Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-More often than not, when it comes to fitting pieces into a puzzle, Garden City Community College Head Coach Matt Miller is pretty spot on. So when the second-year skipper talks about the potential talent of a player, your ears perk up.
Despite a disappointing campaign in 2013, there was no shortage of stars. Miller and his staff strategically put an ultra-competitive team on the field. Still, the Busters struggled, which has changed his coaching philosophy in 2014:
“We’re a bring your lunch pail to work group this year,” Miller said. “We’re a family, and we’ve learned a lot from last year. But that’s done and we’re all moving on. We took 30 minutes before the first day of practice to talk about last year. It hasn’t been brought up since.”
If you listen to Miller for 30 seconds, you can tell that he’s chomping at the bit to prove all the critics wrong. The same naysayers who picked Garden City fifth in the preseason conference poll. The same ones who believe the Busters won’t be bowling come December.
“We’ll let our play on the field do the talking for us this year,” Miller said. “Last year was a humbling experience.”
Quarterbacks still learning the ropes
Anytime there’s a quarterback competition, one of the first questions asked is how each one of the guys gets along with the other.
“Danarious (Graham) has been here with me all summer with me,” freshman Bryce Gemmel said. “So has Alex (Gomez). We know it’s a friendly battle.”
Gemmel and Gomez have built a relationship since arriving on campus. The two share an apartment together and are usually car pooling to practice. But at the end of the day, one guy will be in, and the others out.
Gemmel didn’t have his best day in 7-on-7. In fact, he might have taken a step back. But there there were no turnovers, although he was almost picked on a deep ball down the middle. The freshman finished 6-for-11 with two touchdowns.
His suite mate Gomez struggled all day. He threw two interceptions and badly missed on a couple of other throws.
“I need to learn the playbook more before I take more reps,” the former Elkhart star said. “That’s what it’s all about. Knowing the plays.”
Gomez finished 2-for-6.
Tyler Lasalle probably had his worst day. The first pass the Holcomb product threw was intercepted by Sam Green, who stampeded up the sideline for a pick six. A few plays later, he was almost intercepted again at the goal line before throwing another pick six at the end of practice.
“My goal is to come out here and compete everyday,” Lasalle said. “That said, if I’m the number one or the number two, I’m just trying to get better.”
Lasalle, who spent a semester up at Kansas State, decided he couldn’t live without football anymore. He returned to Garden City and surprised some people with his play in the spring game. But all of that aside, the odds are stacked against him with two, big-time out-of-state prospects in Gemmel and Graham. Expect Lasalle to be a solidified number two. He has the best understanding of Miller’s offensive attack. And Buster fans can rest assure that if he’s called into service because of an injury, they’ve got a trusty backup.
Offensive line making headway
Regardless of who’s under center, Garden City’s offensive line play is the most important aspect of this year’s camp. They’re the missing link, that, if solidified, could make the Busters one of the most dangerous teams in the conference.
Center Mitch Moore is back after a very good freshman season. And one thing is for sure: Miller is extremely comfortable having Moore leading the line.
“He’s a 4.0 student,” Miller said. “He’s very smart and very capable of making the calls and checks.”
Jarek Smalley, who played on both the defensive and offensive lines last year, will be a staple at the tackle spot. The KU signee will undoubtedly be the anchor for Jerad Powers.
Jermaine Abron, from Warner Robins High School in Georgia is expected to solidify one of the guard spots.
A sight for sore eyes
Standout wide receiver Brandon Snell was back in action for Garden City on Monday. He passed his physical with no problems and was targeted several times by all three quarterbacks. Most notably Gomez , who forced a pass over the middle into triple coverage and was intercepted by Alex Neuschafer.
Tuesday is the first day of two-a-day practices. First one is at 9 a.m. followed by the 6:30 p.m. session in full pads.