Baker picked second in HAAC
Pre-season polls are often worth about the paper they're printed on not much, in other words. Football is about a lot of things and polls are just a small part of it. But, surprise, the Baker University Wildcats are picked to finish second in the Heart of America Athletic Conference pre-season poll. Only time will tell.
"I was kind of surprised. I really was," said Baker head coach John Frangoulis. "I thought we'd be in the top five, but realistically I thought third or fourth."
HAAC power-house Benedictine is picked to finish first, almost unanimously by conference coaches. Benedictine returns 16 starters from last year's conference champion 10-1 team.
Baker was third last year behind MidAmerica Nazarene. The pre-season poll finds those two teams switched. But, Frangoulis isn't so sure, especially since the Wildcats lost starting quarterback Levi Shuck to graduation and have no replacements who have ever taken a snap.
But, he has plenty of candidates and they're a bright lot.
"We need to keep it simple, but they're intelligent kids," he said of the four candidates for quarterback. "They have to be or they wouldn't be admitted to our school."
Those candidates include a pair of sophomores, Martin Updike and David Wolf, who both played junior varsity last year. Also squarely in the mix is Raytown, Mo., South freshman, Brian Marlborough, who Frangoulis has high hopes for.
Regardless of which one ends up as the starter, with the experience factor there's only so much they can do.
"You've got to limit what you do," said Frangoulis. "You can't expect them to do what seniors did last year."
Early practices have been intensive in bringing the quarterbacks up to speed. That's necessary because Baker opens its season early this year. The Wildcats play in the Wheat Bowl in Ellinwood on Aug. 25. They'll face Peru, Neb., State.
But, Frangoulis also has the luxury of plenty of experience returning at other positions. Graduation took 23 seniors, but this year's team has 24 seniors to replace them.
Included in that mix are returning running backs Terence Spencer and Howard Verdell, along with fullback Scott Lane. Both Spencer and Verdell were injured last year, with Spencer gaining 757 yards in just six games, while Verdell had 102 yards before a season-ending knee injury.