Offensive linemen can learn technique.
They can be taught the correct way to explode out of a stance, the proper way to move their feet and the most effective approach to driving an opponent off the line.
There are numerous skills to the game linemen can acquire through high-quality coaching.
One key attribute, however, is based mostly on instinct – aggressiveness.
It’s a mindset. Linemen are the only players who make contact every play.
Successful linemen not only survive the physical play, they seek it out. They crave it.
That’s not a number on the opposing player’s jersey; it’s a bull’s-eye.
Aggressiveness is the first characteristic Olympia coach Bill Beattie rattles off when talking about Connor Wilmovsky’s football attributes.
“He certainly has an aggressive streak in him,” said Beattie, who is entering his 18th season with the Bears. “There’s no doubt about that.”
It’s been that way for Wilmovsky since he first started playing football.
“Once I put on that helmet,” Wilmovsky said, “I never wanted to take it off. I just love playing the sport. There never really was a time when I was younger where I worried about contact. I was never hesitant about it. I just wanted to go out there and play.”
Wilmovsky excelled at offensive tackle last season for the Bears, earning first-team all-Narrows League 4A honors as a junior and drawing the interest of recruiters for Nevada, Montana and a handful of other colleges.
“We’ve had a lot of quality linemen since I started coaching here,” Beattie said. “Lately they have all been really strong and very fast, but not that big.”
Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 270 pounds, Wilmovsky certainly stands out from the routine.
“He’s got great footwork, he gets off the ball quick and has gotten stronger in the weight room,” said Beattie, adding that Wilmovsky reminds him of former Olympia all-state lineman Tony Volponi, a 2002 graduate who went on to play for Boise State.
The Bears will need to rely on Wilmovsky even more this season.
Olympia was hit hard by graduation, with Wilmovsky being one of just a handful of returning starters from last season’s squad that finished 9-2 and advanced to the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
“It seems like it’s that way every year here,” Wilmovsky said about the relatively few returning starters. “Guys commit to the program as freshmen and put in the work and by the time their senior year rolls around, they are ready to step up to the varsity level and contribute.
“We’re a very confident group right now. We might not have a lot of starters back, but we have a lot of guys who have played on Friday nights.”
Gone from last season’s roster are 35 seniors – 13 of whom earned all-league honors, including six first-team selections.
But with 130 players in the program, Beattie has plenty to choose from to fill the voids left by graduation.
A rarity among linemen in Beattie’s traditional two-platoon system, Wilmovsky will also play on the defensive line.
“We haven’t had too many linemen do that here,” said Beattie, an honorable mention NAIA All-America at offensive tackle during his senior season at Central Washington University in 1982.
Olympia, which is 45-2 in Narrows League play since 2005, should know where it stands once league games start because the Bears open the season with three challenging nonleague games.
Up first will be a home game Aug. 31 against defending Class 6A Oregon champion Lake Oswego, which finished last season ranked No. 25 in the nation by RivalsHigh100.
“We found out about (playing Lake Oswego) in late January,” Wilmovsky said. “It’s been the driving force behind us for months now. It’s just a great opportunity to play against a nationally recognized program.”
Olympia follows with nonleague games against Capital and Timberline, a team the Bears have not played since 1990, before moving starting league play.
“I’m just glad it’s finally here,” Wilmovsky said. “Once June starts it’s all about Olympia Bears football around here.”
2012 Olympia Schedule
Home games in CAPS. All games at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Friday, Aug. 31 – LAKE OSWEGO (Ore.)
Friday, Sept. 7 – at Capital, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 14 – at Timberline
Friday, Sept. 21 – STADIUM
Friday, Sept. 28 – at South Kitsap
Friday, Oct. 5 – CENTRAL KITSAP
Friday, Oct. 12 – at Gig Harbor
Friday, Oct. 19 – BELLARMINE PREP
Friday, Oct. 26 – at Yelm
Coach: Bill Beattie, 18th year
2011 record: 9-2, 2nd in league; lost in 4A first round.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Bill Beattie (multiple). Returning starters – 4. Top players – RB Kyle Alfonso, 5-10, 200, sr.; RB Casey Bond, 5-10, 190, sr.; WR Alex Johnson, 6-5, 210, sr.; OL Connor Wilmovsky, 6-5, 270, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Todd McDougall (4-3). Returning starters – 3. Top players – DL Kyle Alfonso, 5-10, 200, sr.; DL Tanner Hartsoch, 6-2, 215, sr.; DB Randy Jones, 5-11, 175, jr.; DL Connor Wilmovsky, 6-5, 270, sr.
Outlook: Based on tradition, consistency and coaching, the Bears are a threat to win the league. And while this might be considered a down year in the program’s talent pool, Johnson is a go-to threat in the passing game, and Wilmovsky moves people from his offensive tackle spot. Gabe Padukiewicz gets first crack as the starting email@example.com