Kevin Verdugo is returning home to southeast Kansas to try to continue building on the program at Fort Scott Community College.

Originally from Pittsburg, Kan., just about 30 miles south of Fort Scott, Verdugo, who last year was the quarterbacks coach at Southern Illinois University, was hired by FSCC athletics director Kevin Gundy when Gundy decided to leave the sidelines after five seasons as Greyhound coach.

In comes Verdugo, with plenty of high expectations after last season's 5-5 record and third-place finish in the Jayhawk Conference.

"We feel very good about the way the program's coming together," Verdugo said. "We feel the kids have done a great job rallying around what we expect them to do. We didn't go in and turn the program upside down at Fort Scott, but we did change some things."

With a new coaching staff, it may be a blessing in disguise that the Greyhounds return just two starters on offense and two more on defense.

At quarterback, Verdugo is counting on 6-2, 200-pound sophomore Bill Whittemore, a transfer from Tennessee-Martin, to lead the Greyhound attack. Whittemore was 19 for 51 passing for 282 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions for UT-Martin as a redshirt freshman.

"They changed their system there, went to a triple option," Verdugo said. "That's not what he does real well, so he was looking to find a home and we were glad to accommodate him."

One of Whittemore's receivers is 6-2, 200-pound sophomore James Taylor, the Jayhawk Conference's third-leading receiver a year ago, with 35 catches for 530 yards and two touchdowns.

"He has very good athletic ability, great hands and is very intelligent," Verdugo said. Taylor was a top prospect coming out of high school in Ohio and committed to Michigan. He's still committed to play for the Wolverines upon earning his degree.

The Greyhound coaching staff is very excited about landing WR Jamaar Farbes out of Denver.

"Jamaar's a great athlete," Verdugo said. "He's a kid that does a lot of things I haven't seen on the football field in quite awhile."

Two out-of-state signees, Ryan Drinkwater (5-10, 215) from Atlanta and Marquan Sample (5-11, 215) from Toledo, Ohio, will compete for the starting tailback position.

One question mark is the hogs up front. The Greyhounds will have five new starters from a year ago.

"We're going to be very young there," Verdugo said. "They've all got great size, but not many of them have played college football before, so it will be exciting to see how they react, how they come along."

The biggest of the linemen is 6-7, 370-pound freshman Brandon Hurd from Fort Worth, Texas.

"He wears size 20 shoes and size 52 game pants," Verdugo said. "He's a big child. He doesn't know what he can do with his body yet. He's got great athletic ability, and that's without really ever pushing himself."

The two returners on defense are impact players, linebacker Dru Bowman and defensive back Clark McCracken. Every one else is untested.

"Defensively, we're going to be young. There's no hiding that fact," Verdugo said. "We don't have a lot of redshirts coming back from last year's team. A lot of them are going to be freshmen, so they're going to have to grow up quickly. Fortunately, they are very, very athletic, and hopefully that'll cover up some of their youth."

High school teammates Jacoby Antoine and Damian Batiste will line up at defensive line and linebacker, respectively, while Verdugo feels he has a keeper in linebacker Mitchell Hughes from Louisville, Ky.

An added weapon for the Greyhounds is sophomore placekicker Matt London, who was 14 of 19 in field-goal attempts and 26 of 27 kicking extra points as a freshman.

The Greyhounds were picked to finish fifth in the preseason coaches poll, but Verdugo is shooting for a loftier finish.

"Fort Scott was doing things pretty good before I got there," Verdugo said. "The one thing I said when I first got hired is it's not like I'm having to come in and totally rebuild a house that's been burned down. This house is about three-fourth's of the way finished. It's just my job to add some bricks and try to get it over the top."

2001 Schedule
(home games bold, all caps)

Sept. 8: At Hutchinson
SEPT. 15: N.E.O.
Sept. 29: At Dodge City
Oct. 13: At Coffeyville
Oct. 20: At Butler County
Oct. 28: First Round, Kansas Jayhawk Conference Playoffs.
Nov. 4: Second Round, Kansas Jayhawk Conference Playoffs.
Nov. 11: Kansas Jayhawk Conference Championship.


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