
On defense, there was quite a gap between Dreiling’s team-leading 83 tackles and the next man for the Gorillas, safety Jason Peete with 45 tackles. Peete returns as a starter but where the most help is needed will be up front, where Pitt State must find a way to replace dominant defensive lineman Gus Toca and his 14.5 tackles for loss. Back-to-back games against Northwest Missouri and Missouri Western, the two teams picked ahead of the Gorillas in the MIAA preseason polls, will likely determine the MIAA title.
|Sept. 7||Northeastern State||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Central Oklahoma||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Lincoln||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Abilene Christian||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Central Missouri||1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Northwest Missouri (at KC)||3 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Missouri Western||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||Northwestern Oklahoma||2 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||at Lindenwood||2:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Missouri Southern||2 p.m.|
Coach: Craig Schurig, 12th season, 79-48
2012: 7-4, 7-4
Outlook: The biggest addition to the Ichabods’ roster is the re-addition of wide receiver Dajuan Beard, who was ruled academically ineligible before last season. An All-American in 2011 as Washburn went 10-3, Beard has the size (6-2, 195 pounds) and skills (62 catches for 1,029 yards) to be the game-changer his team was missing last season as Mitch Buhler struggled in his first year as starting quarterback. Senior tight end Tore Hurst was second on the team in receiving last season with 38 catches for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Hurst has started the last 24 games for the Ichabods.
The Ichabods will be tough on defense, with senior linebacker Bryce Atagi leading the way. Atagi was third in the MIAA last season with 114 tackles and is one of three returning starters at linebacker along with Willie Williams (77 tackles) and Ryan Macken (60). Two starters return on the defensive line in seniors Jake Cervantes and Adebayo Oladapo. Free safety Calvin Kenney was third on the team with 65 tackles and two interceptions.
|Sept. 5||at Neb.-Kearney||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||Fort Hays State||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Northeastern State||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Central Oklahoma||2:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Southwest Baptist||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Lincoln||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 17||Fort Valley State||6 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||Lindenwood||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||at Northwest Missouri||2:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||Missouri Western||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||at Emporia State||1 p.m.|