?But if we can stop the run and have maybe one turnover a week, things will improve for the Bluejays,? Gottsch added.
While improving against the run will be paramount for a young Bluejay defense, key cogs Jason Aubrey and Demetrius Cox return to the quarterback and running back positions, respectively, on the offensive side.
But the Tabor machine is in need of a primary wide receiver, and Troy Frick, a 6-4, 210-pound sophomore wideout from Hillsboro, will not be available to help the team overcome the loss of Caleb Marsh to graduation.
?Troy tore a ligament in his wrist?it?s a season-ending injury, so we?re going to miss him this year,? Gottsch said. ?We like to throw the football, so we?ll see what happens with that.?
The offensive line, with returning starters Drew Looper and Darrin Fisher, will be a potential strength.
?I can?t wait to get going,? Gottsch said. ?We?ve worked extremely hard this offseason in recruiting and I feel like we?ve made some progress.?
The coaches picked Friends first (99 points, 9 first place votes) and Bethel second (87 points, 1 first place vote); the media followed suit, awarding Friends 166 points and 14 out of 17 first place selections. Bethel's media votes totaled 150 points, with two first place votes.
Bethel and Friends each posted 8-1 conference records last year. Tabor went 0-9 in conference play.
Reflecting on the low rankings, Gottsch said Monday that ?when you finish last, you?re probably not going to be picked in the middle.
?It?s not where you want to be, but it?s not a big surprise,? he said.
?I don?t know if we needed this to be a motivator?I?d like to think we all have a chip on our shoulder,? he added. ?Obviously, we have a whole new season with a new team and new opportunities?and we were certainly motivated before the polls.
?I?m a realist?we know that things don?t happen overnight,? he said. ?We have to look at where we were and where we want to go, and to say that we want to go undefeated this season would be kind of silly. But are there games that we?re capable of winning? Absolutely.?
Gottsch noted that the other teams around the conference?several of which have seen their strength grow in successive seasons recently?will be difficult to gain ground against.
Indeed. Tabor suffered three losses by more than two touchdowns: Friends defeated the Bluejays by 53, Bethel won by 21 and Kansas Wesleyan won by 31.
?You look at the rankings and you have to think a few other coaches have us chalked up as a win on their schedule,? he said. ?But can we close the gap against Friends, against K-W, and Bethel? I think so.?
Tabor also had three losses by a touchdown or less?including a 29-27 loss to Bethany.
The Swedes placed fourth in the final standings, giving the Bluejay faithful good reason to believe that Tabor can compete with most of the teams in the conference. More than that, Gottsch said that if the team progresses significantly in the areas he highlighted, a few wins may even be on the horizon.
?If we can take care of those things?run defense and turnovers?I feel like realistically we can win three or four games,? he said.
2008 KCAC Preseason Polls
1. Friends (9) 99
2. Bethel (1) 87
3. Sterling 72
4. Kansas Wesleyan 71
5. Bethany 55
6. Ottawa 48
7. McPherson 47
8. Southwestern 33
9. Saint Mary 20
10. Tabor 18
1. Friends (14) 166
2. Bethel (2) 150
3. Kansas Wesleyan 122
4. Sterling 117
5. Bethany (1) 107
6. Ottawa 87
7. McPherson 69
8. Southwestern 56
9. Tabor 33
10. Saint Mary 28