CANTON, Mo. -- At a time when mentions of personal safety and well being permeate every conversation, Culver-Stockton College quarterback Korbin Marcum has a place he feels most comfortable.
The pocket is his sanctuary.
"I know I can sit there because there are five guys in front of me who know what they're doing," Marcum said.
Those bodyguards will be a critical part of Wildcats' success.
The C-SC football team returns all 11 starters on offense, including All-American left tackle Andrew Rupcich, all-conference right tackle Alex Gonzalez and the rest of an offense line blessed with size and experience. Four of the five starters are seniors with sophomore Andrew Rowe joining the group at left guard.
Rowe was the Heart of America Athletic Conference North Division Freshman of the Year last fall.
"It starts all up front," said C-SC coach Tom Sallay, whose team went 6-5 last season and will face Evangel at noon Saturday at Ellison Poulton Stadium in its season opener. "With every football team you ever talk about, whether they're good or bad, it starts up there."
This group is good, potentially the best in program history.
"I've never met a group of guys like these," Marcum said. "You talk nice and all of those attributes and that's them. They're not meatheads around campus. They're big ol' teddy bears. But then you see them do their thing and they're tough. It's a brick wall. No penetration."
That enables Marcum to pick apart defenses.
Last season, the senior gunslinger completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 3,113 yards with 26 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. A preseason injury didn't slow him at all
and he earned honorable mention All-American. He heads into this season needing two touchdown passes and 1,384 yards to set new C-SC career records.
"We know if we give our quarterback enough time to get the ball out he's going to find somebody," Rupcich said. "It lets us play more fast and more genuine with each other."
The reason for Marcum's high completion percentage is the number quality targets at his disposal.
Connor Perrine averaged 17.5 yards per catch and grabbed 11 touchdown passes last season, while Brody Hassel averaged 13.1 yards per catch with five touchdowns. Overall, eight different receivers caught touchdown passes and six receivers caught between 29 and 58 passes each.
"It makes it real easy," Marcum said. "I can throw a ball up and be like, ‘Man, that's going to get caught.'"
The wide receivers do more than snare passes. They turn simple plays into backbreakers.
"If we give a guy the ball 2 yards past the line scrimmage, they can take it all the way down the field," Marcum said. "They're amazing."
The return of seniors Nathan Barnes and Jordan Grant -- both are seniors -- means the ground game will be solid, too. They combined for 787 yards rushing and six touchdowns, and they're ability to make big plays will force opposing defenses to stay honest.
"To have guys coming in who have been two- or three-year starters and have been in the system for quite a long time, it really puts you ahead of the curve," Sallay said. "These guys coming in and understanding where they're supposed to be or how things are supposed to fit together or how they're supposed to run a pattern based off a safety look, that really makes a big, big difference.
"Our first year or two, we were just trying to get kids to figure out how to play college football."
Now that they know how to play, their goal is to be more than that.
"Last year, we were still trying to find who we are and make that jump to where we want to be," Rupcich said. "Now we're at that high point where we shouldn't be going through any struggles. We should be dominating teams."