Of all positions on the field, the offensive line may be the most thankless.
But that's one of the beautiful things about football.
The offensive linemen are the true Men for Others – not in it for the individual glory, but the success of the team. That's the mindset under Offensive Line Coach Paul Yappel.
As always, the Wildcats' Fraternal Order of Offensive Linemen (FOOLs) will be ready to power the way for the running game and provide space for the passing game to succeed.
Here's a look at the Wildcats' offensive linemen.
Four seniors and two starters return to the offensive line, and a number of talented youngsters are ready to pave the way for the Wildcats this season.
But the great talent returning is not what makes this group special.
Rather, it's the mindset of the unit.
"They understand the importance of playing as one unit. That's important for the position," says Yappel. "This is a group made up of individuals who are willing to help the team, realizing that everyone has a role in the team's success, whether they are part of the starting five or whether they provide a lot of work in practice. It's a group that, in many ways, have a selfless attitude, and are willing to do whatever they can to make the team better."
Improve every week
The goal for the offensive line is simple – improve each week.
Coach Yappel is not aiming for a certain number of yards or touchdowns. Instead, he's focused on improving his men, week by week.
A growth mentality will be crucial for the men of Ohio City this year.
"The biggest goal is to improve every week, that's what we need to do. This is a good group of seniors and juniors, and our younger sophomores," Yappel says. "That's the biggest thing: improve each week. We look at Week 1 as a baseline and move from there."
The quartet of seniors
The four returning seniors will be crucial. Gus Salopek, AJ Gottschalk, Connor Kinney, and Carter Zimmerman will play an important role for the Wildcats.
Salopek returns as a starter from last season. Standing at 6'5, 260 pounds, Salopek is a tall order for a defensive lineman. He'll be a key cog in the machine.
Gottschalk (6'0, 280), Kinney (6'2, 275), and Zimmerman (6'3, 250) all did not play significant snaps last season, but will likely figure into the mix. They're all wise veterans for the Wildcats.
"The seniors should be recognized for the great leadership they provide," says Yappel.
A number of young juniors will vie for playing time this fall.
Ashton Montgomery will be primary among them, a starter at center last season as a sophomore. He figures to be an anchor piece for the Wildcats in 2020.
The other juniors in the position group are Will Persiani, Joe Ryand, John Reddy, Brian Keane, and William Witalis. They'll all look to contribute.
"You might not see each guy on the field on Friday or Saturday nights, but that doesn’t diminish their work or their efforts," says Yappel.
Starters to be determined
As the Wildcats' opening game against Bishop Sycamore approaches, the Saint Ignatius coaching staff will determine the starting five and the rotation at offensive line.
In the meantime, Yappel is stressing the idea of selflessness with his players, particularly his juniors and sophomores looking for starting time.
"In terms of starters, we're looking to see who are the five guys who can play the best as one unit," Yappel says. "To single anyone out by name goes against the idea of playing as one. But certainly, I would point to the seniors, who have contributed to this program throughout their high school careers."