SEASON KICKOFF: Butler will begin the 2011 football season at home when it hosts Albion on Saturday, Sept. 3. The non-league opener is slated for 1 p.m. (ET) at the Butler Bowl. The Bulldogs will be facing Albion in a season-opener for the eighth consecutive year. The Britons captured the first three games of that stretch, dating back to 2004, but the Bulldogs have bounced back to win the last four encounters, including a 29-13 decision last season in Michigan. Albion, 5-5 a year ago, is led by a pair of preseason NCAA Division III All-Americans, running back Clinton Orr and cornerback Chris Greenwood. Orr finished second in Division III in all-purpose yards and ninth in rushing yards per game a year ago, while Greenwood is a two-time All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association performer. The Britons were tabbed second in the MIAA preseason poll. Butler, looking to bounce back from a 4-7 campaign, returns 35 letterwinners, including 12 starters.
Butler is 4-1 in season-openers under head coach Jeff Voris.
ON THE AIR: For the seventh straight year, Butler football games will be broadcast on XL 950 (AM) in Indianapolis and streamed on the internet at BigPlayProductions.com. Play-by-play duties for the Bulldogs' opener will be handled by Brian Scott, and he'll be joined in the booth by former Butler football coach Ken LaRose. Scott is stepping in for Brian Giffin, who is on duty with the Atlanta Braves. This weekend's game against Albion will be carried live, starting with a pre-game show at 12:40 p.m. (ET).
PRESEASON PICK: Butler was picked fifth in the preseason poll of Pioneer Football League coaches. Defending co-champ Jacksonville was a near-unanimous pick to with the 2011 PFL league race, while co-champ Dayton finished second in the poll. Drake and San Diego were picked ahead of the Bulldogs.
TEAM CAPTAINS: Three seniors and a junior have been selected as captains of the 2011 Butler football team by a vote of their teammates. Named to leadership roles this season were senior quarterback Andrew Huck, senior linebacker Nick Caldicott, senior wide receiver Jeff Larsen and junior linebacker Jordan Ridley. Huck and Caldicott each have started every game for the past two seasons, while Larsen has played in every game in the last two campaigns. Ridley was Butler's lone first team All-PFL performer in 2010, when he led the league and ranked seventh in the NCAA Division I FCS in tackles. Caldicott is a three-year letterwinner, while Huck, Larsen and Ridley each have earned two varsity letters.
FAMILIAR FACES: The Bulldogs have 13 players on the roster who were in the starting lineup when Butler faced Albion in last year's season-opener. Six of those players will be making a third consecutive start against the Britons and one will be starting against Albion for the fourth straight year! Senior defensive end Grant Hunter, who enters the 2011 season with 25.5 career quarterback sacks, has started three straight games against the Britons and has recorded a quarterback sack in each of those contests. Set to make a third consecutive start against the Britons are quarterback Andrew Huck, wide receivers Zach Watkins and Jordan Koopman, offensive lineman Pete Mattingly, linebacker Nick Caldicott and defensive back Jack McKenna.
STRONG ARM: Senior Andrew Huck is entering his final season at Butler, and he already ranks among the Bulldogs' all-time leaders in passing yards. In three seasons, the Bloomington (Ind.) North High School product has thrown for 4,319 yards and stands fifth on Butler's all-time passing list. He passed for 1,865 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010, one year after compiling 2,454 passing yards and 21 touchdowns in Butler's 2009 championship season. He's one of just three quarterbacks in Butler history to throw for over 2,400 yards in a season and one of three Bulldogs to throw 20 touchdown passes in a year.
Andrew Huck trails Curt Roy (1979-83) in fourth place on Butler's all-time passing list by 242 yards.
STOPPERS: Butler's 2011 defensive unit will be anchored by two of the top linebackers in the PFL. Junior Jordan Ridley had a league-high 130 tackles in 2010, including a team-high 55 solo stops. The former Lawrence Central High School player had at least 10 tackles in nine of Butler's 11 contests. He'll line up next to senior Nick Caldicott, who was second on the team with 60 total tackles. Both players earned All-PFL honors in 2010. The two have combined for over 300 tackles during the past three seasons, including more than 30 tackles for loss.
HANDS DOWN: Senior wide receiver Zach Watkins is nearing the top of Butler's all-time lists for both receptions and receiving yards. He'll enter the 2011 season in second place on Butler's career receptions list with 174, 18 behind all-time leader Dan Bohrer (2006-09). And he currently stands fourth all-time in receiving yards with 1,950. Bohrer is Butler's all-time leader in receiving yards with 2,241. Watkins, a first team All-PFL pick in 2009 and a second team all-league player last season, has started 23 consecutive games for the Bulldogs. He led the team with 68 catches for a team-high 703 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.
Zach Watkins has four career touchdown receptions against Albion, including three in the Butler Bowl.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATION: The Bulldogs will have a leg up in the kicking game in 2011 with the return of veterans David Lang and Michael Wilson. Lang, a senior placekicker and honorable mention All-PFL pick, was Butler's leading scorer last season with a school-record 14 field goals and 20 PAT kicks. He was third in the PFL in kick scoring a year ago and fifth in the league in field goal percentage (.609). Wilson was named second team All-PFL as a punter in 2010, after ranking second in the circuit in punting with a 38.5 average. He tied for second in the league with 16 punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. Both players are entering their third consecutive season as regulars at their respective positions.
•Senior wide receiver Jordan Koopman had a career-high nine receptions for a career-best 108 yards and two touchdowns against Albion a year ago.
•Junior Jordan Ridley made his first collegiate start in last year's contest at Albion. He finished with three solo tackles, including one tackle for loss, and three assists.
•Quarterback Andrew Huck made his first collegiate start in Butler's 2009 game against Albion, and he wound up passing for a career-high 327 yards and rolling up a career-best 395 yards in total offense. He tied a Butler single game record with five touchdown passes in the win.
•Senior offensive lineman Pete Mattingly has started 28 consecutive games for the Bulldogs.
•Butler is 13-5 in non-league games under head coach Jeff Voris.