Tony Adame looks at the teams in the Jayhawk Conference, in his predicted order of finish.
Coach: Rion Rhoades, seventh season, 44-28
2012: 9-3 overall, 6-1 Jayhawk Conference
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Outlook: The Blue Dragons have come very close to grabbing the top spot in the Jayhawk Conference — and maybe the nation — in recent years, but their stumbling block has been Butler, who Rhoades is 0-10 against in six seasons. With arguably the best player in the Jayhawk back in sophomore QB Luke Barnes, this could finally be their year. Barnes set Hutchinson single-season records for passing yards (3,256) and touchdown passes (36) last season, and set single-game records with 459 yards, six touchdowns and 32 completions. Up front, the Blue Dragons will benefit from having two starters back in offensive linemen Jess Westmoreland (6-3, 298) and Terrale Johnson (6-2, 305).
On defense, the Blue Dragons return five starters, led by cornerback Shattle Fenteng, a Georgia commitment, safety Terrell Hannah, a second-team All-Jayhawk selection, and cornerback Christian Goodlett, who was honorable mention All-Jayhawk. Hannah, Fenteng and Goodlett combined for 13 interceptions last season. Linebacker Brock Long (5-11, 218), a Brookville native, was second on the team with 88 tackles and had a career-high 14 tackles in the Salt City Bowl win over Iowa Central.
|Aug. 24||at Coffeyville||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||Navarro (Texas)||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||Garden City||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Dodge City||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Highland||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Air Force Prep||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Independence||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Fort Scott||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Butler||6 p.m.|
Coach: Troy Morrell, 14th season, 137-17
2012: 11-1, 7-0
Outlook: The Grizzlies return only three starters from last season after losing 18 players to BCS programs and losing to Iowa Western in the NJCAA championship game. Savannah State transfer Hunter Vaughn, who was with Butler during spring football, will be the starting quarterback after holding off freshmen Zeke Palmer and Joel Blumenthal in training camp. Ty Suggs is the top returner in the backfield after gaining 516 rushing yards on 66 carries with seven touchdowns. Suggs also punted last season, averaging 35.9 yards. Kicker Robert Rawlings also returns after hitting 9 of 12 field goals and 81 of 83 extra points.
Defensive lineman Owen Williams is the lone returner on defense after posting 12 1/2 tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks as a freshman. Sophomore Nick Cook, a Kapaun product, should compete for a starting spot at middle linebacker along with fellow sophomore Dominik White. Topeka native and sophomore defensive back Branden Dozier, the son of former Coffeyville and New Mexico State star Joey Dozier, had an impressive spring and summer.
|Aug. 24||Dodge City||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||at Blinn (Texas)||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||at Fort Scott||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||Independence||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Highland||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Bye||1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Garden City||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Coffeyville||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||Hutchinson||6 p.m.|
3. Garden City
Coach: Luke Miller, first season
2012: 7-4, 4-3
Outlook: A tough schedule for first-year coach Luke Miller, a former Kansas State assistant, with only four home games. But the Broncbusters don’t play Hutchinson until the third week, then get a two-week break before hosting Butler. Wide receiver/returner Tyreek Hill earned All-America honors last season and has offers from USC, Florida State, Oklahoma State and Alabama. Hill, who ran a 9.98-second 110-yard dash in the spring, is one of the fastest players in the nation on any level. It will be tough to replace QB Nick Marshall, an Auburn signee and the Jayhawk offensive player of the year, but Miller has brought line transfers Ryan Johnson (Ellsworth tackle) and Colby Hamel (Hutchinson guard), who were both all-conference picks last year and should help with the transition.
On defense, linebacker D’Vonta Derricott is a returning starter and has committed to K-State and will be playing alongside former Cincinnati signee Erroll Clarke. Garden City cornerback Wonderful Terry is a returning starter and might have the greatest name in the history of the Jayhawk Conference, if not all of college football. Kicker Tyler Peterson hit the game-winning field goal in last year’s Mississippi Bowl victory over No. 7 Copiah-Lincoln.
|Aug. 24||Independence||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||at Cisco (Texas)||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||at Hutchinson||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Air Force Prep||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Fort Scott||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Butler||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Highland||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Dodge City||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Coffeyville||7 p.m.|
Coach: Aaron Flores, second season, 6-4
2012: 6-4, 5-2
Outlook: Flores was disappointed in last season’s team, saying that he “wasn’t hired” to go 6-4, and the former Butler assistant is determined to turn the fortunes of a once-proud program around. On offense, the Red Ravens seem to have found a fix at quarterback with North Carolina transfer Drew Davis, the son of former North Carolina, University of Miami and Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis. Drew threw for more than 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior at East Chapel Hill (N.C.) High in 2011. Returning for Coffeyville is 6-5, 250-pound tight end Jon Denton, a Perry native who is one of the top junior-college tight end prospects in the country and already has offers from Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina State. Sophomore guard Hayden Chandler (6-3, 300) was an honorable mention All-Jayhawk pick.
Coffeyville will be hard-pressed to replace two-time All-American linebacker Martrell Spaight, who signed with Arkansas. Kentrel Reynolds is a bit undersized at 6-1, 210 pounds, but will get the shot to replace Spaight. Sophomore defensive tackle Rashard Dillard already has a handful of offers — Appalachian State, Alabama State, Arkansas State and Troy all want Dillard. The Red Ravens get one of the marquee games on the schedule to open with, hosting Hutchinson.
|Aug. 24||Hutchinson||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||at Trinity Valley (Texas)||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||Metro State (Colo.)||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||Fort Scott||1:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Independence||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Highland||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Dodge City||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Butler||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||Garden City||7 p.m.|
5. Fort Scott
Coach: Curtis Horton, third season, 8-9
2012: 4-5, 3-4
Outlook: The Greyhounds are in the final year of serving out three years of NJCAA penalties for scholarship duping that saw their scholarships reduced by 17 each year. Fort Scott has All-Jayhawk guard Kareem Are (6-6, 320, so.), but no skill players back on offense.
On defense, the players that has created the most buzz for Fort Scott in the offseason is one who has yet to play a game for the Greyhounds — 6-4, 300-pound defensive tackle Abu Lamin, a redshirt freshman who sparked a recruiting war between some of the nation’s best colleges that ended with him committing to play for South Carolina in July. If Lamin does his job up front, it should give the Greyhounds a potent 1-2 punch with second-team All-Jayhawk DE Demetrius Hill. Hill had 53 tackles and had 15 tackles for loss. Fort Scott has a new defensive coordinator (Eric Gibson) and new offensive coordinator (Moses Harper). Gibson spent last season as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Garden City.
|Aug. 24||Highland||1 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||at Tyler (Texas)||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||Butler||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Coffeyville||1:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Dodge City||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Garden City||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Independence||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Hutchinson||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 25||at Arkansas Baptist||1 p.m.|
Coach: Ryan Held, second season, 2-7
2012: 2-7, 1-6
Outlook: Held, a former Butler offensive coordinator, has won four national championships on the Division I level — two as a player and one as a student assistant at Nebraska, and one as a graduate assistant at Tennessee. Wichita East product Desmond McGee started the last four games at quarterback for the Scotties and returns to compete for the starting spot with redshirt freshman LT Pfaff. Three players return who started at tight end last season — Brennan Boland, Chris King and Justin Dickey — and all three can also play wide receiver in Held’s new, up-tempo offense.
The Scotties have All-Jayhawk returners in honorable-mention defensive tackle Tony Tanumai and second-team cornerback Contereze Pierce, who will also return punts and kicks. Mulvane product Payton Doramus started half the games last season at free safety and returns. Marlon Williams and Taylor Shaffer return at linebacker.
|Aug. 24||at Fort Scott||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||NE Oklahoma A&M||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||Dodge City||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Midland Lutheran||2 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Butler||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Hutchinson||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Coffeyville||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Garden City||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||Independence||1:30 p.m.|
7. Dodge City
Coach: Gary Thomas, first season
2012: 0-9, 0-7
Outlook: First-year coach Gary Thomas comes to Dodge City from College of DuPage, where he led an impressive bowl win last season over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl in Pittsburg. Thomas takes over for Bob Majeski, now the offensive coordinator at Highland. The Conquistadors have only made the postseason once since the Jayhawk Conference switched to a four-team playoff in 2006, losing to Butler in the 2011 Region VI semifinals.
Thomas didn’t come to Dodge City alone. Tyreis Thomas, last season’s offensive MVP at DuPage, will start at tailback. Thomas has drawn interest from almost all the schools in the MAC. Thomas thinks Darvell Harris (6-2, 185 pounds) and Danzel McDaniel (6-1, 205), both Chicago natives, could be one of the better cornerback duos.
|Aug. 24||at Butler||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||Kilgore (Texas)||TBA|
|Sept. 7||at Highland||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||Hutchinson||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Fort Scott||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Independence||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Coffeyville||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Garden City||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Air Force Prep||TBA|
Coach: Steve Carson, fourth season, 8-20
2012: 4-5, 2-5
Outlook: The Pirates have a solid group of four starters back on offense, led by 6-3, 250-pound sophomore TE Sean McKissack, a second-team All-Jayhawk pick who had 20 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Now imagine if honorable mention All-Jayhawk WR Freeman Dozier (660 receiving yards, six touchdowns) and honorable mention QB Kaylon Cooper (1,761 yards total offense, 21 touchdowns) had decided to return for their sophomore seasons.
Carson was the Jayhawk coach of the year in 2010 after going 4-6, and last season’s 4-5 mark was a huge turnaround after going winless in 2009. The Pirates are one team that could greatly benefit from the new Jayhawk rules that expand rosters to include 20 out-of-state players.
|Aug. 24||at Garden City||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||Southeast Texas Prep||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||at Arkansas Baptist||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Butler||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Coffeyville||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Dodge City||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Fort Scott||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Hutchinson||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Highland||1 p.m.|