Butler will open the 2012 football season on the road with a rare
Thursday night contest when it visits Western Illinois on August
30. The 6 p.m. (CT, 7 p.m. in Indianapolis) non-conference
contest at Western Illinois’ Hanson Field will be the
earliest season-opener ever for the Bulldogs! Butler, coming
off a 5-6 campaign, returns 30 letterwinners, including eight
offensive and defensive starters. But the Bulldogs will head
into the season-opener at Western Illinois with a number of players
who will be seeing their first collegiate action. Head coach
Jeff Voris, entering his seventh season at with the Bulldogs, has
just seven seniors on this year’s roster, and nearly 60% of
his squad has never played in a Butler game. The Bulldogs do
return four All-Pioneer Football League performers, linebacker
Jordan Ridley, running back Trae Heeter, tight end Matt Jenson and
defensive back Sean Grady. Ridley has led the PFL in tackles
for two consecutive seasons. Butler will be facing Western
Illinois for the first time as a football opponent. The trip
to Macomb, Ill., will be the first of six road contests for the
Bulldogs in 2012.
Butler has won five straight season-openers under head coach Jeff Voris.
ON THE AIR: Beginning this season, Butler football webcasts for all 11 games will be available at www.butlersports.com. Play-by-play for the broadcasts will be handled by Butler graduates Brandon Gaudin ‘06 and Mark Minner ‘12, while former Butler head coach Ken LaRose will serve as the broadcast analyst. Butler’s season-opener at Western Illinois will be broadcast by Gaudin and Butler Assistant Sports Information Director Josh Rattray.
PRESEASON PICK: Butler was picked seventh in the preseason poll of Pioneer Football League coaches. Defending co-champ San Diego was a near-unanimous pick to prevail in the 2012 PFL league race, while co-champ Drake finished second in the poll. Jacksonville was picked third, followed by Dayton, Campbell, Marist, Butler, Morehead State, Davidson and Valparaiso. The Bulldogs finished in a tie for sixth in last year’s league race, one game behind fifth place Dayton.
TEAM CAPTAINS: A pair of seniors have been selected as captains of the 2012 Butler football team by a vote of their teammates. Named to leadership roles this season were senior linebacker Jordan Ridley and senior offensive tackle Matt Storey. Ridley, a two-time, first team All-Pioneer Football League performer, was tabbed as a team captain for the second straight year, while Storey, who was an honorable mention All-PFL pick last year, received the team honor for the first time.
NEW STAFF: Head coach Jeff Voris added four new assistant coaches to this year’s staff, including one who is no stranger to Butler fans. New offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Kyle Conner was a standout wide receiver for the Bulldogs (1997-2000), and he was an assistant coach at Butler (2002-05) before serving assistant coaching stints at Indiana and Valparaiso. Also joining this year’s staff are defensive tackles coach Jerome Riase, defensive ends coach Andrew Doan and running backs coach Patrick Doherty. Riase previously coached at Ashland University, while Doan served came to Butler after a standout collegiate career at Morehead State. Doherty formerly was an assistant coach at Franklin College.
SIGNAL CHANGE: For the first time in four years, Butler will open a football season without quarterback Andrew Huck at the helm. Huck was Butler’s starting quarterback in each of the past three season-openers, and he went on to complete his career last fall as the Bulldogs’ second all-time leading passer with 6,560 career yards. Looking to replace Huck in the starting role are junior Matt Lancaster, who sat out last season after transferring to Butler from Illinois State, and sophomore Wade Markley, who started one game for the Bulldogs when Huck was injured in 2011. Lancaster played in 16 games over two seasons at Illinois State and passed for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Markley passed for 301 yards and three touchdowns in three games for the Bulldogs last fall. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns in his lone collegiate start against Davidson.
STOPPER: Butler’s 2012 defensive unit will be anchored again by standout linebacker Jordan Ridley. The Butler senior captain had a league-high 140 tackles in 2011, including eight tackles for loss. The previous year, Ridley led the PFL with 130 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss. The former Lawrence Central High School player has had at least 10 tackles in 17 of Butler’s last 22 contests.
Jordan Ridley ranked fifth in the NCAA Division I FCS in tackles in 2011.
•Senior Jordan Ridley was named
to the 2012 FCS Senior Scout Bowl Preseason All-America Football
Team. He was picked to the North Defense First Team.
•Jordan Ridley and senior offensive tackle Matt Storey were chosen to the 2012 Preseason All-Pioneer Football League Team. Ridley is a two-time first team postseason All-PFL performer, while Storey was given honorable mention on the All-PFL squad last fall.
•Junior running back Trae Heeter ranked third in the PFL in all-purpose yards (1,306) and fourth in the league in rushing (79.2) in 2011. He’s Butler’s top-returning pass receiver (26 catches for 270 yards).
•Tight end Matt Jenson only caught nine passes in 2011, but four were for touchdowns. Jenson averaged a team-best 16.6 yards per catch last fall.
•Butler returns four of its top five tacklers from a year ago. Linebacker Jordan Ridley led the team in tackles (140), while defensive back Jayme Szafranski was third (66) on the squad. Defensive back Sean Grady finished fourth (62) and defensive lineman Jeremy Stephens was fifth (54).
•Defensive lineman Jeremy Stephens has made the switch from defensive tackle to defensive end this season. Stephens had 7.5 tackles for loss, including three quarterback sacks in 2011. He started all 11 games at defensive tackle last season.
•Defensive back Sean Grady shared the team lead and tied for sixth in the PFL with three pass interceptions in 2011. He had a school-record 90-yard interception return for a touchdown against Valparaiso.
•Graduation claimed Butler’s top plackicker, punter and punt/kickoff returner. The top candidates to fill those openings (punters Brian Akialis and Tom Judge, placekickers Jon Treloar and Brett Thomaston, punt returners Derek O’Connor and Kevin Cook, and kick returners Rico Watson and Marquese Martin-Hayes) each will be handling his specialty for the first time in a collegiate game.
•Senior offensive lineman Matt Storey has started 22 consecutive games for the Bulldogs.
•Butler is 15-6 in non-league games under head coach Jeff Voris.