Baker football team gains No. 12 preseason ranking
For the first time under head coach Mike Grossner, Baker University’s football team will begin the fall season with a top 25 ranking.
Last week, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced its preseason football rankings. The Wildcats were voted in at No. 12 in the country, which is where they finished in the fall.
“Rankings are rankings, but everybody would like to be ranked,” Grossner said. “We’re not going to say we don’t want to be ranked. It’s a tribute to our program and the kids’ development. The poll that came out was voted on by the coaches, so we’re getting respect nationally. We ended the year No. 12 and we’re going to start No. 12.”
This fall, Baker finished its season 8-4 after its loss in the NAIA playoffs. Baker’s record in the Heart of America Athletic Conference was 8-2. Those two losses were by a combined five points to Lindenwood and Mid-America Nazarene, both nationally ranked schools.
In 2007, the Wildcats were 6-5 overall and 6-4 in the HAAC. That was Grossner’s first winning season as the Wildcats’ coach. He will begin his sixth year at the helm in the fall.
“We want to be about consistency,” Grossner said. “Two years ago, we had a winning season. Last year, we went to the playoffs. This year, we’d like to do that as well and maybe travel a little deeper.”
The Wildcats return many starters from the 8-4 team that went to the national playoffs. Senior Mack Brown will be the starting quarterback for his fourth year. Senior Richie Bryant, who was named the HAAC’s offensive player of the year in 2008, is back for the Wildcats. Also returning on offense is All-American kicker Derek Doerfler, another senior.
“We’ve got our quarterback, who has played a lot of games, returning,” Grossner said. “We also have the tailback returning. He was the conference player of the year this fall. We’ve got a kicker, who is being highly looked at by the NFL.
“Then I really feel good about our defense,” he said. “I think our defensive line is as good as anybody. Our linebackers are a year older and our secondary is going to be good. Our defense excites us as a staff and team, because you always hear it, great defense wins championships.”
Baker will open its season against two other top 25 teams. First on the schedule will be a road trip to Missouri Valley, which is ranked 16th in the preseason poll. Then Baker will host its home opener against Mid-America Nazarene, which is ranked No. 8 and beat the Wildcats 42-41 in overtime in the fall.
“In our league, you have to take the games one at a time,” Grossner said. “As you can see, our first two games are against two very good teams. We’ll find out very early where we are at as a team.”
The Wildcats aren’t scheduled to play any nonconference or bowl games this year, so they will have a bye week on Sept. 26.
“Maybe it will be good for us to have an off week.” Grossner said. “I like to play a lot of games, but maybe in the big picture, it won’t be bad for us to heal up and get ready for the back half of the season.”
Sept. 5 — at Missouri Valley, 6 p.m.
Sept. 12 – MidAmerica Nazarene (Family Day), 6 p.m.
Sept. 19 — at Avila, 6 p.m.
Oct. 3 – Culver-Stockton (homecoming), 2 p.m.
Oct. 10 — at Lindenwood, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 — Benedictine, 6 p.m.
Oct. 24 — at Graceland, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 — William Jewell, 1 p.m.
Nov. 7 — at Evangel, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 14 — Central Methodist, 1 p.m.