Tony Adame looks at the Jayhawk Conference, in predicted order of finish
Coach: Rion Rhoades, eighth season, 63-33
2014: 11-1, 7-0 Jayhawk
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Outlook: The Blue Dragons came one loss away from playing for the national championship last season and won their first Jayhawk Conference title since 1995. Hutchinson has reloaded with a combination of transfers and returning starters and, with a preseason No. 6 ranking, are once again in the hunt for the national title.
Quarterback Kylen Binn (6-6, 235) threw for 1,508 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions while he split time with Dalton Demos. Binn goes into the season as the starter, but will have to hold off Minnesota transfer Dimonik McKenzie and Oregon State transfer Kyle Kempt in training camp. Up front on offense, sophomore tackle Tate Leavitt (6-6, 315) returns and is one of the most sought-after junior-college players in the country. All-Jayhawk defensive tackle Greg Webb and honorable mention All-Jayhawk defensive tackle A.J. Banks are returning starters.
Schedule: Saturday, at Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, Butler, 7 p.m.; Sept. 19, at Iowa Central, 12 p.m.; Sept. 26, Dodge City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Oct. 10, at Garden City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, at Highland, 1 p.m.; Oct. 24, Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Oct. 31, Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Nov. 7, at Independence, 1 p.m.
Coach: Aaron Flores, third season, 19-12
2014: 9-3, 6-1
Outlook: Coffeyville turned things around in the second season under Flores, a former Butler offensive coordinator. The Red Ravens defeated Butler for the first time since 1997, finished second in the Jayhawk and played in a bowl game for the first time in almost a decade, losing to undefeated Trinity Valley by three points. They’re No. 10 in the NJCAA preseason poll.
It won’t take long to figure out what Coffeyville is made of, with No. 3 Iowa Western coming to Coffeyville on Aug. 29 for a televised night game. Coffeyville sophomore wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (6-3, 185) is an elite player and All-American candidate. Wilson was a second-team All-Jayhawk pick last year after 629 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Schedule: Aug. 29, Iowa Western; Saturday, at Ellsworth, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Sept. 26, at Iowa Central, 12 p.m.; Oct. 3, at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, Butler, 7 p.m.; Oct. 24, at Highland, 1 p.m.; Oct. 31, Dodge City, 7 p.m.; Nov. 7, at Garden City, 1 p.m.
3. Garden City
Coach: Jeff Sims, first season
2014: 4-6, 2-5
Outlook: Garden City made a home-run hire when it brought in Sims, a former Fort Scott coach, after Sims spent four season on the Division I level as recruiting coordinator at Indiana and associate head coach at Florida Atlantic. Sims led Fort Scott to the NJCAA championship game in 2009 with future NFL stars Lavonte David and Jason Pierre-Paul, where they lost to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Blinn College on a punt return for a touchdown in the final minute. Fort Scott, however, was put on probation for two years after Sims left in 2011 for scholarship violations.
Sims has a tough road ahead with no offensive or defensive starters back, but has brought in some elite talent. Detroit native Jayru Campbell, one of the nation’s elite high-school quarterbacks and a former Michigan State commit, joins the Broncbusters. Campbell missed his senior season at Cass Tech High after of a string of legal problems.
Schedule: Aug. 29, at Highland; Saturday, Dodge City, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Sept. 17, Air Force Prep, 7 p.m.; Sept. 26, at Independence, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, at Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Oct. 10, Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, at Fort Scott, 1 p.m.; Oct. 24, at Butler, 7 p.m.; Oct. 31, Iowa Central, 1 p.m; Nov. 7, Coffeyville, 1 p.m.
Coach: Tim Schaffner, first season
2014: 8-3, 5-2
Outlook: The first year of the post-Troy Morrell era gets off to a brutal start, with two top-10 matchups in the first three weeks — at home against No. 3 Iowa Western and at No. 6 Hutchinson in back-to-back games. What the Grizzlies do have working for them is tradition — at No. 12, they’re ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the 18th straight season.
Butler got a big boost in the offseason with the addition of Oklahoma transfer quarterback Justice Hansen (6-4, 220), who was one of the Sooners’ top recruits in 2014. The Grizzlies return four starters — three on offense — led by second-team All-American tight end Andrew Reinkemeyer and wide receiver Michael Gallup, who led the team with 780 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, only defensive lineman and Carroll product Zach Befort returns.
Schedule: Aug. 27, at Independence; Saturday, Iowa Western, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Sept. 19, at Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Sept. 26, Air Force Prep, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, Iowa Central, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 10, Dodge City, 7 p.m; Oct. 17, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Oct. 24, Garden City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 31, Highland, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 7, at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.
5. Dodge City
Coach: Gary Thomas, third season, 9-11
2014: 3-8, 2-5
Outlook: Thomas ran into the realities of the Jayhawk Conference in his second season and saw his team’s win total cut in half without departed stars Danzel McDaniel and Terrell Clinkscales. Thomas has recruited well, and brings in a potential All-American with Syracuse signee and former four-star safety Marquis Blair, who was ruled ineligible in early August.
Schedule: Aug. 27, at Ellsworth; Saturday, at Garden City, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, Independence, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 19, Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Sept. 26, at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, Fort Scott, 5:30 p.m; Oct. 10, at Butler, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, Iowa Central, 12 p.m.; Oct. 31, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Nov. 7, Highland, 1 p.m.
6. Fort Scott
Coach: Curtis Horton, fifth season, 14-22
2014: 4-6, 3-4
Outlook: Fort Scott returns sophomore Devin Taylor (6-foot, 205), one of the nation’s premiere running backs. Taylor led the Jayhawk with 1,524 rushing yards and 12 TDs on the way to being named All-Jayhawk and honorable mention All-American. He also led the nation with 275 carries. Only one starter, sophomore guard Quinn Twombly, returns on the offensive line.
The Greyhounds have six starters back on defense, including three defensive linemen on the Rivals Juco Top 100 — No. 19 Alexis Johnson, No. 38 Koron Crump and No. 86 Walvenski Aime. Linebacker Gabe Loyd also returns after a team-high 119 tackles, the most since Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David’s 125 in 2009.
Schedule: Aug. 29, at Iowa Central; Saturday, Hutchinson, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Sept. 19, Butler, 7 p.m.; Sept. 26, Highland, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, at Dodge City, 5:30 p.m.; Oct. 10, at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Oct. 17, Garden City, 1 p.m.; Oct. 24, Independence, 1 p.m.; Oct. 31, at Independence, 1 p.m.
Coach: Aaron Arnold, second season, 6-5
2014: 6-5, 3-4
Outlook: The Scotties have two tough games to open, against Garden City and at No. 3 Iowa Western. Sophomore linebacker Tyree Horton (6-1, 215) led Highland with 63 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6 1/2 sacks and thee interceptions, but didn’t earn any All-Jayhawk honors. Sophomore punter and Hutchinson native Chance Clark averaged 38.5 yards.
Schedule: Aug. 29, Garden City; Sept. 12, at Iowa Western, 1 p.m.; Sept. 19, Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; Sept. 26, at Fort Scott, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, Independence, 1 p.m.; Oct. 10, at Iowa Central, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 17, Hutchinson, 1 p.m.; Oct. 24, Coffeyville, 1 p.m.; Oct. 31, at Butler, 1 p.m.; Nov. 7, at Dodge City, 1 p.m.
Coach: Steve Carson, fifth season, 10-37
2014: 0-10, 0-7
Outlook: In four seasons, Carson has gone winless twice — in 2011 and again last season. Independence’s biggest problem was offense, as the Pirates were shut out in three games. Independence finished either last or next-to-last in almost every major offensive category, including an anemic 11.4 points. Carson’s squad also struggled to avoid penalties — they were flagged a league-high 43 times for 343 yards last season.
Schedule: Aug. 27, Butler; Saturday, Iowa Central, 11 a.m.; Sept. 12, at Dodge City, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 19, at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.; Sept. 26, Garden City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 3, at Highland, 1 p.m.; Oct. 10, at Iowa Western, 2:30 p.m.; Oct. 17, Ellworth, 1 p.m.; Oct. 24, at Fort Scott, 1 p.m.; Nov. 7, Hutchinson, 1 p.m.