Invisible, yet essential offensive components

They're big, bad and indispensable, but offensive lineman still tend to get overlooked .

Published August 25, 2006

Most spectators hardly pay Largo's Kyle Peters (6-10, 310 pounds) any mind, and those who do wonder how he ever got so big.

"They ask what I've been fed as a child," he said.

Few zero in as St. Petersburg Catholic's Elvis Fisher (6-6, 315), his socks drooping to his ankles, his jersey stretched tight over his waist, waddles to the line of scrimmage and briefly gets in the way of the defense before falling to the ground and getting back up.

They certainly do not notice when Northeast's Dylan Mundella (6-4, 240) comes walking off the field and plops down on the bench, steam curling up around him like smoke from a barbecue pit.

"That's just the way it goes for all of us," Peters said.

Offensive linemen do the thankless work in the trenches, trying to outhit and outwit opponents. Their life is all work, all effort, all pain.

And no credit.

That goes to the running back who breaks a big play or the quarterback who throws a touchdown.

But make no mistake: no team goes far without their line.

The Packers went far last season. Running back Dexter McCluster became the first back in county history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season and led Largo to the region final.

"I'd like to think we (the offensive line) played a role in helping Dexter become the running back he was last year," Peters said.

McCluster is gone. But the Packers aren't fretting because all but one starter on the offensive line is back. That's a rarity this season. Northeast, Seminole and St. Petersburg Catholic are among a handful of teams in the county that return the majority of their starters on the line.

"Many of the teams around here are in the same boat," Dixie Hollins coach Mike Morey said. "We're all trying to replace the big bodies up front."

It could mean an uneven season for several programs.

After all, offensive linemen know more about what's happening on the field than anyone in uniform other than the quarterback. In the seconds before he snaps the ball, linemen must decipher coverages, blitz packages and fronts to call the proper blocking assignments.

"It's the most critical position in football," Packers coach Rick Rodriguez said. "It usually takes two to three years to groom an offensive lineman, so if you have experience there, it's a big plus. We're fortunate."

Besides Peters, other returning linemen for Largo include Leron Barnett (6-2, 250), Shawn Deetz (6-2, 275) and Travis Feldman (6-1, 220). Tight end Mike Helms (6-3, 210) and linemen Taylor Hollister (5-10, 205) and Peter Spreacher (6-5, 350) will provide depth.

The Barons also are proud of their guys up front. The upperclassmen joining Fisher include center Devin Turner (6-3, 300) and guards Zach Pridham (6-2, 290) and Adam Condron (6-2, 260).

The Warhawks and Vikings have the luxury of small, quick guys perfect for pulling on traps and screens in the Wing-T.

"It's the one position we're looking to carry us this season," said Seminole coach Sam Roper, whose best returning lineman is Derek Eling.