Butler coach David Land and his players share a high degree of enthusiasm for the upcoming season.
For the first time since the 1989 season, Butler could battle for a region title and a playoff berth. The Bulldogs have three Division I prospects -- running back Carlos Rogers, wide receiver Isaac West and tight end Ben Troup -- and a strong group of returning starters. Last season, the Bulldogs finished 6-4 and lost two games by less than a touchdown. So the high expectations from fans have already put the monkey on Land's back.
"We put it there ourselves," Land said. "The kids have high expectations and part of that is because our JV team has been so successful for the past couple of years. We've been building for this year.
"Last year we were disappointed in our record. We felt we were three or four plays away from being 7-3, or 8-2 even."
Junior quarterback Antjuan Welch will be the man to get the ball to West via the air or hand off to Rogers.
The offensive line will be anchored by four returning starters. Troup is back for his senior season at tight end, teaming with senior Derik Jones at tackle and juniors Curtis Dorsey and Justin Crank at the guards.
The outlook appears just as bright on defense, especially in the secondary where senior Zavyion House and Tommy Peterson, a three-year starter, are returning. West and Rogers also will see action in the secondary.
Senior defensive end Bobby Maddox and junior defensive tackle Ryan Baynes anchor the line.
The only position where the Bulldogs appear to be thin is at linebacker, where only senior Chad Wilson returns. But Land expects several members of last year's JV squad to step forward.
"I feel like we have the potential to be a very good ball club," Land said. "Last year, somebody asked me the same question and I told them I was cautiously optimistic. But this year, if we stay healthy and eliminate our mistakes, we have a chance to be a very good football team."