Kansas City, Mo. In his six years as Baker University's football coach, John Frangoulis has finished fourth or higher each season in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
Monday at the HAAC's annual media day, the league's fellow coaches said the fourth spot is where the Wildcats will wind up this season tapping Baker, Missouri Valley and William Jewell all fourth in their preseason poll with 56 points.
"We ended up where I thought we would be," said Frangoulis, whose squad went 5-6 last season and took fourth in the conference with a 5-5 mark. "It's right on."
The coaches couldn't decide on an outright preseason No. 1, so they picked both Evangel (which won the league with a 10-0 record last year) and Benedictine (which took second in the HAAC at 9-1) as the top teams with 92 points apiece. MidAmerica Nazarene was voted third with 88 points.
The Wildcats, which were selected second a year ago, struggled at times with a freshman quarterback and lost four of their last five games last season.
Baker also ranked dead last in total team offense, averaging just 190.6 yards per game, and was 10th out of 11 teams in total defense, giving up more than 333 yards a contest.
"The second half of the season last year we weren't a good football team," said Frangoulis, who's entering his seventh season at BU with a 38-25 record.
However, he thinks this year's team can turn that around.
"When you go into a season as we did a year ago with a freshman quarterback with no experience, obviously you know you may take some lumps," he said. "But we feel very strong about our quarterback (sophomore Martin Updike) and we think he'll do a great job."
Updike, who passed for 1,301 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games last season, will have a new system to work in this year under first-year offensive coordinator Mark Bergan.
"We're going to open it up more," Frangoulis said. "Maybe not so much in throwing, but formation-wise."
Frangoulis is quite traditional in his love for running the ball, and even says on his team's media pamphlet: "our first objective is always to run the football."
Who will earn that duty has yet to be determined, though, because three candidates are fighting for the job.
Baker does have three returners up front on its offensive line, including Baldwin product and three-year starter Aaron Anderson, who was an All-America Scholar-Athlete selection last year.
Two experienced fullbacks, junior Scott Lane and sophomore Jared Speer, should pave the way for either sophomore Justin Cobb, Coffeyville transfer Ramone Barber or Independence transfer Raymond Pruitt.
"I really can't single one out over the other right now," Frangoulis said of the three backs. "We only go uppers (upperclassmen) in the spring, so they weren't available for us to see what they do in scrimmage situations."
While the Wildcats lost a pair of first-team all conference players on defense William Harris and Mickey Ramsey Frangoulis believes a trio of second- and third-team all-conference players will anchor a strong defensive unit.
Defensive lineman Mark Miller posted a team-high eight sacks last season and was a third-team all-conference selection. Senior linebacker Eric Moore's 73 tackles were second most by a Wildcat a year ago, and defensive back Matt Tripplett picked off five passes to go with 63 tackles during his junior campaign.
"We feel good, as all coaches do, about the incoming players that we signed and I know that we have a good nucleus coming back," Frangoulis said.
"The biggest challenge we have as coaches is getting everybody gelling together quickly."
Baker will open Sept. 1 at Evangel.