Inside QU football: Five players who will impact how much success Hawks enjoy


Quincy University linebacker Peyton Plunkett is expected to be one of the central figures in the middle of the Hawks' defense this season. | Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

QUINCY — The Quincy University football team kicks off its season Thursday night by welcoming Chadron State, an NCAA Division II program in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, to QU Stadium.

The Hawks are coming off a 4-7 season — their seventh consecutive losing season — but have the advantage of playing eight home games this season, including the first five. With an easier non-conference slate, it sets up for success.

Here’s a quick look at five players who should impact how much success the Hawks have:

Peyton Plunkett, linebacker

Traditionally, the Hawks have enjoyed having a run-stopping thumper in the middle of the field. In the last decade, they have produced five first-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference linebackers and the GLVC Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 in Cody Leonard. Plunkett should be the next to join that list.

A Palmyra, Mo., product who transferred from Northwest Missouri State, Plunkett’s lateral speed and ability to burst through gaps should make him a tackling menace. He has the size at 6-foot-3 and 237 pounds to stop a running back in his tracks. Last season, despite battling some injuries, Plunkett led the Hawks with 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

David Tabakovic, defensive end

Recruited from Florida as a fullback, Tabakovic has thrived since his switch to the defensive side, earning second-team all-conference plaudits last season when he had 34 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks. Play along the defensive line has been a bugaboo for the Hawks throughout the NCAA Division II era, but that could be changing.

Tabakovic and Dale Dambek are bookends along the front, while Cole Schnettgoecke and Collin Olla-Chatman have experience in the middle. A year ago, opponents rushed for 4.1 yards per carry and 140 yards per game. If those numbers drop thanks to the play up front, the Hawks’ win total increases.

Drake Davis, quarterback

A graduate student transfer from Northern Michigan, Davis beat out former Quincy Notre Dame gunslinger Ike Wiley for the starting job and takes over the reins of an offense that averaged more than 30 points per game the past two seasons, while amassing more than 6,000 passing yards. The Hawks also threw 31 interceptions in that span — more than any other GLVC team..

The 6-foot, 200-pound Davis played in seven games last season at Northern Michigan, completing 64 percent of his passes for 832 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. In 10 games in 2021, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,580 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Jalen Lawrence, wide receiver

What does a new quarterback need besides a stout offensive line? A sure-handed wide receiver he can trust. Lawrence is that guy. A second-team All-GLVC selection a year ago, Lawrence led the Hawks with 51 catches for 118 yards and nine touchdowns. He has the speed to outrun a cornerback, the strength to outmuscle a safety and the savvy to find space when plays break down.

He’ll have help on the boundaries, too. Marlin Washington is a 6-foot-2 target with speed. Brady Blackwell is a 6-foot-4 and can go up and get the ball. Travis Isaac Jr. appears to have the right combination of speed and route-running ability to be a weapon. They give Davis a lot of options in the passing game.

Nathan Smith, left tackle

Replacing a first-team all-conference tackle who became the first player in program history to sign an NFL contract won’t be easy, but Davis needs to count on his left tackle to be his blindside protector. Smith is up for the challenge. A 6-foot-3, 280-pound sophomore, Smith has the size to play the part, but he also has some of the intangibles that made Wilson effective — intelligence, long reach and quick feet.

The Hawks intend to start three sophomores and two juniors along the offensive line, and the maturation of this group is critical. Smith needs to establish himself as a force immediately and the rest will fall into place.

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