A look at the Jayhawk Conference

08/24/2014 8:48 AM

08/24/2014 8:48 AM

Tony Adame looks at the Jayhawk Conference in his predicted order of finish.

1. Butler

Coach: Troy Morrell, 15th season, 146-19

2013: 9-2, 6-1 Jayhawk

Outlook: The Grizzlies have won four straight Jayhawk Conference championships and 14 of the last 16. Last year’s title came with one returning starter, a problem Butler won’t deal with this year. Four returning starters – two on offense, two on defense – must seem like a gold mine for Morrell.

The most talked-about of the returners is probably running back Chris Carson, a Georgia commit who rushed for 611 yards and eight touchdowns last season. The most sough-after of the returners would be linebacker DaVon Durant, who had dozens of BCS offers before picking South Carolina.

A brutal early-season schedule awaits the Grizzlies, with back-to-back games at Iowa Western (Sept. 6) and home against Hutchinson (Sept. 13).

Schedule: Aug. 28, Independence, 7 p.m.; Sept. 6, at Iowa Western, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, Air Force Prep, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Iowa Central, noon; Oct. 11, at Dodge City, 1 p.m.; Oct. 18, Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, Garden City, 7 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Highland, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, Ellsworth, 1 p.m.

2. Hutchinson

Coach: Rion Rhoades, seventh season, 52-32

2013: 8-4, 5-2

Outlook: The Blue Dragons have become one of the NJCAA’s elite teams under Rhoades, winning five straight bowl games and churning out a steady stream of BCS and NFL players. Their bugaboo has been Butler, a team they haven’t beaten under Rhoades.

Hutchinson returns four starters on offense and five on defense, led by All-Jayhawk defensive linemen Marquavius Lewis and Jeremiah Ledbetter. Lewis has committed to South Carolina, while Ledbetter has an offer from Oklahoma State.

Linebacker Claude George, rated the nation’s top junior-college linebacker by Rivals.com, has already committed to Miami.

A pair of FBS transfers, Dalton Demos (Coastal Carolina) and Kylen Binn (South Carolina State) — will compete for the quarterback spot. Second-team All-Jayhawk wide receiver Chris Murray returns, as does wide receiver Bryce Harvey, a Carroll product.

Schedule: Sept. 6, Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Butler, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, Iowa Central, 1 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Dodge City, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Oct. 11, Garden City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 18, Highland, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Independence, 1 p.m.

3. Dodge City

Coach: Gary Thomas, second season, 6-4

2013: 6-4, 5-2

Outlook: The Conquistadors’ turnaround under Thomas was the surprise story in the Jayhawk last season, and now he’s focused on sustainability.

That could be hard with the dearth of talent that left Dodge City’s roster, including highly-touted Kansas State recruits Terrell Clinkscales (DT) and Danzel McDaniel (DB).

Schedule: Aug. 30, Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Sept. 6, Garden City, 1 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Independence, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Iowa Western, 2:30 p.m.; Sept. 27, Hutchinson, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Fort Scott, 1 p.m.; Oct. 11, Butler, 1 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Iowa Central, noon; Oct. 25, Air Force Prep, 1 p.m.; Nov. 1, Coffeyville, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Highland, 1 p.m.

4. Garden City

Coach: Matt Miller, second season, 2-8

2013: 2-8, 2-5

Outlook: The Broncbusters won two games for the second time in three seasons last year. The worse news is that Miller, a former K-State quarterback, loses his two best players – linebacker D’Vonta Derricott (K-State) and wide receiver/return specialist Tyreek Hill (Oklahoma State).

Schedule: Aug. 30, Highland, 7 p.m.; Sept. 6, at Dodge City, 1 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Sept. 27, Independence, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Oct. 11, at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 18, Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, Butler, 7 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Iowa Central, noon; Nov. 8, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.

5. Coffeyville

Coach: Aaron Flores, second season, 10-9

2013: 4-5, 3-4

Outlook: The Red Ravens took a big step back in Flores’ second season, losing their first two games, to Hutchinson and Trinity Valley, by a combined score of 116-21, and failed to make the Region VI playoffs. Coffeyville also didn’t put a player on the All-Jayhawk team.

Sophomore defensive end Timmy Hamilton, a Kapaun Mount Carmel product, has more than a dozen offers, including Arizona, Illinois and Iowa State.

Schedule: Aug. 30, at Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Sept. 6, Ellsworth, 7 p.m.; Sept. 13, Fort Scott, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Independence, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, Iowa Central, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 12, at Bethel JV, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Butler, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, Highland, 7 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Dodge City, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, Garden City, 7 p.m.

6. Fort Scott

Coach: Curtis Horton, fourth season, 10-16

2013: 2-7, 1-6

Outlook: Horton has his most talented group of returners back, led by a trio of offensive linemen who earned All-Jayhawk honors in offensive tackles Ben Luper and Jordan Walker, both honorable-mention picks, and second-team center Byron Rich.

On the defensive side, cornerback James Gray returns after having one of the best seasons in school history, tying the Greyhounds’ record with seven interceptions but somehow being left off the All-Jayhawk squads. If the Greyhounds can split their first four games — they play Hutchinson and Butler in that stretch — making it to their first bowl game since losing in the 2009 NJCAA championship game could be a possibility.

Schedule: Aug. 30, Iowa Central, 1 p.m.; Sept. 6, at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Sept. 13, Coffeyville, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Butler, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Highland, TBA; Oct. 4, Dodge City, 1 p.m.; Oct. 11, Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Oct. 16, at Garden City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Independence, TBA; Nov. 1, Iowa Western, 1 p.m.

7. Independence

Coach: Steve Carson, fifth season, 10-27

2013: 2-7, 1-6

Outlook: The Pirates have been, consistently, the worst team in the Jayhawk over the last decade. Independence hasn’t had a winning season in the last 10 years and went winless in 2011.

In that decade stretch, the Pirates have gone 2-7 four times and 3-6 three times.

Schedule: Aug. 28, at Butler, 7 p.m.; Sept. 6, at Iowa Central, noon; Sept. 13, Dodge City, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Garden City, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, Highland, 7 p.m.; Oct. 11, Iowa Western, 7 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Oct. 25, Fort Scott, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Hutchinson, 1 p.m.

8. Highland

Coach: Aaron Arnold, first season

2013: 6-4, 5-2

Outlook: Wunderkind coach Ryan Held will be tough to replace after he bolted for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M after leading the Scotties to the best season in school history, highlighted by an upset win at Butler that ended up costing the Grizzlies a shot at the NJCAA title.

Arnold spent the last three years as associate head coach of the Scotties, and will have to do without one of the nation’s best freshmen from a year ago, All-Jayhawk pick Brandon Bergeron (2,988 passing yards, 22 touchdowns), who transferred to LSU.

Schedule: Aug. 30, at Garden City, 7 p.m.; Sept. 6, at Benedictine, noon; Sept. 13, Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Sept. 27, Fort Scott, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Independence, 7 p.m.; Oct. 11, Iowa Central, 1 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Nov. 1, Butler, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, Dodge City, 1 p.m.

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