The Bulldogs get ready for their home-opener against Depauw last season. Photo by Chandler Hart/Butler Athletics.
NICK ORR | SPORTS REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler football team — with an overhaul in leadership — heads into the 2022 season with high hopes on improving. After a combined record of 10-30 in the past four seasons, Butler was ready for a change.
Last season, the Bulldogs went 3-8 record, winning only once against conference opponents. While Butler’s offense was at league-average, they struggled on the defensive side. The Bulldogs allowed 377 points, the most in the PFL. In order to turn things around, the program decided to start few with a new face of the program.
In December of 2021, the Bulldogs found that new face in head coach Mike Uremovich. Uremovich was previously the head coach at the University of St. Francis for seven seasons. He led the Fighting Saints to a 10-2 record in his final season, along with an NAIA playoff victory, and was known for having explosive offenses. Uremovich is looking to bring some of that success to Butler.
“We’re going to have good schemes on offense, defense, special teams … we’re not going to beat ourselves,” Uremovich said. “We’re going to be good on special teams. We’re going to try and be the most physical team we can be. Those things can’t change.”
Uremovich isn’t the only new face in the program. The Bulldogs are rostering over 80 freshmen and sophomores, making this year’s team much younger than the 2021 team.
One of the lone upperclassmen on the roster, senior Mac Menard, has taken more of a leadership role with the linebacker core. As one of the more senior players on the roster, Menard has put more focus into not just his play but the preparation of the teammates behind him.
“I’ve definitely tried to take more of a leadership role,” Menard said. “I’ve been here a long time. The guys in my position group have been able to talk about getting acclimated because it’s a new defense for us, too. I’ve definitely had to go out of my way and just make sure that they’re able to help out when it comes time.”
Offensively, redshirt junior quarterback Bret Bushka will continue to lead the Bulldogs. In 2021 — his first year as a starter — he threw for over 1600 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games. While not being extremely consistent, Bushka showed flashes of explosiveness last season, throwing for over 400 yards against Dayton and 230 yards against Taylor. Bushka also showcased his dual-threat ability, rushing for 314 yards and four touchdowns on the season. That was enough to place him as the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher in attempts, rushing yards, and touchdowns in 2021.
The number one thing holding Bushka back, however, were turnovers. He threw 11 interceptions last season to go along with his nine touchdowns. Keeping the ball away from his opponent is one of Bushka’s main goals this season.
“I feel like I turned the ball over too much last year,” Bushka said. “I’ve been very critical and working on my reads and my ball security when I’m running the ball, so the defense never has any opportunities to take the ball away.”
Bushka is joined in the passing game by senior receiver and team captain Johnny O’Shea. O’Shea stood out as one of his favorite targets in the passing game.
O’Shea ranked second on the team in receptions and receiving yards last season. The senior has racked up 80 receptions over 25 career games during his time with the Bulldogs, accumulating over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns.
Butler is led in the backfield by senior running back AJ Deinhart. Deinhart led the rushing attack with 101 carries and 496 yards, while also being tied for the lead among Butler running backs with three touchdowns. The 2022 preseason All-PFL second team selection played all 11 games in 2021, highlighted by a season-high 96 yards against Davidson.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by standout senior defensive back Connor Reid. Along with Deinhart, Bushka, O’Shea and defensive lineman Austin Korba, Reid was selected to the 2022 preseason All-PFL second team. He led the Bulldogs last season with 48 tackles and three interceptions, and also tied for most tackles for loss with 4.5. Reid will look to carry over his success from last year and continue to be the anchor of the Bulldog secondary.
On the defensive line, Korba looks to have a breakout sophomore season for the Bulldogs. He collected 19 total tackles while playing in all 11 games, highlighted by a five-tackle performance against St. Thomas.
With all the new faces among the Butler football program, one can’t help but feel excitement for what can come out of this new era.
“I’m definitely excited to move into the season with new staff and see what they have to offer,” Menard said. “A whole group of freshmen coming in and transfers coming in. We got some new energy, so I’m definitely excited.”
The Bulldogs kicked off their season on Saturday, Sept. 3 with a 31-26 win against the St. Thomas Bobcats. Butler stays at home to take on the Taylor Trojans on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Sellick Bowl.