2014 BARNSTORM TOUR NOTES
STOP SEVEN: QUINCY HIGH BLUE DEVILS
Typically, we hold off on the Blue Devils until the KHQA Sports Team gets a little more road weary from Barnstorming and until Rick Little gets his team in pads, but I have heard so much positive scuttlebutt on these guys, even with all their graduation losses, that I figured this was a good time to check in. It was largely a conditioning heavy first half of the morning session but I did get plenty of chance to see the offense.
Natural assumption would be that graduating the schools All Time Leading Rusher (Malique Robbins) and a McKendree signee (Jordan Osborne) would have a deleterious impact on the QHS Running Game. I'd argue that outside of Tight End, the Blue Devils deepest well of talent is running back. Bryce Unmisig is back after a breakout Junior campaign which saw him turn into a legitimate breakaway threat. Nice player with the versatility to be moved around as set piece. Brady Brockmiller had a terrific summer I am told and could be a workhorse in waiting. Brody Francis is another player who could get a long look and lots of carries. Cameron and Carson Gay are very athletic kids. Coaching staff is extremely high on Sophomore Devin Smith as a potential answer at Fullback. He's tall and lanky, but absolutely fearless against contact and has turned some heads here. Point blank QHS is three, perhaps four deep at all of the Running Back spots. And that means a lot of fresh legs and a lot of names with carries on the post game stat sheet. Not sure if Rick Little is going to channel his brother Tom at Brown County and go with the "four runners with 70 plus yards in game is better than one guy with 120" approach but he certainly has the horses to do so if he so desires.
Since hiring Brian Lewton back from West Hancock a few years ago, the Blue Devils have been working on cultivating a legitimate "Spread Offense" as a change of pace the last couple of years; unveiling it a various times with varied results. I suspect that commitment is increasing. Quincy High devoted a large portion of the morning session to running one back spread and it is starting to look cosmetically more and more like the Mark Grounds system and tempo at Jacksonville. The most obvious parallel is the use of Jumbo Receivers and QHS has a pair of outstanding ones in Seth Holtschlag and Donavin Ruths, who are too big and physical for DB's to cover and too athletic for most Linebackers to check. Remind again today looking back through video what great hands Ruths possesses. The Devils put a lot of different combinations of skill position kids into the pattern today and while the session started out a bit sluggish, there is clear potential here for the Devils to attack opponents at every level of the passing game. Again, it's all about rhythm and tempo.
Though George Crickard had a pretty good session throwing the football this morning, lending credence to the prospect that he will get more chances to wing the football after throwing for 886 yards and six TD a year ago. After shaking off the early cobwebs this morning, George threw good passes into smart windows. Late in the session, he really revved it up with an outstanding strike to Unmisig and a thread the needle timing pass to Holtschlag that both broke the coverage. He's clearly very capable and very smart. His confidence is up and that adds even further danger to the Offense.
Good to see Devin Prost back at full health, who after fashioning an outstanding Sophomore campaign, injured his knee and missed the entire postseason for QHS. Between Prost and Tyler Paul (of the QHS Offensive Line Pauls, one of the area's most impressive and unique football legacies) the Devils have two proven building blocks upon which to work forward. Its replacing those three other blocking vacancies that could make or break the entire QHS Offense. George Crickard told me this morning that he thought that group was improving fast, so the Blue Devil O-Line seems to be trending upwards.
Seth Holtschlag makes the much celebrated move from Defensive End to Middle Linebacker to help fill the shoes of Malik Bondon and rebuild what I though was one of the better LB groups in our area last season. Don't forget, however, that this team also loses River Bugh, Stephen Sharp, and Wes Creasy from that talent grouping as well who were all excellent to reliably solid contributors. It will be interesting to see how this group responds. Holtschlag is just too strong and rangy to be anything but an unqualified success getting a running start at the line of scrimmage. Vocal, enthusiastic kid who commands respect. Love the line from Rick Little today saying that Holtschlag is so tough you can't hurt him with a hammer. Scary to think that what he will do tackle wise with so much action funneled at him. But there is more here to like. The coaches are really high on Calvin Cookson, who made a pair of spectacular plays on thrown balls today in practice. Thomas Damon is likely to make his presence felt. Kid who holds some intrigue here as well is tall, rangy Junior Kale Houghton, who certainly looks the part and passes the eye test. It should be a solid group.
Loss of Holtschlag on the Defensive Line is interesting and my biggest concern here, leaving Blayne Schlueter as the only real known commodity up front. Lots of prospects but QHS needs at least one of those new guys to deliver quickly.
Secondary will be fine. Loaded with athletes who can run and hit.
Rick Little teams have been very good at reaching "impossible" QHS goals over the last couple of years. The landmarks this season, to push this program forward, are the quest for an undisputed Conference Crown and a 9-0 regular season. Does that sound like anyone is lowering expectations at QHS due to talent loss? Didn't think so either. Really like where these guys are positioned; maybe the one team in Tri State Football that doesn't have one giant glaring Achilles Heel.