State Colleges

Butler forges tradition of producing top QBs

EL DORADO — When, exactly, did Butler Community College become a proving ground for quarterbacks?

Butler coach Troy Morrell says 2004. And it's hard to disagree with him.

That was the year that Zac Taylor found his way to the traditionally ground-bound Jayhawk Conference, coming to the Grizzlies after two unsuccessful seasons at Wake Forest.

" (Taylor) was such a sponge, so excited just to get in there and compete," Morrell said. "From the moment he stepped on campus you couldn't feed him enough information about how to play the position and by the time he left he could make every throw on the field... and he was a leader."

In a league that has produced so many high-profile running backs, Taylor would prove to be a trailblazer, passing for almost 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in his one season at Butler before becoming a two-year starter at Nebraska and earning Big 12 offensive player of the year honors in 2006.

And with that, the equation was set.

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Thursday, Illinois transfer Chandler Whitmer becomes the latest in a string of high-profile quarterbacks to lead the Grizzlies when No. 3 Butler takes on No. 1 Navarro in Corsicana, Texas, in a rematch of last season's NJCAA title game, which Butler lost.

Whitmer transferred to Butler in January after talking with Louisiana State quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who transferred to Butler from Georgia and was an All-American for the Grizzlies last season.

"He just told me that this was a place where there were no distractions, where football was everything and that's what you could focus on to get better," Whitmer said. "And he was right. I'd never thought about going the junior-college route, but after I prayed on it a little bit it seemed like the right thing for me to do."

Press Taylor, younger brother to Zac, led Butler to a national title in 2008 and ended up at Marshall. Mike Garrison, who came to Butler as a basketball player, led the Grizzlies to the national title in 2007 and became an All-MIAA quarterback at Fort Hays State.

Ross Dausin, buried on the depth chart at Texas A&M, came to Butler in 2009 and became the starter right away at Colorado State-Pueblo last season, leading his team to a 9-2 record.

"It's exciting when you bring those type of guys in at that position because it adds instant leadership," Morrell said. "There used to be a stigma that the reason that you were at a community college was because you were a non-qualifier academically, but I think with the guys we've had in at quarterback have been bucking the system.

"They come here for a fresh start and they use this place as a stepping stone, as a vehicle to get where they want to be."

Morrell has repeatedly said that Whitmer (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) reminds him of Zac Taylor.

"Whitmer is grasping everything, you can see him getting better and better every day," Morrell said. "In that way he reminds me of Zac Taylor and Zach Mettenberger... not only that but how they all were able to bond so well with their teammates."

Whitmer had never heard of Butler before Mettenberger pitched the school to him. He's well aware of the school's history now.

"This place fits me just right... football all the time," Whitmer said. "As far as how I play, I like to think I'm an athletic guy who can make plays and take advantage of the defense when it breaks down."

Tailback triumvirate _ Going into fall camp, Butler appeared to have a three-headed monster at running back with returning starters Ben Axon and Jasper Sanders, along with freshman Dreamius Smith.

The monster still lives, just in a different form.

Axon wasn't among the 12 out-of-state players Butler chose to keep. Sanders and Smith still remain on the roster, but Derrick Thomas fought his way into the rotation with a strong preseason.