Preseason No. 14: Barrington

Barrington's linemen, who excelled at the Red Grange Classic in July, are among the state's best. Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.com

Last season: 7-3 overall, 3-2 Mid-Suburban League West, lost in the Class 8A first round to Glenbrook South, not ranked in the final ESPNChicago.com 2010 poll

Season ahead: Barrington coach Joe Sanchez cringed when he heard his team could be the favorite in the Mid-Suburban League West this season.

Sanchez does have his reasons to hesitate in crowning his Broncos just yet. Barrington hasn't won the conference since 2004.

"It's too long ago for my liking," Sanchez said. "We have had very good teams in between. It's just hard to show it.

"I don't know about [us being the favorite.] Everyone is talking about Palatine. From my personal standpoint, Fremd is still Fremd."

One major reason Barrington is highly considered this season is because of its offensive line, which should be among the state's best. The Broncos return Dan Voltz (6-5, 290 pounds) and Mason Darrow (6-5, 270), both Division I recruits, and surround them with three other linemen of similar size.

"We're going to have guys who pass the eyeball test," Sanchez said. "The question is whether we'll pass the football test. I think we will. If we can stay healthy, it will be our main strength of our team. When it's all said and done, they could be very, very good."

If the linemen are as good as advertised, running back Chase Murdock may have to thank them with a few gifts at the end of the season. Murdock rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and is expected to increase that number with him finally being completely healthy and having that improved line.

Star power: Barrington has produced its share of quality offensive linemen, including a few pros, but there may not be a better one than Dan Voltz. The Wisconsin recruit has the size, ability and mentality seen in elite linemen. "I've had to answer this question quite a bit, and I'm always apprehensive from the standpoint that people may not believe me because he may too good to be true," Sanchez said. "He's the real day on and off the field. What makes him special is he's got that nasty. He's got that desire. He's not satisfied in just getting into the guy, but he wants to finish a guy on every play."

Breakout performer: Everyone knows about Chase Murdock's ability as a running back. He also hopes to show everyone he can be a stellar linebacker. Murdock will add inside linebacker to his duties this season. "If he's going to play at the BCS level, it's going to be as a defensive player," Sanchez said. "There's no film on him playing linebacker. If he does what he's capable of, that could push the tide [in recruiting.]"

Defensive difference-maker: Sam Handler doesn't receive as much publicity as some of his teammates, but he's quietly put together an impressive career at Barrington. He's entering his third season as a starting wide receiver and defensive back. "He's a guy who often gets overlooked," Sanchez said. "What I love about him is he's such a throwback. He's just a football player. He plays with such emotion and enthusiasm and loves the game."

Newcomer to watch: Austin Schmidt showed he had talent as a running back on the sophomore team two years ago, but teetered on whether he would play last season and returned to the team too late to get on the field. He's back this season and will be a complimentary running back to Murdock. "People will know him by the time it's all said and done," Sanchez said.

Schedule breakdown: The Mid-Suburban League may not be as stacked as it was a year ago, but there will still be plenty of competition. Elk Grove, Palatine, Fremd and Schaumburg were all playoff teams last season. Libertyville should be improved and could give Barrington a competitive season-opener. "It's natural rivalry between us and Fremd and us and Palatine because of the proximities," Sanchez said. "They're always big games, and you know what you're getting."

Key game: Oct. 14 vs. Fremd: Barrington and Palatine may be the favorites, but this is still Fremd's conference until proven otherwise. Barrington hasn't defeated Fremd since 2004, which also happens to be the Broncos' last conference championship.

What they're saying: "If we can do what's best for the team, I think we can have a really good year," Sanchez said. "I think it could be a lot of fun."