A player who has the size, athleticism and nastiness four-year programs are looking for is…
Pirates looking to build on strong 2010
That's one of the great things about sports, however. A team can coalesce seemingly overnight. Luck can change. Things can get – at the risk of sounding cliched – better. Such was the case with the Pirates, who closed out the season by going 4-3, including the program's first victories over in-state rivals Coffeyville and Garden City since 1997 and 1998 respectively. And though they fell in the first round of the playoffs in a hard-fought battle with No. 7 Hutchinson, they earned a spot in post-season play nonetheless. Of course, in some ways the challenges junior colleges face to duplicate success are even greater than those of their four-year brethren. Turnover is so frequent in the junior college ranks that rosters need to be reloaded each and every season, or risk losing whatever momentum they built in the year prior. At Independence, gone are stars like linebacker Mike Jeune (South Florida), running back Stephen Houston (North Carolina), quarterback Broderick Waters (Louisiana Tech) and offensive tackle Nick Chartain (Memphis). So, yeah, numbers are a little thin right now, Carson said. But with spring football well under way, there's reason to be optimistic for the future. "You know how spring ball is," the second-year head coach explained. "We're a little short on numbers. It's a little rugged right now." Of the losses to personnel, Waters is likely to be the most difficult to replace. Leading the Pirates' option attack, the shifty quarterback rushed for 673 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry. "That is really the spot that we need to resolve coming into fall," Carson said. "And we've got some guys coming in next year that are young guys who can hopefully make the difference." Not that the cupboard is completely bare. The Pirates return a handful of talented veterans - players with the chance to extend their careers after their junior college days are done like 6-foot-2, 330-pound Byron Grant on the offensive line, and running back James Baker, who rushed for 550 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. Big things are expected of linebacker Ricky Jacobs as well, an in-state product from Junction City. Still, the reality is that in order to build on what they started last year, several key contributors are going to have to come from the recruiting class of 2011. Fortunately, on paper it appears to be a bumper crop. Out of necessity, Carson and his staff loaded up on the offensive and defensive lines, with emphasis placed on obtaining running backs as well. Time will tell if their efforts will bear immediate fruit. "If those groups turn out to be pretty good and we solidify our quarterback, we could be okay," Carson said. "If we don't solidify our quarterback spot, we could struggle."
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