KHQA BARNSTORM TOUR
QUINCY NOTRE DAME RAIDERS
Expected Strengths: Nick Weiman, Running Back Depth, Defensive Front Eight
Expected Question Marks: Quarterback, Overall team depth, Secondary
QUARTERBACK SORT-OUT: Great scrimmage by all accounts on Saturday for both QND Signal Caller hopefuls in Matt Doane and Joe McCaughey. Both clearly have their respective assets to bring to the table. As Offensive Coordinator Joe Obert intimated to me on Saturday, there's probably a perfect solution quarterback here if you could take the best attributes of each kid and blend them together. I will say this for both Quarterbacks, they have clearly studied up on their play fakes. There were a couple of times of play action that both kids just absolutely froze the defense and and gave their Wide Receivers wide open windows in which to catch the football. Doane is probably the more studied, composed option at this point and the better athlete. McCaughey throws one of the best, most effortless footballs I have seen anywhere this year. I was amazed by his arm strength at Mizzou and the zip he gets on every last one of his throws. Nothing changed on Saturday, though I think Doane's arm proved to be a little stronger than I originally thought. Bill Connell has gone out of his way to avoid the phrase "quarterback controversy" and sounded thrilled on Saturday with the performance of both kids. I don't think we get much resolution here anytime soon. And maybe it's not that important. As Coach Connell pointed out, either way, the QND passing game appears to be in pretty good shape and boasts more promise than it did at anytime last season.
RUNNING RAIDERS: All that established, the running game will still be QND's bread and butter and the Raiders return three starting Offensive Linemen (Eric Niemann, Ben Miller, and Ben Holtschlag) and backs who got meaningful touches last season in Nick Weiman, Connor Obert, Blaine Wilson and Chad Thompson at various times or points in the season. Granted, Luke Hinkamper meant a lot to a unit that averaged just a shade under six yards per carry last season, but there is no reason to believe that the veteran nucleus up front and a combination of "assorted" backs with different strengths can't grind away to a similar tune this season.
STRENGTH ON STRENGTH: All Stater Nick Reichert has graduated on to Truman State and the days of the "super huge" QND Defensive Lineman appear to be long gone. That established, QND's "downsized" D-Line is going to be an important building block here with the returns of Jack Finley (23 tackles, 5 for loss in 2011) Ben Holtschlag, (56 tackles, 12 TFL last year) and Jeremy Frieden (6 QB sacks) this season. These guys are all "motor" type guys, no one more so than Holtschlag who lacks all of the prototype physical features of a modern Defensive End, yet just keeps chopping away with a mix of tremendous weight room honed strength, smarts, and a nifty ability separate from Offensive Line contact at the perfect possible moment and get to the ball carrier. He's just a kid who produces. If I were a small college coach, I think I could very easily become transfixed by Jack Finley's potential to eventually play end at the next level at 6'3 and about 220 pounds. He's a little miscast inside but has a frame you could add weight to at the next level. Frieden seems to just have an extra "football gear" and plays with a mean streak. These guys may not pass the eye test the way some past D-Lines here have, but it's hard to argue with productivity or the attitude.
IMMEDIATE TEST: When last we saw the QND Secondary, it was still trying to put out the flames from the roaring BBQ Rochester QB Wes Lunt ignited at the Raiders expense. Granted, Lunt was so good he will immediately be the starting quarterback for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State this season, but the Raider DB's have also given future opponents something to chew on with the Rochester game tape. It would be ideal for the QND Secondary to slam that door shut early on that perceived weakness and they may get the chance against a Hannibal team that has its smartest, most accomplished returning QB in years in Dalton Powell. Traditionally, Hannibal has not been a team that has thrown the football a great deal. But Mark St Clair may certainly have the incentive to test QND's last line of defense, to see where it stands after last season. How QND responds, if tested, could say a lot about the overall state of Defensive affairs going forward.
PLAYER OF GRAVITY: Nick Weiman. Missed the greater part of last year with broken ribs and a lacerated liver (pause for wince....continue) Saw him at Mizzou Camp. Watched him at QND's scrimmage on Saturday. Same old Nick, save for the garish Tim Tebow-styled "Friar Tuck" hair-style of choice he is sporting these days. Said it before and I will say it again, Nick is the most natural tackler I've seen in the last decade. Everything he does is fundamentally perfect from breakdown to finish. It's like watching Will Clark swing a baseball bat in his prime. Or Steve Elkington with a golf club. You could sell instructional videos of this kid at work. He is a very capable fullback as well, and is primed for a nice season running the football. That's gravy. Linebackers of this ilk just don't come along very often.
SLEEPER: Jordan Chapel. All he has done all summer long is make plays (even when not wearing his own jersey number at Mizzou Camp) and get open. Their usage rate will ultimately hinge on the developments at Quarterback, but I can envision a scenario where Chapel and Barry Welper emerge as a pair of very capable producers at Wide Receiver and making a nice living off play action passing.