Football is coming.
Fans of junior college football got their first taste of what’s to come in the KJCCC and Iowa conferences at Friday’s Media Day in Wichita.
And Garden City Community College fans got a look at first-year coach Tom Minnick, whose Broncobusters were picked to finish third in the Jayhawk Conference a year after they won their second conference title in three years and played for the national championship.
After the departure of Jeff Sims to Missouri Southern State University, Minnick stepped in and has combined a solid group of returners to GCCC with a crop of players that played for him at Arizona Western.
“We’re very experienced on both sides of the ball,” Minnick said, a contrast to what other coaches said about their teams on Friday. “With my Arizona guys, the Garden City guys and the transfers, we probably won’t have a freshman that starts.”
That’s nearly unheard of at the junior college level.
Yet, it is Hutchinson that was picked to win the league this season, as head coach Rion Rhoades enters his 13th season at the helm. He is 89-48 so far, guided the Blue Dragons to a conference title in 2014 and finished second a year ago after losing in the final seconds to the Busters in a dramatic 24-21 game in Hutchinson.
“There are so many great teams,” Rhoades said of the KJCCC. “The predicted order of finish is great, I guess, to have something to assign the order of speakers (at Media Day), but I think that’s about all the good it does.”
Butler is picked to finish second, the Busters third, Highland fourth, Coffeyville fifth, Independence sixth, Dodge City seventh and Fort Scott eighth.
For the Busters, Minnick reviewed some of the players who will help the Busters attempt to defend their conference crown, such as LSU commit Ali Gaye, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end. The Busters also have three-star defensive end Sam Moala, a transfer from Pima, and defensive tackle Jordan Riley, a transfer from North Carolina, on that side of the ball.
On offense, the standouts, Minnick said, were a couple of running backs, Bowling Green transfer Ra’Veion Hargrove and returner Ellis Merriweather; as well as transfer offensive lineman Paul Finau from Snow College; returning wide receiver Dominique Watt, who Minnick called the “overall best football player on our team;” and Louisiana Tech transfer quarterback Nate Cox, who is listed at 6-foot-9 inches tall.
Those players will help the Busters compete in 2019.
"I'm ready to compete in this league," Minnick said. "From top to bottom, this is the best conference in the United States."
Minnick had a long, highly successful run at Arizona Western before joining the Busters just as Arizona Western’s football conference fell apart, with multiple schools eliminating football programs, which soon prompted Arizona Western to do the same shortly after Minnick’s departure.
The Busters are set to open the season at 1 p.m. Aug. 24 vs. Snow College.