Wildcats picked third in preseason HAAC poll
Baker University’s football team was picked third in the 2011 Heart of America Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll, which was released Monday afternoon at the annual media day festivities at Kauffman Stadium.
The Wildcats received 75 out of a possible 100 voting points to finish No. 3 overall. Missouri Valley College (89 points) and MidAmerica Nazarene University (100 points) rounded out the top three teams. The Wildcats edged Benedictine College by a 75-73 margin.
Grossner addressed the media and HAAC coaches at the annual festivities in Kansas City, Mo. He talked briefly about last year’s team, but mostly focused on the 2011 team and scheduled.
Baker, ranked No. 23 in the NAIA, will open its season on Aug. 27 against No. 10 Ottawa University in the Fifth Annual Victory Sports Network First Down Classic. The game will start at 7 p.m. at Liston Stadium.
“From a football standpoint, last year we had 14 days to prepare and we showed it,” Grossner said. “In the first game, 16 penalties and several turnovers later, we were on the wrong end of a loss to Ottawa University. The good thing is we get to take them on again at our place. We’re excited about the challenge.”
He continued by addressing the following games, which begin the HAAC schedule. Two of Baker’s main rivals, William Jewell College and Lindenwood University, are no longer in the HAAC.
“The next game will be against Peru State, who is an unknown in our conference,” Grossner said. “We’ll both go into that game with a lot of question marks. Then we get into the meat of the schedule. It never gets easy in the HAAC as we all know.”
Grossner talked about the three main areas of his team — offense, defense and special teams. He started by talking about the Wildcats’ punter, Garrett Chumley, and their long-snapper, Caleb Johnson.
“On special teams, we feel pretty good,” Grossner said. “We have a left-footed punter, which I love. He’s got a great leg and he’s getting some pro looks. Our long-snapper, which we all know how important they are, will be a four-year starter.”
The other special teams player is unknown right now. The Wildcats will have a new kicker this fall.
“Our kicking game is a mystery,” Grossner said. “We are going to start a freshman. I can guarantee you that.”
Defense was next on Grossner’s agenda.
“From a defensive standpoint, we feel really good,” Grossner said. “We lost some quality kids, one on each level that were first-team all-conference type guys. With that being said, I think we have some guys to fill in for them.”
He hopes players like Ryder Werts, Steven Sanders and Jordan Johnson can fill the void left by players in the linebacking and secondary corps.
Baker’s offense will look a lot like last year’s team. Jake Morse is back at quarterback. The Wildcats return the top three running backs and five of their top six wide receivers from a year ago. Their only need will be replacing a trio of offensive linemen.
“On offense, we have everybody back, except three guys up front,” Grossner said. “That’s a big loss. We feel like we have some young bucks who we think can fill in, but it’s a big-time unknown until we get to camp on Saturday.”
The Wildcats officially begin practice Saturday. They have two weeks until Ottawa comes to Baldwin City for the season opener.
“We feel like it’s there,” Grossner said. “We just have to put it together. It’s a short time here. We have one week and then it’s game week. Then it never stops until later in the year, when we have a couple open dates. We feel good. We know how good this league is and these coaches will have their teams prepared every week.”