Only 2% of high school football players will get a scholarship to play college football. Of those college players, only 1.5% will make it to the NFL. For many, their college senior season may be their last season. Cougar senior Joshua Butler is at those crossroads.
Butler is a safety that helped lead a conference championship caliber defense in 2016. Butler was also a captain; the only junior with this honor last season. Heading into the 2017 season, Butler is a preliminary captain and will likely get nominated for the position again.
The Cougars are at the mid-way point in spring ball, which gives guys a chance to put the pads on and play football after months of strenuous training. It is also a chance for players to win a spot on the field once the season starts.
Butler is one of 11 returning starters and eight all-conference players. This season the Cougars lost 26 seniors including 16 all-conference players from 2016.
Offensively, the Cougars are returning four all-conference players including All-American and Harlon Hill candidate Max Mickey. Mickey finished second in NCAA Division II last year with 1,764 yards and tied for third with 19 rushing touchdowns. Mickey is joined by receiver Kyle Groeneweg and offensive linemen Jesse Springer and Trey Pipkins.
Butler anchors the defensive side along with fellow safety Jeff Harman. The two combined for 140 tackles, 6 interceptions, 15 passes broken up, and two forced fumbles in 2016. The two will lead a defensive secondary with some unproven corners looking to make a splash this upcoming season. Linebacker Kyle Campiotti and defensive tackle Brian Mayberry also return for the Cougars.
The Cougars have made strides in 2017 despite having an entire new coaching staff. However, USF is not a new location for a few of the new coaches such as Head Coach Jon Anderson and Defensive Coordinator Nick Benedetto, who both have history at USF. “Keeping the tradition the same has really helped us,” Butler said.
Spring is a time for young players to step up and earn a spot on the travel squad for the upcoming season. Butler mentioned redshirt freshman defensive end Joey Wehrkamp and redshirt sophomore safety Tucker Stout as some early standouts in spring. Wehrkamp has emerged as a potential starter for the Cougars terrorizing the offensive line while Stout currently leads the team in interceptions this spring.
The Cougars conclude spring ball with the annual Spring Game on Friday April 28th at the Bob. The Cougars will also have their ring ceremony on Saturday the 29th, in which the Cougars will receive their conference championship rings.
Story by Jeffrey Harman