SWJCFC Media Day Recap

If the annual preseason poll of coaches is any indication, the 2013 Southwest Junior College Football Conference season should be a wide-open affair. Five different teams received first place votes, headed by Kilgore and Navarro with two top picks apiece by league coaches.

Kilgore and Navarro played in the first round of the SWJCFC playoffs last season.

Kilgore and Navarro both received 51 points, barely edging third place Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (50) and Tyler (47).

Navarro, the 2012 SWJCFC champion after defeating NEO in Miami, Okla., in the conference championship game and later winning the Heart of Texas Bowl, also earned one second-place vote, one for third and two for fourth. Kilgore had three third-place votes and a fourth-place vote in addition to its pair of first-place nods by coaches.

Trinity Valley is fifth in the coaches' poll, followed by Blinn and Cisco.

The coaches met at the Garden Valley Golf Resort in Lindale on Thursday for their annual Media Day.

Navarro finished 2012 with a 10-2 record, including a 30-23 win over Georgia Military in the Heart of Texas Bowl.

Navarro is banking on UAB transfer quarterback Josh Greer (6-5, 220) or sophomore Alex Allen to lead the offense and sophomore backs Tim Wright and Cameron Washington, who combined for more than 550 yards last season, to pace the ground game.

The Bulldogs also boast Texas Tech transfer and four-star recruit Michael Starts (6-5, 280) along the defensive line.

"Offensively, we've got two guys battling for quarterback and five running backs that we feel really good about," said Navarro Coach Bryan Mayper to the assembled media. "The key when (former coach) Nick (Bobeck) was here was they had a good group of running backs they could keep fresh all the time and keep the offense effective. We've got a chance to have the same thing this year.

"Defensively, you're going to see a four-, five- or three-person front. You name it and you are going to see it from (first-year Defensive Coordinator Scott Joseph)."

Kilgore brings back plenty of firepower this season after a breakout 8-3 season that included a co-regular season championship with NEO.  The Rangers rolled through the regular season by winning eight of nine games before losing to Navarro in the SWJCFC playoffs and then 47-36 to Northwest Mississippi in the Brazos Valley Bowl.

Kilgore returns quarterback Tanner Tausch, who eclipsed 2,000 yards through the air with 20 TDs.

Second-year Texas Tech transfer Cooper Washington is coming off an All-Conference campaign at defensive end.

"(Tanner) came in during the third week and really rallied everyone around him," said Kilgore Coach J.J. Eckert. "He ended up throwing for 2,000 yards in only nine games and became a great asset for us. We don't have any wide receivers or running backs coming back, but we hope that the core of offensive and defensive linemen and our quarterback will help us compete.

"We had a problem last year when we gave up 22 sacks. We've made a great effort to eliminate that problem along the offensive line and in our protection schemes."

Northeastern Oklahoma earned a bowl bid last season in Dale Patterson's final year as head coach. Patterson is now full-time athletic director and his first order of business was hiring Sherard Poteete as head coach. A former All-Conference quarterback at NEO, Poteete has been offensive coordinator at Trinity Valley the last three seasons.

"I'm excited to be back at NEO for the second time after playing here," he said. "We've got some exciting things going on at NEO this year. We're going to be playing on turf this year for the first time."

Tyler is hinging on four returning offensive linemen and the return of quarterback Randy Price after a redshirt season.

"In this league, there's not a lot of room between first and last," said Tyler Coach Danny Palmer.

"Everybody threw the ball on us last year. We had a hard time stopping the Tyler and Kilgore bands last year. So we've worked really, really hard on our secondary in the offseason."

Trinity Valley is coming off a disappointing 3-6 season despite sending a nation's-best 19 players to Division I programs.

"We have a lot of youth and a lot of question marks this season entering our first game against defending national champion Iowa Western and then a great Coffeyville team," said TVCC Coach Brad Smiley. "Then we have four of our five conference games on the road this season. It's going to be a challenging season."

Four-time national champion Blinn also struggled in 2012, losing key players to Division I programs last August en route to a 2-6 season. Coach Ronny Feldman is encouraged to have starting quarterback Garry Kimble back this season. Kimble passed for 1,478 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 756 yards and 8 scores last season. Kimble will be backed by veteran running back Klartel Claridy (518 yards).

"Expectations are always high at Blinn College," Feldman said. "We had some stumbles last year, but we've got some good pieces in place this year."

Cisco finds itself in a familiar spot in the preseason picks - at the bottom - but don't feel sorry for Coach Scott Taylor, who returns eight regulars on offense and 11 players who saw extensive time defensively.

"We should have the fastest defense we've had at Cisco since 2005 when we were at the top of the conference," Taylor said. "Our defense is going to fly around the football this fall. The key will be if freshman and some other additions will help secure our defensive front."

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