MILTON, Ga. — Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of football. They won’t make the Friday night highlight reels. They won’t load up the stat sheet. And, as Milton head coach Adam Clack put it, they get recognized most often when they aren’t performing well.
Considering every offensive play the line is working hip-to-hip in the trenches with little acknowledgement, cohesion is vital.
In the early goings of the 2017 season, Milton’s front five is becoming such a unit.
“Every offensive line I’ve been a part of has been the closest unit on the team,” offensive line coach Steven Stromie said. “And our guys do everything together,” he said.
From group dinners at Waffle House, working out together, practicing together and working side by side each day, the group of four seniors and one sophomore have created a close-knit unit.
“And then they go back to Waffle House,” offensive line coach Jayce Ratliff quipped.
From all those workouts and waffles, the line is also packed with size, with all five starters over 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds.
Seniors Nate Thompson, Blake Watson and Austin Paden have also taken a leadership role on the line, having played together last season. They have led the way for newcomers in senior DJ Jordan and sophomore Paul Tchio.
The only non-senior on the line, Tchio, said his fellow lineman have been helpful in his transition to Milton’s varsity squad.
“At one point, [Paden] was telling me what to do every play,” he said. “I love them.”
Tchio said as the season has progressed, the front five have become even closer, a sentiment shared by Thompson and Watson.
“We’re a real tight-knit unit,” Watson said.
Coach Ratliff said the maturity of the unit has created what he views as a totally new group from last season.
“They are not only leaders for the O-line, they are leaders for the whole team,” he said.
The returning starters have learned a new offensive scheme under Clack and Stromie, both in their first year at the school. Clack said before the season that his team’s offensive success would be dictated by the offensive line, and he is pleased with the progress.
The new scheme calls for zone blocking, much of it done on the fly in response to defenders.
“It requires lots of coordination and chemistry, so [the O-line] playing together is vital to our offense.”
Clack said this process takes time, but he believes as the season progresses, his offensive line can be a controlling force.
“The talent is there and the work ethic is there,” Clack said. “If we continue to progress with that ability, I know we can be a dominant offensive line.”