Offense to carry load early
An explosive offense was the highlight of the 2004 Baker University football season.
Second-year head coach Mike Grossner expects the offensive production to continue this fall.
"Our guys on offense are going to have to carry the load until defensively we figure out our personnel and our identity," Grossner said. "We have more team speed on both sides of the ball, we have better team speed on our special teams, but I feel offensively we have the weapons to attack people."
Grossner seems to have plenty of weapons with quarterback Brian Sheppard, of Destrehan, La., returning from a junior campaign where he threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Sheppard will have plenty of targets this year with a receiving corps that goes five-deep and includes last year's top receiver, senior Ryan Pitts (14.4 yards per catch and had eight touchdowns) and junior Brandon Crosby, who Grossner said will be "our special guy on offense."
Other offensive threats include running backs sophomore Micah Mason, a Baldwin High School graduate, and junior Seth Williams, of Grain Valley, Mo. Mason and Williams are both "north to south" runners, whose power game will provide a stark contrast to the spread-out aerial assault Sheppard and company will be bombarding Heart of America Athletic Conference defenses with this fall.
On defense, Grossner said the team should have more support for its starters, something it lacked last year, especially late in the season.
"We will have competition this year," Grossner said. "You are going to fear for your job. You've got to come out everyday in practice and perform to the highest level or you're going to step back and the next guy's in. We didn't have that as much last year -- our depth was very poor. If you don't have competition and fear, you don't work as hard. This new atmosphere should promote an attitude of getting better every day."
Experience in the secondary is abundant. Last season's leading tackler senior Bruce Rogers, of Palestine, Texas, will be making the transition from linebacker to safety. Other key defensive backs are seniors Brett Wahlgren, of Salina, and Brandon Bell, of Las Vegas, as well as junior Brandon Hubbard, of Hutchinson, in the secondary.
Freshman Eric Allen, of San Diego, who received scholarship offers from NCAA Division I schools, is a player who could have an instant impact at the cornerback position, giving some competition for the already loaded secondary.
Transfer Greg Moore, of San Diego, and senior Jeremiah Gress, of Lawrence, are two linebackers who could replace Rogers at linebacker. Moore transferred from San Diego Mesa Community College, and Gress had 22 tackles, a sack and an interception for the Wildcats in 2004.
Grossner said improved depth would be a strength for this year's team despite the relative youthfulness of the team. In fact, Grossner said he thought the recklessness of youth could help the Wildcats surprise some teams in 2005.
"I feel good about this football team -- they've worked hard," Grossner said. "We're still young, which can sometimes create problems, but it can also give you an air of they don't know any better. They think they're good and we think they're good, so we think we have a chance to knock off some people early."
Sept. 3 -- vs. Benedictine, 6 p.m.
Sept. 10 -- Graceland at Lamoni, Iowa, 6 p.m.
Sept. 17 -- vs. William Jewell (Family Day), 6 p.m.
Sept. 24 --Evangel at Springfield, Mo., 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 -- vs. Central Methodist (homecoming), 2 p.m.
Oct. 8 -- at Missouri Valley, Marshall, Mo., 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 15 -- vs. MidAmerica Nazarene, 6 p.m.
Oct. 22 -- at Avila, Kansas City, Mo., 1 p.m.
Oct. 29 -- at Southern Oregon, Ashland, Ore., 6 p.m.
Nov. 5 -- vs. Culver-Stockton, 1 p.m.
Nov. 12 -- at Lindenwood, St. Charles, Mo., 1:30 p.m.