The Butler football team is building a buzz around the approaching season, which kicks off tomorrow night on the road against Western Illinois.
The Bulldogs just finished up training camp, and senior captain and offensive lineman Matt Storey said the energy and effort throughout camp has led to high expectations.
“I’d say things are definitely looking a lot better than last season,” Storey said. “I think having a bit of a younger team and having a lot of competition in spots has caused people to step up their game and work a lot harder in practice.”
The team is returning only nine total starters, but the youth of the team is poised to rise to the occasion.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that see their opportunity to play,” coach Jeff Voris said. “They’ve worked like this is their chance.”
Voris said the energy and enthusiasm in working for the team’s goal of a Pioneer Football League title has been off the charts since January.
“We’re not going to win the PFL in one week, but I think every week, we can come closer to that goal,” senior captain and linebacker Jordan Ridley said.
Ridley, who has led the PFL in total tackles for two consecutive seasons, was named to the Football Championship Subdivision Senior Scout Bowl Preseason All-America Football Team.
While Ridley may be a leading player, Voris said he’s surrounded by many good football players on defense.
“With us, it’s never been about one guy or about a couple players. It’s about guys fitting into the system and believing in the Butler Way,” Voris said.
The PFL contains a unique level of football with a lot of great traditions and football teams, but Voris said the that there’s not a better home stadium and a better home crowd than the Butler Bowl.
“It’s a great place to play because of the band, cheerleaders, mascot and the student section, and the more people we get excited about coming out here on Saturdays, the better we’re going to be,” Voris said.
Adding to the excitement was the announcement that the PFL will begin receiving an automatic bid next season, but Voris said it was not the most important thing to his team right now.
“When you have 96 guys like that, it’s not about some end result,” Voris said. “It’s about the journey and the little things that go into every day’s preparation and the things you get out of the game from along the journey.”
The Bulldogs lost 16 starters from last year’s team, including starting quarterback Andrew Huck and the top three receivers.
Huck and receiver Zach Watkins left Butler as the number one passing duo in school history.
Redshirt sophomore Wade Markley and redshirt junior Matt Lancaster have been battling for the starting job at quarterback. Lancaster has been named the starter for tomorrow’s game against Western Illinois.
“The nice thing is that we’ve got two guys that can win a lot of football games,” Voris said.