Wilde Lake tackles mind positions with technique Burns, Green form smart tandem on line

August 27, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

Talk to Wilde Lake's Donovan Burns and Jay Green about football and they will shatter some notions about offensive linemen.

The duo, described by Wildecats coach Doug DuVall as the "best pair of offensive tackles I've ever had," appear destined to lead Wilde Lake to its fourth straight state football championship and fifth overall.

Burns and Green scoff at fans who think offensive linemen are just big dumb jocks slugging it out for two halves with other big dumb jocks.

They see their positions as highly skilled and requiring great intelligence. They also wouldn't trade their positions for any other.

"We have a saying at Wilde Lake that great technique can't be beat," said Burns, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior. "Havre de Grace [in the playoffs last year] had the biggest linemen I ever saw, but they had poor technique so we won."

Proper technique means knowing precisely where to position your hands and feet on every block.

"It's who is smarter, not who is bigger and stronger," said Green, a first-team All-County selection by The Baltimore Sun who stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 230 pounds.

To him, playing smart means knowing every play and what every other player is supposed to do on every play. It means recognizing defensive alignments as you walk to the line of scrimmage.

It means knowing how to win the battle of the head games that dominate the line of scrimmage and make the game so much fun for Burns and Green.

They refer to head games as tricks of the trade.

Some examples?

"You go up to the line of scrimmage and tell the other team where you're running the ball, and then you run there," Green said. "Next time you tell them where you're running the ball and run somewhere else."

Another example is to "yell out something like spaghetti block" and then watch the opposing linemen sweat trying to figure out how the meaningless term will affect them.

Tricks like that are sometimes enough to throw off their concentration. Sometimes it annoys them so much they just want to smash their opponents instead of tackling the ball carrier.

"It takes a lot more to play the line than people think. It's just notas easy as it looks," Burns said.

Green chuckles when he reads about how the backs and receivers are referred to as a team's skilled players.

"We're the real skilled players," Green said.

Joe Ellison, an offensive lineman on the 1985 Wilde Lake championship team, went on to play at Wake Forest and nows scouts and helps coach the offensive line with DuVall.

"Wilde Lake has a tradition of teaching its linemen the entire game, not just how to block. If you understand why, then we think you'll do it better," said Ellison. "You have to use your head and outsmart the other guy. You have to be fundamentally sound and be where you're supposed to be."

Wilde Lake coaches teach their offensive linemen that there are three levels of blocking. The first is obviously to block the defensive linemen. The second is to block the linebackers. And the third is to block the defensive backs.

On good teams the backside offensive linemen get downfield to take out the defensive backs, but that takes great conditioning.

And at Wilde Lake players are expected to come to the first day of practice already in top condition.

"We were running plays the first day of practice and had on pads the second day," Green said. "That puts us ahead of most other teams."

Another Wilde Lake tradition involves showing up on time for every practice no matter how big a star a player thinks he is. Last season Burns learned the hard way about the consequences of lateness and no-shows.

"I didn't start until the eighth game because I missed some practices," he said. "And sometimes I didn't play until the third or fourth quarter for being late. I learned my lesson."

Ellison said, "It's a tradition that we'd rather sacrifice a game than sacrifice character. No one is irreplaceable."

Burns, 17, grew up in Columbia and said he is looking forward to starting every game this season and playing offense and defense.

The first time he played football was as a freshman at Wilde Lake. By the playoffs of his sophomore year he moved up to varsity as he was groomed for the right tackle spot.

Green, 17, moved to Columbia in seventh grade after growing up in New York and playing two years of youth league football.

He, too, joined Wilde Lake's varsity squad at the end of his sophomore year. He played center and right tackle that year. He's battling with two teammates for a starting outside linebacking position in addition to his left tackle spot this year.

Offensive coordinator Ray Dawes is pleased to have Burns and Green.

"They're tall, big, can run and have great feet," he said. "We're pulling with them and running traps, things we've never done with tackles before."

Burns played a spectacular game in a scrimmage against Calvert Hall last week.

"Coach Dawes was calling out where each play was going and we were still getting five yards at a pop," Burns said. "It felt good."

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