Garden City went through the 2000 conference season with a perfect 7-0 record, and then shut out Independence and Hutchinson in the playoffs before claiming a classic four-overtime 23-17 victory over Butler County in the Jayhawk Conference championship game.
The Broncbusters were picked on top in the poll released during the annual conference media day in Manhattan, Kan. Garden City was followed by Butler County, Coffeyville, Hutchinson, Fort Scott, Dodge City, Highland and Independence.
Garden City's defense, which only allowed a school record 87 points a year ago, returns preseason All-American candidates DT Lance Carson and LB Derrick Pope, who has verbally committed to Alabama.
The offense will be completely revamped at the skill positions and return three offensive linemen, center Shawn Steiner and tackles Clint Werth and Jon Hawk.
All-American RB Ronald McClendon will lead Butler County on offense. The Grizzlies finished 10-2 a year ago, with both losses coming to Garden City. DL Jermaine Berry and LB Kedric Session are the top Grizzly defenders.
Coffeyville welcomes former Fort Hays State and Garden City coach Jeff Leiker to the sidelines, marking the first time in 27 years a Foster hasn't been on the Red Raven bench. RB Muhammad Abdulqaadir, the Jayhawk Conference's leading rusher who set the school record with 381 yards rushing against Fort Scott a year ago, leads a talented offense. DE Mondre Dickerson will provide leadership on the defensive side.
The Red Ravens also open up a new $7 million facility Aug. 25 against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
Hutchinson will be counting on a lot of transfers and redshirts in 2001. Brandon Blake, the younger brother of New Orleans Saints' quarterback Jeff Blake, is one of the candidates to be the Blue Dragon signal-caller.
Fort Scott has a new coach, Kevin Verdugo, and one of the biggest players in the conference, 6-7, 370-pound offensive lineman Brandon Hurd, who wears a size 20 shoe and wears a size 52 game pants.
John Rossetti is Dodge City's new head coach. Rossetti has been on rival Garden City's staff the past four years, the last two as defensive coordinator.
Highland coach Marty Allen is the dean of Jayhawk Conference coaches, entering his 20th season at HCC. Allen returns QB Jeff Abbott, fifth in the nation in passing a year ago, and one of Abbott's favorite targets, WR Tony Madison, who caught 13 touchdown passes last season.
Independence enters the season on an 18-game losing streak and welcomes new coach Kent Keith from Tabor (Kan.) College. The Pirates will scrap their traditional option attack for a pro-style passing game.
|Jayhawk Conference schedule