The month of March signals everything from the end of winter to the start of March Madness. In the Butler football camp, it marks the start of spring drills and the official march to the start of the fall season.
The Bulldogs, coming off their best football season since 1997, kicked off the spring season with the first of 15 practice sessions on St. Patrick's Day. The team will practice three to four times a week for four consecutive weeks, concluding with the annual Blue-White Game on Saturday, April 11. That inter-squad scrimmage is scheduled for 10 a.m. (ET) in the Butler Bowl.
Butler compiled a 6-5 record in 2008, posting the most wins and first winning season in more than a decade. The six wins tied the second-highest single season total at Butler since the Bulldogs moved from the NCAA Division II to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision in 1993. The Bulldogs tied for fourth place in the Pioneer Football League with a 4-4 record, after being picked to finish in a tie for seventh in the league.
Head coach Jeff Voris is beginning his fourth season at Butler, and he's improved the Bulldogs' win total in each of his three previous seasons. He'll be working with a squad that features 16 returning starters, including seven players who earned recognition on the 2008 All-PFL Team.
On offense, Voris can look to the league's top returning passing tandem - junior quarterback Matt Kobli and senior wide receiver Dan Bohrer. Kobli, an honorable mention All-PFL pick, recorded the second-highest single season passing total in Butler history with 2,518 yards. He also set a Butler single season record with 23 touchdown passes, 11 of which wound up in the hands of Bohrer, a second team All-PFL player. Bohrer finished second in the league in receptions (71) and in receiving yards (971). The Bulldogs had 14 different players catch at least one pass last season and 10 return for 2009.
Voris also has a deep stable of running backs, including 2008 rushing leader Dionte Wiggins (512 yards) and 2007 rushing leader Scott Gray (547 yards). Wiggins was an honorable mention All-PFL player last season, while Gray, who missed eight games last fall with injury, led the PFL in scoring in 2007. Both backs will operate behind a veteran offensive line, featuring honorable mention all-league guard Donny Gilmore.
Butler's defense features a trio of honorable mention all-league performers, linebacker Derek Guggenburger, Tadd Dombart and Spencer Summerville. Guggenburger led the Bulldogs in tackles for a second consecutive season last fall, while Summerville finished second on the team in stops. They'll be joined by Butler's 2008 Defensive MVP, Grant Hunter. A defensive end, Hunter led the PFL in quarterback sacks with 14 in just his first season with the Bulldogs. Safety Rob Blevins, Butler's fourth-leading tackler and No. 1 punter, also returns.
The Bulldogs will open the 2009 football season at home against Albion on Saturday, Sept. 5. That contest at the Butler Bowl will start at 1 p.m. (ET).