I’m at the Salina Country Club for KCAC media day. There’s been a couple of nice surprises leading up to their season-opening event, including the release of an All-KCAC preseason team and a football record book that’s still a work in progress – only has single season/individual game records but no career records yet. The amount of hard work that went into both is amazing. I’ll do this just like the Jayhawk Media Day last week – updating as the different coaches speak – I’ve listed them here in the order they finished last season and updated with Wednesday’s stuff:
1. Ottawa (2011 record: 9-3 overall, 9-0 KCAC)
The marquee program in the KCAC right now – they’ve only lost three league games in the last four years – and the Braves show little signs of slowing down. They lose two-time NAIA All-American and W. Southeast grad Clarence Anderson returning kicks/punts/catching passes, but they’ve got some very talented players back – particularly All-Purpose player Shane Gimzo, who might play quarterback. Gimzo ranked third in the NAIA in total scoring last season (144 points) and had 1,297 all-purpose yards.
Kessinger coached McPherson coach Pete Sterbick at Augustana and couldn’t help take a little dig at him on Wednesday … “Pete was a decent receiver … he was open a lot,” Kessinger said. “The problem was he just couldn’t catch it. But he could stock block like none other.”
Kessinger also took some time to address a more serious issue – quarterback Matt Bollig was paralyzed from the waist down in a weightlifting accident two weeks ago. He updated Bollig’s status – he’s at the Craig Hospital in Colorado doing physical rehab.
2. Saint Mary (7-4, 7-2)
Saint Mary coach Lance Hinson is a pretty determined dude. To turn that program into a competitive one in the KCAC took some doing, and they look like they’ll be pretty good again this year with All-KCAC quarterback Mike Keese back. Keese threw for 3,628 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. His 18 interceptions left something to be desired, but if he can get that number down that will be the difference for winning a couple of extra games for the Spires.
“We’ll put it in Mike’s hands again,” Hinson said. “He had to throw the ball a lot last year and he’ll probably get some more opportunities this year.”
3. Bethany (8-3, 6-3)
Incredibly taxing offseason for Bethany coach Jamie Cruce – his father died, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and began chemotherapy and his wife gave birth to a son.
Big news for the Swedes – two-time All-American Junior Allen won’t be able to play this season. Allen has been one of the top offensive players in the country the last two years – second in the nation in all-purpose yards and was the KCAC offensive player of the year last season. Can’t see the Swedes being able to rebuild their offense without Allen. “It’s not a legal or a team discipline issue,” Cruce said. “It’s a personal issue and something I can’t really get into further.”
Allen was recently named the KCAC preseason offensive player of the year. With him, they’re a contender for the league title. Without? Middle of the pack.
4. Friends (5-5, 5-4)
Last year was arguably the roughest in Monty Lewis’ tenure at Friends. The Falcons had a game taken away for using an ineligible player and Lewis was suspended for a game as a result of that. Things got tense between Lewis and AD Joe Zimmerman at times because of the problems, and it made for a pretty tense working environment.
“I know things cycle,” Lewis said. “You’re down and then you’re back up. Where are we at in that? Are we still on the way down or back up? I don’t know.”
The biggest question on the field for the Falcons is quarterback Jayme Bristow, who is entering his third year as the starter but hasn’t been able to get to that elite level of KCAC quarterbacks. Friend has a great defense, led by reigning KCAC defensive player of the year Dexter Davis, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end.
5. Kansas Wesleyan University (5-6, 5-4)
Seven starters back on offense, seven starters back on defense should make you a contender in the KCAC. Don’t know if that’s the case here, as the Coyotes have underperformed quite steadily the last five seasons. “We had a disappointing year last year,” KWU coach Dave Dallas said. “We had a tough schedule early and didn’t adjust very well but we had a tremendous spring and we feel good about where we’ll be this fall.”
Running back Brett Giesen has too be considered the top guy at his position with Allen out – Giesen ran for 1,308 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
6. Southwestern (5-6, 4-5)
Southwestern picked it up last season after a couple of horrid, horrid years. Southwestern coach Ken Crandall said that he probably won’t know who the starting quarterback will be until a few days before their Sept. 3 opener against Northwestern (Iowa) – the battle is between Brady May (1,260 yards, 11 TDs) and Jordan Barrett (514 yards, 5 TDs). Crandall couldn’t turn a new stadium a couple of years ago into a recruiting boon and his coaching style inspires very little confidence in the fanbase.
7. McPherson (4-7, 4-5)
McPherson has a new coach in Pete Sterbick. Sterbick was the offensive coordinator at Grand View the last four seasons, helping them to the NAIA playoffs last season. Strange quote from Sterbick, considering the Bulldogs just won the KCAC two years ago: “Our culture was able to change a lot quicker than I thought it would,” Sterbick said. “Everybody was pretty involved in the spring.”
Just from what Sterbick said, it sounds like they’re having some roster problems as far as uncertainty to who is coming back and who is not. Derby product Jake Snodgrass is back for his senior season – he got his first shot at being the starter last year and was pretty solid – 2,094 yards, 19 TDs, 12 ints – but you have to think they’ll ask him to do more this year.
8. Tabor (3-7, 2-7)
Ever wonder if Mike Gardner just wishes he’d never left Tabor in the first place? Just a thought.
Interesting backfield note – Gardner said he has up to EIGHT guys who will take snaps at running back. “Most unselfish group I’ve ever been around,” Gardner said.
Impressive stat for the Bluejays is that they redshirted a pretty big class one year ago and retained most of the kids.
9. Bethel (2-9, 2-7)
Bethel hasn’t gotten many breaks the last couple of years – no bigger blow than last week, when coach Travis Graber resigned suddenly. Athletic director/offensive coordinator Kent Allshouse represented the Threshers at Media Day. Allshouse said the school is currently engaged in a national search to find Graber’s replacement … but also said they would look for a permanent replacement after the season. Said Bethel prez Perry White (just like from Superman, yes) is “highly dedicated” to finding a new coach. My source at Bethel said Graber resigned over $$$ – or lack thereof.
10. Sterling (1-10, 1-8)
A bad season was made worse after Sterling had to forfeit three games last year for using an ineligible player – wins over Southwestern, Saint Mary and Bethel.
“Last year was tough in a lot of different ways,” Lambert said. “And the record isn’t always indicative of that … we had some drama, some stuff outside of the grass that we had to deal with.”
Sterling will only play a 10-game schedule this year – KCAC teams were allowed to boost up to 11 games starting last season. Any team that plays 10 games is at a significant disadvantage, as we saw with Friends last season.