Breaking down Fort Hays State, Emporia State, Pittsburg State and Washburn

My MIAA preview hit newsstands today and the focus was on Washburn CB Pierre Desir and his unique story. Desir, in case you didn’t know, might be the very best Division II cornerback in the country. Here’s a look at the 4 MIAA teams in Kansas and some thoughts on them:

WASHBURN

Junior quarterback Dane Simoneau had a breakout season in 2009, his first year as a full-time starter. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Salina native threw for a school-record 2,955 yards and 26 touchdowns on his way to second-team All-MIAA honors and is a leading candidate for MIAA Offensive Player of the Year this season. Simoneau, who is also an all-MIAA shortstop for the Ichabods, was a serious candidate for MIAA MVP last year until a few tough losses late in the season. With Simoneau, NW Missouri’s Blake Bolles, Fort Hays State’s Mike Garrison and Central Missouri’s Eric Czerniewski, this could be the year of the QB. Ickies will be hard-pressed to replace MIAA Defensive player of the year Zach Watkins at LB, but safety Casey Curran is no slouch.

PITTSBURG STATE

Longtime Pittsburg State assistant coach Tim Beck takes over for Chuck Broyles, and will try to steer PSU back to the top of the MIAA after going 5-6 last season — the first losing season for PSU in 30 years. Senior free safety and Ness City product Alex Kuhlman is a two-time All-MIAA performer and the team’s top returning defender, recording 71 tackles and two interceptions last season. Starting quarterback is going to be either Mark Smith or Zac Dickey, although I’m not sure if either can make that much of a difference. Running back Terrance Isaac ran for almost 1,000 yards last season and was a second-team all-MIAA pick. He’ll shoulder most of the load on offense.

EMPORIA STATE

Last season’s 2-9 record capped another disastrous year for the Hornets under Garin Higgins, whose teams are 9-24 since he arrived in 2007 and haven’t had had a winning season since 2003. Honorable mention All-MIAA linebacker Nathan Linsey is the bright spot on the defense, recording 82 tackles last season and leading the league in fumble recoveries. It’s amazing to me that ESU can be so good in so many sports but fall short in football over and over again. They should be better, point blank. You’ve got to think time is running out for Higgins.

FORT HAYS STATE

The Tigers went 6-5 last season for their first winning record since 2004 and first since joining the MIAA. Fort Hays returns 9 of 11 starters on offense, including second-team all-MIAA quarterback Mike Garrison, who led Butler Community College to a national title in 2007. Garrison is a dual-threat QB who passed for 2,606 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 375 yards and five touchdowns in 2009. Tigers should also get a boost on defense from Michigan State transfer Roderick Jenrette, a linebacker/safety type.

I’m out. TA.

Ps. Headed to Butler-Navarro tomorrow. Check back here for live, in-game blogging and tweets.