Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-When Garden City walked off the field following an 84-21 loss to Coffeyville last November, a major face lift was needed.
In order to put the Broncbusters back at the top of the junior-college landscape, they needed a man that had been there before; someone who knew the inner workings of a conference that’s been top heavy for the last decade.
That man was former Fort Scott Community College Head Coach Jeff Sims, who went to work on Thursday in his first fall practice as lead man for Garden City.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Sims said. “We’ve got guys trying hard, but it’s going to take some time.”
Time is a variable that most JUCO coaches aren’t afforded. But that’s not the case with Sims, who takes over a program that isn’t far off from contending status.
In both 2013 and 2014, despite inconsistency on offense, Garden City found their way to winning records the first half of the season. But October and November have been daunting, and injuries didn’t help their cause last year.
“Good college football teams have quarterbacks,” Sims said following practice on Friday. “Bad teams don’t have quarterbacks.”
Over the past 24 months, Garden City has used five different signal callers. Akeem Jones started the 2013 campaign before eventually being replaced by Mikail Grace and Jake Curran. Last year, Danarious Graham showed some early-season promise before a depleted offensive line had him running for his life. Holcomb product Tyler Lasalle got his fair share of snaps, but they were mainly designed runs; nothing that ever made the defense consider he was going to pass.
Nearly a year later, as is the belief with every team entering fall practice, hope prevails over previous years disappointments. But Sims is playing it close to the vest; taking a page from Morgan Freeman’s line in Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a dangerous thing.”
“We’re just trying to do things right each day,” Sims explained. “The other stuff will take care of itself. Our goal is to be the best team for one Saturday, and then we will focus on the next week. When I was at Indiana, we beat Missouri. Did that mean we were the best team in the SEC? No! But we were the best team on that day. We need to be the best team on the field in 22 days when we face Highland.”
But Sims knows that the play of his quarterback, as at any level, will ultimately determine his team’s fate.
The good news for Sims is that he isn’t lacking talent at the position. Miami transfer Kevin Olsen, the brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg, joins Western Kentucky transfer Todd Porter, Colorado State’s A.J. Cecil and pro-style quarterback Collin Anderson in the competition.
“Everyday we’re evaluating these guys,” Sims said. “We won’t name a starter for a while, but we are watching these guys very closely.”
As for the guys returning-they are few and far between. Only seven players from last year’s squad are back including defensive back Trayvone Blake, wide receiver Lawyer Davis and offensive lineman Tre Brown.
“We’ve got better players this year,” Blake said. “It’s an all-out competition everyday.”
Blake actually started a handful of games in the secondary last season, despite showing inconsistency from a coverage aspect.
Brown got some work on the line last season, but in fairness so did everyone else. At one point last season, Garden City dressed just 40 guys for a game in Iowa. Considering that they started the year with 63 shows that injuries derailed what could have been a promising campaign.
Garden City returns to the practice field on Saturday night.
Sophomore DB Trayvone Blake
Defensive Coordinator Brian Michalowski
Offensive Coordinator Jason Brown
Head Coach Jeff Sims