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      KHQA Barnstorm Tour: QHS BLUE DEVILS

      KHQA Barnstorm Tour


      Missed it by that much.

      That was the lingering thought for Rick Little and company after the Blue Devils narrowly missed the playoffs in 2011. The players have used that painful reality as motivation ever since, and it has them off to a quick start in 2012. Little's team knows it must make up for what it lost in DeAngelo Dean and Wes Irvin at defensive end, but senior Clay Finklea brings back plenty of experience to the line that will guide whoever fills those shoes. Finklea proved to be quick out of his stance and should help restore what was a powerful D-line last year.

      Malique Robbins is a threat - no matter where he stands on the field. The junior will get plenty of touches this season, but here's the issue: every opponent is aware of that. QHS must find other players that can contribute to the offense in order to keep opposing defenses guessing. Although the depth chart may not be etched in stone at this point, Little was confident he had more than enough quality kids to choose from in solving the issue.

      If there's one game on their schedule that will draw attention, there's no question its the QHS at Hannibal tilt in Week 2. The players all seemed to be looking forward to the matchup, as sort of a 'Missouri vs. Illinois' bragging rights game.

      Overall, Quincy knows what must be done to play beyond 9 weeks. According to Little, the Blue Devils shouldn't be satisfied with a winning season and no playoff bid. With the culture of success he's built in his time at QHS, they won't be.




      Projected Team Strengths: Malique Robbins, Running Back Depth, Linebacker, Secondary

      Projected Question Marks: Defensive End, Offensive Line, Vertical Passing Game


      CHANGES: First camp that Rick Little has conducted in some time without trusted Defensive Coordinator Travis Cook in tow. Travis wanted to lessen his coaching workload to spend more time with his own kids and has taken a job in the lower levels of the West Hancock program. The QHS Staff doesn't lack for quality Defensive Minds, however, with both Jose Quintero and Randy Dickens doing the lion's share of the teaching during the Defensive Session on Monday. Coach Q, fresh off hip replacement surgery, was motoring around practice on a doctor mandated walker while he recovers, complete with tennis balls on the leg pegs. Suffice it to say, Coach Q took some good natured ribbing about his new mode of preferred transport.


      FEAT OF CLAY: Very impressed with the motor displayed by Clay Finklea at Defensive Tackle, who was simply unblockable in half-line drills on Monday. He not only made play after play coming across the line, but he finished them with ferocity. Clay is cut from the old school Nose Tackle cloth. He's not going to look elegant doing what he does. But his low center of gravity, quickness of the ball, his great natural strength at the point of attack (much of it leg drive) and ability to get up the field undeterred makes him a difference making type player and one of the more intriguing kids I've seen yet in my travels. He's a force getting up field and he has nasty streak to go along with a really high football IQ. Fun kid to watch and one who I think has sailed under radar to long.


      NASTY DISPOSITION: Any team with Ethan Rockhold roaming the secondary is bound to get some quality licks in on opponents. Watching this group practice on Monday, that gritty "Rockhold ethic" has permeated this entire Defense. What they lack in size, these Devils will make up for in just pure ornery demeanor. You've got a couple of wresters here in Dakota Downs and Parker Schutte who bring that ethos to their work. You've got Malique Robbins, arguably the toughest tailback this program has produced since Jermaine Dade, taking a bigger role on Defense. You've got a hard working grinder here in Matt Bilgri turning heads with his intensity. And you've got the Defensive Line guys who are anxious to prove that there is indeed life after DeAngelo Dean and Wes Ervin. There aren't any marquee Defensive names here but this unit almost seems to take a perverse pride in being a bunch of grinders who most people outside Flinn Stadium have never heard of. It's a fun group to watch with a very high football IQ. And while the athletic fall-off on paper at Defensive End may seem immense, but I can assure you the Jacob Paul/Seth Holtschlag combination (absent comparisons to the past) would thrill just about any Defensive Line coach who got the chance to work with those kids. There is just a really nice ethic here.


      KELLE BLUE: Rick Little is fully aware of the fact that star tailback Malique Robbins is going to be wearing arguably the biggest Football bull's-eye in the Western Big Six this season. The trick is to diversify the offense and that means a much better showing out of the passing game in 2012. Connor Kelle has gotten a year of seasoning as a starter and the coaching staff seems more comfortable in giving him a bigger passing workload this Fall. Rick Little says Connor worked very hard in the off-season and has honed his accuracy. As Monday was a Defensive Session, I only got to see Connor throw about a half dozen passes and only to scout team wide receivers, so I am not sure that is a very good window for me to speak on his progress. The things you like about Connor Kelle going forward here are still his mobility, his savvy, and his toughness. And allowing for normal maturity, I think you'll see Connor more relaxed in the pocket. He's kind of a perfectionist type kid, which is a really good asset as long as he doesn't dwell on things that might have gone awry the play before. Also, don't be stunned to see Robbins get moved all around the offense, including some run at Fullback. The Blue Devils have some depth and talent at the RB spot that gives them plenty of options shuffling the deck and exploiting match up issues. Cambron Adams is a name that could rise the depth charts quickly in support of more known quantities like Jordan Osborne.


      PLAYER OF GRAVITY: Malique Robbins. He'll be a three year starter in the Offensive Backfield with a season of eligibility left to play after that. Very special back not just in terms of his talent but in the way he carries himself and leads by quiet example for the program. Again, he's a home run threat every time he touches the ball, but like a Ser Whitaker, he also relishes contact and prides himself on making a splash (see also, killer run blocking) when his number isn't called to carry the football.


      SLEEPERS: Jaydon Summy. Legitimate size as a run stuffing middle linebacker who will get nice protection from Finklea up front. Could get some nice help on the outside from Taylor Janssen as well at Linebacker, who is kind a wiry rover type with enough range to make plays. Offensive Lineman always tend to get overlooked and Ian Jones probably doesn't get his due respect either. Sharp kid with a year's worth of experience under his belt who gives the Blue Devils, along with Paul and Finklea, a sturdy nucleus to build around.


      PROSPECT WATCH: Seth Holtschlag. Sophomore Defensive End has played his way into a starting role. Closes down with great suddenness and absolutely explodes into tackles. He likes to hit and is smart enough to find his way to contact, regardless of the obstacles in his way. Watch this kid for five plays and it's easy to tell he's going to be very special the next couple of years.