August 8, 2011

Butler Tabbed Fifth In PFL Preseason Poll

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – Butler, looking to return to the play that brought a league championship two years ago, has been picked fifth in the Pioneer Football League's preseason coaches' poll.  Defending league co-champion Jacksonville was tabbed as the coaches' preseason favorite.

The league's coaches were nearly unanimous in their assessment of Jacksonville.  The Dolphins, who shared the 2010 crown with Dayton, picked up eight of a possible nine first place votes (coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team) and 80 of a possible 81 points in the poll.  Dayton picked up one first place vote and finished second in the poll with 69 points, while Drake earned the final first place vote and wound up third with 61 points, two ahead of San Diego in fourth place.

Butler, just one campaign removed from a PFL co-championship, picked up 47 points from the coaches to wrap up the top half of the preseason poll.  Morehead State (38) was picked sixth, followed by Campbell (33), Marist (31), Davidson (23) and Valparaiso (9).

The Bulldogs have 12 starters back from last year's squad, including eight players who were in the starting unit on the 2009 Butler team that finished with a school-record 11-1 mark.  Two of those 2009 starters are quarterback Andrew Huck and wide receiver Zach Watkins.  Huck passed for 1,865 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, and he's thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns during his Butler career.  Watkins, who had 68 catches for 703 yards last season, set a Butler single season record with 78 receptions (for 918 yards and 10 TDs) in 2009.

Also back from last year's offensive starting lineup are lineman Pete Mattingly (6-5, 300), an honorable mention All-PFL pick in 2010, and wide receiver Jordan Koopman.  The Bulldogs ranked third in the PFL in total offense (380.5) in 2010, but finished eighth in scoring offense (18.4 ppg).

Butler's defensive unit features linebackers Jordan Ridley (right) and Nick Caldicott.  Ridley, a first team All-PFL performer, led the league in tackles with 130 last season, while Caldicott, Butler's Defensive MVP in 2009, finished second on the squad in tackles.  Also back is defensive end Grant Hunter, who led the squad in both quarterback sacks and tackles for loss.  Hunter had 14 quarterback sacks as a second team All-PFL player in 2009.  

Four additional returning defensive starters, linemen Ross Teare and Larry Thomas and defensive backs Jack McKenna and Andy Dauch, add to a formidable unit.  Butler led the PFL in scoring defense (19.2 ppg), total defense (304.5 ypg) and passing defense (160.7 ypg) in 2010.

Two other returnees who figure to give the Bulldogs a leg up in this year's race are punter Michael Wilson and placekicker David Lang.  Wilson was a second team All-PFL player in 2010, while Lang, who led the Bulldogs in scoring and set a school record with 14 field goals, earned honorable mention All-PFL recognition.

The Bulldogs begin fall camp on Monday, August 8, and will kickoff the 2011 season at home against Albion on Saturday, September 3, at 1 p.m. (ET).