Wylie’s offense is full of new faces, and that’s especially true on the offensive line.
The Pirates replace four seniors who earned significant reps last season, including three all-district offensive linemen from last season. For the 2023 season, Wylie knows it’ll be a little younger than last season, but also smaller with a new approach.
“We’re not going to be as big as we have been in the past, but I feel like we’re going to be athletic which is a good thing,” head coach Jimmy Carter said. “We have some strong players and we have some returning players and some young kids with talent on a good junior varsity team.”
Two graduating players including multi-year starters Ralston Ulmer and Matthew Schell. Schell was a first-team all-district tackle last season, while Ulmer was the year before. The team also graduated all-district guard Nathan Pruitt and second-team all-district center Anthony Ortiz, leaving a void at several positions for next year.
“It’s huge to lose those guys,” Carter said. “Any position is tough because experience typically wins out, but with Ralston and Matthew, it’s tough. It’s the nature of the beast and we have to grow some big kids quickly to get them ready for Friday nights.”
Still, Wylie features plenty of returning production as well. Returning at right tackle is second-team all-district player Jordan Katin, entering his senior year. Joining Katin will be junior Elijah Aflague, who earned plenty of experience last season filling in for injuries at both right and left guard and has gotten stronger throughout the offseason.
While those two weren’t as big as some of the seniors, they provide athleticism that Wylie hopes to take advantage of. Expect the Pirates to operate differently along the line of scrimmage this season.
“We can do more pulling and misdirection with your offensive line because we’ll be a little quicker on the line of scrimmage,” Carter said. “We’re going to have to use angles and different things to win because we can’t let bigger teams run downhill on us.”
Katin prepares for his senior year after a productive year three, working alongside a very experienced group. Throughout the summer and first week of fall camp, Coach Carter has been impressed with his work ethic this offseason.
“Jordan is your typical offensive lineman, he’s real quiet sometimes but when it comes time to play he’s ready to battle and compete,” Carter said. “He’s everything you want in a football player and he’s been here every day this summer working his tail off and he’s ready to have a great senior year.”
Katin has been coaching up the younger players on the team this offseason, as the most experienced player on the team. Coach Carter said he’s been doing a good job of communicating between the coaches and the players, allowing them to catch up to speed for the varsity game.
Filling in for the new starters, Wylie is working out Jace Williams, Dylan Hawthorne, Vance Flick, Noah Hinch and Michael Oyeka to try and earn starting jobs. Hinch and Oyeka both received late-season call-ups for the Pirates, and coach Carter believes Oyeka could be a surprise player for some this season. While this group will get the fall camp to prove themselves with pads on, Carter felt this group suffered the most from a lack of spring football and could’ve used those extra reps to prepare for the season.
“This group suffered the most from not having a spring football practice,” Carter said. “There’s more physicality here than at any position in the game, and those extra reps in pads would’ve been big for us.”
As they prepare for the two scrimmages and the first snaps of the season, the coaching staff wants to see the team gel at the line of scrimmage to prepare for the season. Wylie has some offensive challenges this season, with new faces at the line, running back, and wide receiver and the team hopes to have those answers before week one.
“We want those kids to get some opportunities and we might give them a few more reps during our scrimmages to see how they handle situations,” Carter said. “We like some of the kids we have and they’ve all done a good job, but sometimes you don’t know what you got until those pads come on.”
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