By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
There really isn't much difference on the scales between Quincy Notre Dame quarterback Joe McCaughey and some of the top offensive lineman who will block for him this fall.
McCaughey weighs in at 175 pounds. Returning starters at guard Ben Miller and Jake Vahlkamp tip the scales at 195.
Simply put, QND doesn't have the big horses up front that it has typically possessed over the years. Several of those past linemen piqued the interest of Division I coaches. Yet, a small line doesn't necessarily mean a porous line, McCaughey said.
"Our line is small. Everybody is kind of doubting them," McCaughey said. "But I think they're going to come through big for us. They're going to be quick."
They'll have to be quick. Senior Jimmy Kase, set to take over at center, is 6-foot, 260 pounds. Senior Walker Smith, 6-5, 250 pounds, also will start. No other players topping QND's O-line chart weigh more than 220.
"You can't just overpower everybody when everyone is around 200 pounds or less," Miller said. "I think we have a really quick line, and that's going to be a big effect. Rather than just power over people like Notre Dame traditionally does, you might see a little more speedy, quicker game."
How the offensive line holds up is one of few uncertainties surrounding QND. The Raiders went 5-5 last season, marking their first non-winning season since 2003.
"There are a lot of questions, but hopefully they're going to be ready to answer those questions," QND coach Bill Connell said.
The starting tailback spot is one area that will be under the microscope as QND tries to replace the production of Nick Weiman, QND's tailback in 2012 who gained 1,080 yards on 170 carries with 13 touchdowns. He paved the way for QND to average 230 rushing yards per game.
Senior Blaine Wilson will start at tailback and senior Brady Genenbacher will be the fullback, with junior Daylin Anders pushing for time at tailback. They didn't get many touches last season, with Anders leading the trio at 37 carries and 247 yards.
"Blaine Wilson, if he can stay healthy, will be one of the main guys," Miller said. "Brady is always solid. He can pretty much play anywhere. Daylin is working in a little bit."
Genenbacher missed some time late last season because of an appendectomy but otherwise proved to be solid at linebacker, where he collected 36 tackles. Adding his physicality to the backfield should help the offense, Connell said.
"We've got numerous guys who we believe can run the football, but a guy who last year did some awful special things when he was healthy was Brady Genenbacher," said Connell, whose team opens the season 7:30 p.m. Friday against Hannibal at Porter Stadium. "When he was healthy last year, he as a junior was a big, big difference-maker in our football team."
QND has the luxury of returning McCaughey, who was 80-of-163 passing last season for 1,032 yards. His focus is on decreasing the 11 interceptions he threw.
"If one thing could improve, I think it would probably be the passing game for sure," McCaughey said. "The running game I think is going to be there. The passing game could definitely use some improvement."
Defensively, QND returns eight starters and probably has fewer uncertainties. Senior defensive back Jordan Chapel is back after earning first-team All-Mid-State Six Conference accolades last season, when he had 41 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. He helped QND attain a plus-eight turnover advantage last season.
Chapel will be joined in the secondary by seniors Barry Welper and Zach Vahle. The linebacking corps will be anchored by seniors Genenbacher and Logan Schutte.
Kase, Jeffrey Haley and Tyler Marquess -- all seniors -- return to their spots on the defensive line. It's not a big defense, but it's a seasoned one.
The other obvious storyline for QND this season is how the Raiders will transition to the West Central Conference after seven seasons in the MS6.
Before QND gets to WCC foes, however, it must first navigate through Hannibal, Alton Marquette and Jefferson City Helias. Those teams combined for a 30-9 record last season, with Helias reaching the Class 4 state championship. QND went 1-2 against those teams in 2012, beating Alton Marquette 30-6 in Week 2.
"I hope I'm still standing and the team's standing when we get to conference," Connell said. "We're talking Hannibal, Mo. We're talking Alton Marquette that went to the (Class 4A quarterfinals). We're talking Jeff City Helias, which went to the state championship. We're talking teams that just were able to pound it at us last year like nobody's business."
Chapel figures the non-conference schedule is a challenge the Raiders will handle in stride, much like any other challenges they face this season.
"One of our goals this year is to have no letdowns and regrets," Chapel said. "I feel like we can achieve a lot of things with this team."
2012 record: 5-5 (4-1, second place in Mid-State Six Conference)
Coach: Bill Connell (154-72 at QND, 22nd season)
Offense: Multiple; Defense: 4-4, 5-2
Returning starters: Offense — QB Joe McCaughey, 6-2, 180, Sr.; WR Jordan Chapel, 6-0, 175, Sr.; WR Barry Welper, 5-11, 180, Sr.; WR Zach Vahle, 5-11, 160, Sr.; TE Logan Schutte, 6-0, 220, Sr.; G Ben Miller, 5-10, 210, Sr.; G Jake Vahlkamp, 5-8, 195, Sr.
Defense — DE Tyler Marquess, 5-11, 190, Sr.; DT Jeffrey Haley, 6-0, 210, Sr.; DT Jimmy Kase, 5-10, 250, Sr.; LB Brady Genenbacher, 6-0, 185, Sr.; LB Schutte; DB Chapel; DB Welper; DB Vahle.
Other returning letterwinners: RB/LB Blaine Wilson, 5-9, 175, Sr.; OL/DL Justin Wolf-Martin, 6-0, 205, Sr.; OL/DL Walker Smith, 6-3, 210, Sr.; RB/DB Daylin Anders, 5-8, 165, Jr.
New faces: WR/DB Gibson Brinkley, 6-2, 165, Sr.; OL/DL Matt Horvath, 5-11, 205, Jr.; OL/LB Jacob Abell, 5-7, 160, Jr.; RB/LB Logan Arens, 5-8, 175, Jr.; OL/DL Kellen Barnes, 6-0, 250, Jr.; OL/DL Jake Bertram, 5-10, 200, Jr.; WR/DB L.B. Cornwell, 5-10, 145, Jr.; OL/DL Konner Daniel, 5-10, 205, Jr.; RB/LB Luke Frieden, 5-11, 165, Jr.; OL-DL Andrew Halter, 5-10, 205, Jr.; RB/LB Blake Hilgenbrinck, 5-10, 175, Jr.; WR/DB Jonathan Horak, 5-8, 145, Jr.; WR/DB Carson Kroshinsky, 6-0, 170, Jr.; OL/DL Brady Miller, 6-0, 190, Jr.; WR/DB Jordan Obert, 5-11, 150, Jr.; QB/DB Max Venvertloh, 6-0, 165, Jr.; WR/LB Carson Vonderheide, 6-0, 160, Jr.; OL-DL Mitch Carey, 6-0, 230, Soph.; QB/LB Landon Heming, 6-0, 170, Soph.; RB/LB Parker Kientzle, 5-7, 140, Soph.; TE/LB Austin Tappe, 6-0, 180, Soph.; OL/DL Blake Ulrich, 5-9, 190, Soph.; OL/DL Ben Welper, 6-2, 200, Soph.
Key Losses: DE Ben Holtschlag, LB Nick Weiman, OL Eric Niemann, DL Jeremy Frieden, DL Jack Finley, LB Connor Obert.
Time Date Opponent
7:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at Hannibal
7 p.m. Sept. 6 vs. Alton Marquette
7 p.m. Sept. 13 vs. Helias
7 p.m. Sept. 20 vs. Macomb*
7 p.m. Sept. 27 at Illini West*
7 p.m. Oct. 4 vs. Chillicothe IVC*
7 p.m. Oct. 11 vs. Pittsfield*
7 p.m. Oct. 18 at West Hancock*
7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Monmouth-Roseville*
* West Central Conference game