The Jayhawk Conference held its annual media day on Friday at Newman University.Butler Community College, last year’s national runner-up, was picked to win the Jayhawk again and Hutchinson was picked second. All eight coaches, Jayhawk commish Bryce Roderick and supervisor of officials Craig Helser all spoke. The big difference this year is going to be the change to 20 out-of-state players on each team — up from 12. Here’s small tidbits on each team from Friday in the order they were picked to finish in the coaches’ preseason poll:
1. Butler (2012: 11-1 overall, 7-0 Jayhawk)
The Grizzlies have a three-way quarterback battle headed into training camp between Savannah State transfer Hunter Vaughn, Bishop Carroll product Zeke Palmer and Deer Creek (Okla.) High’s Joel Blumenthal. Vaughn has the upper hand right now because he was there during the spring, but Butler coach Troy Morrell wants the three of them to compete in camp for the spot. First time in three years – I think – that the QB spot doesn’t seem locked down following Zach Mettenberger (LSU), Chandler Whitmer (Connecticut) and Billy Cosh (Houston).
2. Hutchinson (9-3, 6-1)
Hutchinson probably should’ve been picked as the favorite when you look at what they have back on paper — three starters on offense, including QB Luke Barnes, and five starters back on defense, including three defensive backs (Shattle Fenteng, Cristian Goodlett, Terrell Hannah) who earned some type of All-Jayhawk honor.
3. Coffeyville (6-4, 5-2)
Former Butler assistant Aaron Flores enters his second season at Coffeyville without mincing words — “”We didn’t meet expectations as a program or as a staff last season … 6-4 isn’t what we were hired for.” The Red Ravens have a big-time tight end prospect in 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore Jon Denton, out of Perry-LeCompton High. Denton can block and catch the ball really well — his size and speed could have him playing on Sundays in the near future. Flores said the Red Ravens didn’t handle adversity well last year and the season turned on that.
4. Garden City (7-4, 4-3)
Return specialist Tyreek Hill was a first-team All-American as a freshman — and then he went and finished second in the 100 meters and third in the 200 at the NJCAA outdoor track and field championships. Hill, who is being recruited by, among others, Florida State , USC, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Alabama, is one of the most exciting players in the country. It will be interesting how first-year coach Matt Miller uses Hill in the Busters’ offense. Is he an every-down back or a slot guy that is great in special teams? As long as Miller gets the ball in Hill’s hands as much as possible … that’s all that matters.
5. Fort Scott (4-5, 3-4)
Fort Scott coach Curtis Horton has guided the Greyhounds through two seasons of a massive scholarship reduction over the last two years — and he’s still got one to go. Fort Scott had 17 scholarships taken away by the NJCAA in ’11, ’12 and ’13 after breaking NJCAA rules regarding signing players to national letters of intent versus institutional scholarships. That the Greyhounds are still competitive in the Jayhawk says a lot about Horton’s ability as a coach. Crazy fact — Fort Scott has had seven players on active NFL rosters since 2007.
6. Dodge City (0-9, 0-7)
First-year coach Gary Thomas comes to DC from College of DuPage, where he’s coming off an impressive bowl win over NEO last season in Pittsburg’s Citizen’s Bank Bowl. Thomas takes over for Bob Majeski, who is now the offensive coordinator at Highland.
7. Highland (2-7, 1-6)
Second-year coach Ryan Held will move to coaching defense after bringing in Majeski. The Scotties’ record doesn’t tell how much they improved last year. Always hear a lot of buzz about Held and how well he’s recruited the Kansas City area the last two years. The great thing about jucos is you see the results — or you don’t — in a much shorter period of time than at four-year schools.
8. Independence (4-5, 2-5)
The Pirates went winless last season and coach Steve Carson thinks the majority of their starters will be freshmen this year. Could be another rough year.