The LaGrange Grangers will have a first-time starter at quarterback when the season gets under way, and offensive-line coach Davis Russell wants to make his life as comfortable as possible.
The Grangers have a talented group of offensive linemen ready to keep whoever ends up under center on his feet.
“Having two young quarterbacks that haven’t played, we’re putting a lot more on our offensive line this year,” Russell said. “A lot of teams will just check a play. We’re going to block any possible situation.”
Junior Jatorri Boykin and sophomore Ahmad Ogletree are the two men vying to see who’ll be playing quarterback when the season gets started on Aug. 22 against LaGrange.
“We’re trying to take as much off of them as possible,” Russell said.
Russell believes the men who’ll be tasked with blocking for the quarterback, as well as senior running back Mon Denson, are up to the task.
That group includes a pair of seniors who started a year ago, Jack Ward and Kevin Ramirez.
It also includes junior tackle Luke Elder who Russell believes could play big-time college football down the road, as well as senior center Javier Treadwell and junior tackle Guy Wegienka.
Connor Davis, the tight end, will also be a big part of the blocking package.
The linemen spend a lot of time together, not just during the season, but during the summer when they go to camps, and participate in workout sessions at the school.
Ramirez believes the kinship the linemen have will help them be a better unit.
“Just having the chemistry outside of football, being able to hang out together is big,” Ramirez said. “You know how the other person thinks. That helps you play together.”
Ward said the hard work the players put in during the summer has paid dividends as well.
“We had a lot of chemistry-building during the summer,” Ward said. “More worked definitely helped. I feel like I can run farther than last year.”
Russell said all of the linemen have worked hard to get stronger and fitter, and that showed up during the team’s Ironman competition.
“Of the whole crew, four of them cleared over 275 pounds. The other ones were around 250,” Russell said.
Russell also said Ramirez and Ward lifted more than 500 pounds during the squat lift.
“These guys, the off-season in the winter, they’re doing extra lifting, they’re doing stuff like that,” Russell said.
Russell said the linemen have also done their part to make sure they’ve got the playbook down pat.
“What a lot of people don’t see with these guys is beginning in March, they’re learning their plays,” Russell said. “They’re doing stuff so that everybody else’s life can be easier.”
Russell believes Elder’s potential is massive.
“Luke’s upside is phenomenal,” Russell said. “He’s getting recruited by a lot of SEC guys.”
Russell figures Elder will just keep getting better, especially since he only just turned 16-years-old.
“Elder does some really good things,” Russell said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not playing in the SEC in a couple of years.”
As talented as Elder and all of the offensive linemen are, they won’t spend much time in the spotlight.
A lot of times the only time an offensive linemen is noticed is when he jumps the gun and is called for an illegal procedure penalty.
Russell makes sure to let them know how important they are to what the Grangers do, though.
“They don’t get a lot of glory with what they do,” Russell said. “But with what we’re doing offensively, they’re going to be the key.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 (ext. 232) or on Twitter @lagrangesports