I recently sat down with Butler football head coach Jeff Voris to ask him some questions about the upcoming season. Here are his responses.
Q: How’s the summer been going so far for the team?
A: Camp is going well, we start school tomorrow and we reported on August 4th. The energy was great, we came in in great shape and I thought our summer work was outstanding. We have a tremendous group of seniors and a great leadership group that has us going in the right direction. The young guys came along quickly, and certainly with the new practice outline it was a little different at times but it was real positive for our guys. We’re fresh and ready to go into the season coming off a great camp and a couple great scrimmages.
Q: Recently the leaders for the team were announced (Connor Andras, Duvante Lane, Will Marty, Isaak Newhouse) why do you think their fellow teammates voted for them to lead the team every Saturday?
A: They were outstanding choices no question. The night we voted, it took a little longer than usual. There was probably that many or more that could have been voted captain, that’s how strong we feel about this group. They all bring a little something different to the table but they’re all real servant leaders. They care about the team, they care about the guy next to them, they understand at this point in their career that the really good teams have 11 guys and 3 units at a time pulling in the same direction. They’ve done a great job with the young guys and a great job with the focus that it takes on every snap in practice and the fire and passion you have to show up with on a daily basis, so those are guys that lead us that way. They’ve done a great job for 3-4 years in some cases.
Q: How have the freshmen been adjusting to the new style of college football?
A: Everything is different with them. It’s a new system, new teammates. It seems like we’re speaking a foreign language to them because they have to learn terminology and they’re away from home trying to adjust. The one common factor with them is the love of the game. We have 23 new guys that truly love the game and understand that it takes some work to be good at the game and have really done a good job of spending time working on their craft, not just on the field and in the weight room but in their down time to be prepared for the next meeting or practice. It takes an investment and there’s a lot thrown at them early. They’re certainly all still learning as are the upperclassmen. We’re really pleased with the way the new group has approached the fall camp and I think we’re in a good position moving forward to have a real deep roster.
Q: Have there been any standout freshmen that can make an impact week one?
A: We’re still working on a lot of those things, but we certainly feel that it’s hard to come out and play right away. We feel like there’s a handful of guys as we move forward that you’ll see get to the field. We’re still trying to make those evaluations and terminations but not only this year’s young group but last year’s class has a real chance to help us with depth if not playing every down.
Q: DL Josh Willis was injured last year but now coming back for his redshirt senior season, how has he been performing in camp and what do you expect from him this season?
A: I really think Josh has had an outstanding camp. It’s tough when the game you love gets taken away with an injury and he worked really hard to rehab and get himself back in position to help the team. He’s gotten to work and compete and I think he’s put himself in a position to have a really good year. He’s going to be as good as the other 10 guys around him and vice versa I think there’s a really good group that has been working this August that are going to allow us to play good defense.
Q: The defense is very talented, led by Ethan Brunhofer and Isaak Newhouse (both honorable mention All-PFL last year) How is that defense going to mold together and act as one unit?
A: The big thing with defense is getting guys to trust in the guy next to him to fill the right gap, run to the football and play every snap like it’s going to be the biggest play of the game. That’s the mentality that you have to have. We’ve had some guys with a lot of experience that have done that and some guys that have some postseason accolades in the back end and the front end with Ethan at linebacker. We feel like we have a good veteran group with a good young group that’s had some experience playing in as role players or playing quality special teams minutes in the past. I think the group looks good and there’s some depth and certainly some competition on that side of the ball to get us ready to go for the season.
Q: Focusing on the offense, redshirt junior Will Marty will lead the offense after going through some struggles last year but gaining valuable experience, how has he been improving and emerging as one of the leaders?
A: Will had a great spring and came into camp ready to go. He has all the intangible things you want in the quarterback position. He has the leadership ability, the ability to make guys want to play. His thing that we’ve talked the most about is just doing your job, trust your eyes, distribute the ball and guys are going to make plays that way. It’s communicating, getting 11 guys on the same page, he’s really good at that. We really like what we’ve seen and I think Will has positioned himself to have a really good season.
Q: There are a lot of offensive weapons for Marty: WR Pace Temple, RB Duvante Lane (both preseason All PFL honors) how are you looking to utilize those players this year with the offense?
A: We’re certainly multiple in personnel and how we go about lining things up. We don’t do a lot of different things but we’ll move players around, change formations with motions and try to make things look different. When it comes down to it, college football is about players not plays so we have to figure out ways to get the ball to our best players in space and let them do what they do to give them the best chance to succeed.
Q: Looking at the schedule, there’s a lot of tough road games (Illinois State, San Diego, Morehead State, Dayton) how are you planning on preparing your team for those tough road matchups?
A: The big thing with us is that we have to focus on ourselves first as we finish camp and get into school, we have to be the best version of ourselves then we can focus on Illinois State because we know they’re a good enough team that there is out there. We have to take them one day at a time and one game at a time. We understand that the season is full of challenges, but we have to focus one day at a time. What can we do today that’s going to allow us to be successful-whether it’s on the 2nd against Illinois State or somewhere in October. You can only do what the moment provides and our thing is to be focused and take each practice and each rep and each weight room session like it’s a big game and have that mentality.
Q: You guys recently signed Robert Shaffer, an eight year-old with a rare kidney disease, how did that all come together?
A: Team Impact partnered with us and sought us out with Robert being local and wanted to know if there was a team, and Robert has a passion for football. They knocked on our door and said “would you be willing to do this” and the answer was yes. Within the first 15-20 minutes of us announcing it to the team we had everyone on board and they wanted to do it. Robert has been over a couple times already, he loves the game and our guys have certainly had fun bringing him into the fold and making him apart of the family. I look forward to spending a lot of time with him throughout the season.
Q: Are you planning on using him as an inspiration as the season goes on?
A: He’s just another team member, I think there’s no question that he will inspire our guys as our guys will inspire him. Both sides are going to take lasting memories and take life lessons out of this. We certainly enjoy when he shows up in Hinkle, and he plans on being around as much as he can for different activities throughout the season.
Q: This is your 12th season coaching Butler football, how does this team compare to your previous teams?
A: The things that we really like about this team is the energy they bring. I think that it’s a group that truly loves the game but it’s a group that has a tight locker room. They’re going to play for each other, and when we’ve been really good the foundation for everything we’ve done has been the Butler way. Being a great teammate. I think we have a group of guys that truly trust in each other and believe in each other and truly like to show up and love what they’re doing. All those things reflect our really good teams of the past so we certainly have high hopes but we know there’s a ton of work to do and there’s quite a challenge ahead moving forward. That’s what they want, that’s what they get excited for so we’ll take one day at a time and see how it goes. We’ve really enjoyed the camp and it’s a great mix of student athletes that are going to show well for Butler.
The Bulldogs will begin their season on September 2nd at Illinois State.