Just over three weeks from the 2017 season opener, the Garden City Community College Broncbusters started their hunt for back-to-back NJCAA national titles on Tuesday as they began fall camp.
Tuesday was Day 1, and it consisted mostly with conditioning drills.
But as most years in junior college, the roster overhaul is massive for head coach Jeff Sims and his staff.
“It’s not that you replace anybody,” Sims said about a new group of more than 100 players vying for 85 active roster spots in the new Jayhawk Conference limit. “It’s kind of like your house burnt down — you don’t replace it — you rebuild it. We’re basically starting from the ground floor up.”
Of course, that ground floor is an NJCAA championship and a perfect 11-0 record in 2016, Sims’ second season at the helm. But most of that team is gone.
Quarterback Peyton Huslig is off to Missouri State. Linebackers Delshawn Phillips, Alex Figueroa and Gabe Luyanda are at four-year schools, as well. Offensive tackle Arlington Hambright is at Oklahoma State, and a dozen or more others left with four-year scholarships.
It’s likely 95 percent of both the offensive and defensive numbers from 2016 will need to be replaced, a tall order for a title defense.
“The way we approach it, to win a championship, you don’t try to win a championship,” Sims said. “You try to win every day. We’re trying to be better than Ellsworth in Week 1.”
That Ellsworth game is set for 7 p.m., Aug. 24 at Broncbuster Stadium. The official preparation for that game started Tuesday with conditioning, followed by Wednesday’s first true team practice, Sims said. But the summer session was the beginning.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work,” Sims said. “We brought in some really good people, and they’re working hard. I would tell you we have a really good group, but they’re green.”
The Busters have a few returners, such as defensive tackle Kahewai Kaaiawaawa and offensive lineman Edgar Guzman, who was hurt just prior to the beginning of last season. They’ll also have linebacker Rayshawn Wilborn and some red-shirts from a season ago. Though, many left for four-year programs, as well, Sims said, such as defensive back Shabari Davis, who is now at Southeast Missouri State.
“In our program, it’s graduate, championship, scholarship,” Sims said.
Check, check and check for 2016. Now, it’s up to the 2017 group.
Of course, much of the attention will be placed on who will take over at quarterback after Huslig’s breakout 2016 performance, in which he didn’t even start until midway through the season.
The Busters have Oregon transfer quarterback Terry Wilson in camp, as well as Rutgers transfer Tylin Oden. Wilson was rated as a three-star dual-threat QB out of Del City High School in Oklahoma City, and signed with Oregon in 2016. He transferred out after freshman QB Justin Herbert won the starting job. Odin also was a 2016 signee, enrolling at Rutgers before being dismissed from the team for what NJ.com reported as a “violation of team rules.” He was a three-star pro-style QB out of Columbia, Tenn.
Sims, though, said the list doesn’t stop there.
“I have a bunch of quarterbacks who are pretty good,” he said.