BY KRISTI REED
Over 140 offensive linemen from across North Georgia hit the field Tuesday for the start of Mill Creek High School’s Elite Offensive Line camp.
The camp was started three years ago by Mill Creek offensive coordinator Josh Lovelady. Lovelady created the camp to provide Mill Creek’s linemen with specialized instruction closer to home.
During the first two years of Mill Creek’s football program, the offensive linemen traveled to Furman University in South Carolina for a three day camp.
“It was a good camp – nothing wrong with it,” Lovelady said. But, there were a few problems. First, the players had to be away from home for several days. The camp was also expensive – over $300 per player.
“It was a lot to ask the kids,” Lovelady explained. Those factors alone would have been enough to cause Lovelady to look elsewhere for offensive line instruction, but the deciding factor was the number of Georgia teams attending the camp and the number of Georgia coaches teaching at the camp. Lovelady approached some of the other coaches to see if they could come up with a better solution.
“We all talked and said ‘Why are we coming up here to South Carolina and bringing our kids if Georgia coaches are going to coach it?’,” he said. Lovelady took it upon himself to organize a camp to serve the needs of local teams.
Lovelady hand-picked several coaches that he knew and trusted to help him with the camp. After a very selective process, Lovelady knew he had found the right coaches to teach his players.
“I know that if my kids are working with these coaches, they are getting equal or better instruction than what I can give them,” he said.
BIGGER AND BETTER
In the three years that Mill Creek has hosted the offensive line camp, enrollment has steadily increased. This year, participating teams include Habersham, Walton, Alpharetta, Union Grove, Ola, Lumpkin County, Loganville Christina and Flowery Branch.
The players will take part in three practice sessions each day of the camp. Two of the sessions are devoted to drill work in which the players work on fundamentals and execution while the other session is dedicated to team instruction.
“That practice is when the offensive line coaches put in their stuff,” Lovelady said. While different schools may run similar plays, they use different terminology. The team session gives coaches the opportunity to install their particular offense.
“If you’re going to go to camp, you need the opportunity to work on what you’ll be doing at your school,” he said.
The drill work sessions provide players with high numbers of repetitions so that they can become familiar with techniques, terminology and communication.
“The high number of reps means they can work on being more precise in the movements,” Lovelady said.
While the quarterbacks, receivers and other skill positions get specialized instruction throughout the summer, the offensive linemen get left behind. Lovelady said one of the main reasons for his camp is to help his offensive players keep up with the skill players.
“We have 7-on-7 all summer long. That means the quarterbacks, linebackers, receivers and defensive backs are all working on those plays,” he said. “With the linemen, that’s hard to do. Our skill people, because they have been doing 7-on-7 all summer long, will be ahead of us that first day of practice. This allows us to get a jump start on installation.”
Lovelady said that working with the linemen will help give them confidence as they head into regular practices at the first of August.
“On that first day of practice, they won’t have to think as much – they can just go out there and execute,” Lovelady said.
The basic goal of the camp is to improve player skills while preparing the offensive line for the start of August practices. Lovelady said one of the reasons for holding the camp late in the summer is to maximize skill retention heading into team camps and regular season practices.
“If I teach them something last week, they’ll remember it better than [something they learned] last month,” he said. “I do it as late as I can because they’ll retain a lot more.”
The most important goal of the camp though is to bring the offensive linemen together as a unit, Lovelady explained.
“They’re out there together for three days in the blistering heat competing against the Walton’s, the Flowery Branch’s – some great teams. They can come together and compare themselves to other folks in other programs,” he said.
Lovelady said coaches from other schools bring their linemen to the camp for the same reason.
“Offensive linemen don’t get their pictures taken,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of stats, they’re not getting their picture in the paper a lot of times unless they’re in the background of a quarterback scoring or a running back or whatever it is. They’ve got to have a little pride as a unit. This brings them together as a unit.”
The Mill Creek Elite Offensive Line camp ends Thursday. Later this month, the Hawks will travel to West Georgia College for the FCA team camp.
Mill Creek officially begins football practice on August 1. The following week, the Hawks go to two-a-days as they prepare for the season opener against Dacula. The first day of practice in full pads will be August 6.