Tatum KJCCC coach of the year; 11 Busters all-conference
By ADAM HOLT
As it turns out, if you take a football program that went 2-7 in your first year, and return with an explosive offense that helps to engineer a 6-4 campaign and a return to the national polls in Year 2, then your peers tend to notice.
There was a lot of Broncbuster representation in the 2012 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference football postseason awards, which were released Monday. Garden City Community College head coach Jeff Tatum was named the league's coach of the year, and quarterback Nick Marshall was named offensive player of the year. All in all, the Busters had 11 all-conference selections.
"I tell you, it's an honor and a privlege to be named coach of the year by your peers," Tatum said. "Guys that you compete against every single saturday, to give you the honor, it is a very big privilege to me to receive this honor."
Garden City started the season 2-0 and entered the NJCAA poll at No. 19, the first time GCCC had been in the polls during the regular season in years. Entering the final week of the regular season, the Busters had a chance to clinch third place in the standings.
Tatum deflected a lot of the credit to his coaching staff, praising defensive coordinator Lou West, offensive coordinator Matt Miller, linebacker coach Eric Gibson, defensive line coach Jeff Kelly and offensive line coach Merci Falaise. Garden City posted its best record since going 6-4 in 2008.
"All the credit goes to the guys that work for me," Tatum said. "I was a very small part in this process. I've got great coaches."
Marshall, the Busters' electric dual-threat quarterback, beat out other talented players like Hutchinson's Luke Barnes and Butler's Dreamius Smith for offensive player of the year honors. The University of Georgia transfer was also named the KJCCC first-team quarterback.
Marshall threw for 2,865 yards, averaging 286.5 per game, which was second in the conference behind Barnes, and fourth in the nation. He threw for 18 touchdowns as well, completing 57.4 percent of his passes and tossing 19 interceptions.
Where Marshall really stood out was his athletic ability, whether it was running the ball — he had 949 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns on the ground — or using his legs to keep plays alive and buy time for his receivers.
"I'm sure Nick feels the same way I do about it; he knows it was a collective team effort," Tatum said. "Nick's a great football player and it was an honor and a privilege. He made our offense a lot better, not only with his athletic ability, but his leadership. That's one of the most important things I felt that, when I look for a quarterback, is a guy that comes from a winning program, and also is a leader, and Nick's both of them."
While he played quarterback in high school, Marshall was recruited as a defensive back and played on defense at Georgia in 2011, before being dismissed from the team. He came to Garden City to play quarterback again, and Tatum said playing defensive back helped Marshall's understanding of the game.
Joining Marshall on the first team offense were wide receiver Rod Coleman and left tackle D.J. Williams. Tyreek Hill was named first-team return specialist, and Rilee Spresser was the first-team punter. GCCC's five first-team selections were its most since having six in 2007.
Hill was named to the second team as a running back, and fullback Adam Weber was also a second-team selection.
Four Busters received honorable mention honors: center Dillon Salmans, running back Jamal Tyler, defensive end Kitray Solomon and kicker Tyler Peterson.
Tatum credited the Busters offensive line for being a steadying presence all season, and said he was happy to see Salmans and Williams rewarded for their work. They helped the Busters average 486.8 yards of total offense per game, which was seventh in the nation.
Coleman had 973 yards and seven touchdowns on 64 catches, and led the league in receptions per game (7.1) and yards per game (108.1). Tyler had 639 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Hill, a world-class sprinter, was third in all-purpose yardage at 1,483 yards — 295 rushing, 661 passing, 138 on kick returns and 389 on punt returns. He still took first-team return specialist honors, despite the fact his numbers dipped after teams stopped kicking the ball to him.
"I'm glad that coaches in this league understood how important it was, as far as kick returns, for our football team," Tatum said. "He did change people's kicking gameplan. Especially the second half of the season, everybody started kicking away from him, and he didn't have the (numbers); he didn't lead the league in return yardage, but everybody knew how valuable he was, and he was the best kick returner in the league."
Solomon was also named an honorable mention selection in 2011, and had six sacks this season, as well as a blocked PAT for a 2-point conversion against Coffeyville.
Peterson handled most of the kickoffs for the Busters, splitting placekicking duties with Carlos Chavez. Spresser averaged 39.4 yards per punt, which was second in the conference.
Coffeyville's Martell Spaight was the KJCCC defensive player of the year. Butler led the conference with 10 first-team selections. The Grizzlies had 25 all-conference selections overall, followed by the Blue Dragons with 24. The Red Ravens were third with 13, followed by the Busters with 11.