For five Butler football senior defenders, the start of this season has been no different than the past three seasons: all of them played on opening day then, too.
Even more surprising is that the five cornerstones of the Bulldogs’ defense have missed only 14 games combined during the past three seasons.
During their time together, Grant Hunter, Ross Teare, Jeff Poss, Robert Koteff and Larry Thomas have built up a strong defensive unit that relies on each person doing his job.
“From having played week after week, year after year, they trust each other,” head coach Jeff Voris said. “They can count on each other to have the right gap.”
Teare, finished fourth on the team in tackles last season with 14. The senior agrees with Voris that developing a cohesive defensive line should pay big dividends for the Bulldogs this season.
“When you play with the same guys for long enough, you get to know them as players and know what they are going to do,” Teare said.
While the durability of the five on game day is impressive, perhaps even more important is the dedication and perseverance they display in workouts.
“They hardly ever miss practice, a lifting session or team meeting,” Voris said. “That provides a great example for our younger guys to follow.”
Last season, the five defenders were responsible for 7.5 sacks and 114 tackles.
In 2009, when the Bulldogs won the Pioneer Football League championship, they were responsible for 16 sacks and 127 tackles.
“Obviously, we would like every season to be like 2009,” Voris said. “If we are going to get back to where we were then, it is going to start with our seniors.”
The Bulldogs are looking at every game as a championship game during this season, Teare said.
“That’s the mindset we need to have,” Teare said. “If we have that mentality, hopefully we will be where we want to be.”
Hunter said that he also understands an experienced senior class will be key to whatever success Butler has this season.
“As seniors, it is our job to lead by example,” Hunter said. “If we want to experience 2009 again, that’s what it is going to take.”
After the first two games, Voris said he likes what he has seen from his defensive and offensive lines.
“We have always said the improvement of our program goes hand-in-hand with the improvement of the offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “If we do those things right, the score will take care of itself.”