THIBODAUX – No one needs to tell Mark Songy about the significance of the annual Line Camp held on the Nicholls campus.
The Jesuit head coach has been with the camp for almost 30 years, now serving as its offensive coordinator.
“I think it’s more by default than anything because I’ve been around here the longest amount of time. I am in awe of the coaches that work here. I learn so many different ways of saying things and different ways of coaching from these guys and I bring it back to my team and we get better that way,” Songy said.
It seems everywhere you look along the various workstations of the camp comprised of approximately 500 linemen; you will find a bunch of Songy’s Blue Jays.
“I’ve fully bought into this camp. I have since Day One,” Songy said. “The amount of coaching these guys get from great coaches in a three-day period, I just don’t think you can duplicate anywhere.
“Our guys come – and they are doing most of the same drills we do back home – they are hearing it from great coaches on every station and they are getting a ton of repetitions. We just come out of here better than if we wouldn’t come. It’s a great team exercise for us, our kids get individually better and they get a little closer when they are here, too,” said Songy.
While a number of the drills may be familiar to Jesuit players, hearing a different voice can reinforce the validity of the work in the eyes of the Blue Jays linemen.
“We have our coach, Coach (Troy) Baglio, and he really pushes us. To hear it from another coach, you realize this is everything we need to do. We also get complimented because we have done this before and we have gone through this and it’s really good to hear,” said defensive Evan Taffaro, who will be senior defensive in the fall.
Like Taffaro, Jesuit teammate Brian Balestra, a senior offensive lineman, is a veteran of the camp.
“Every year I come and develop new habits, new techniques that help me better my game and there is always room for improvement. There is always something else I can do better. There are a lot of technical things that I can improve on and just polish my game.”
Joseph Liberto, who will be a sophomore in the fall, the camp allows him some time alongside Jesuit upperclassmen that he might not normally to experience.
“It’s a lot of drills that I wouldn’t really get to do at practice normally. It was definitely worth it. The camaraderie that’s developed from this camp alone has been great. I got a chance to work with some seniors I wouldn’t have been able to,” said Liberto.
Jesuit isn’t the only school that brings a large contingent of offensive and defensive linemen to the camp. Fellow Catholic League member, Holy Cross, also has a large contingent. Catholic of Baton Rouge may lead the way with almost 70 players participating in the camp.
“Some teams bring a whole lot of guys,” Songy said. “Catholic High does, Holy Cross does, Lutcher does – and these are successful programs year in and year out. They know how important it is up front and they believe in this camp as well.
“I think we are seeing more and more teams bringing in multiple guys, whole units, and I think that is a testament to the guys that coach here and the word that gets out how beneficial it is.”
Among the group from Holy Cross are Joshua Guillory and Barryn Sorrell.
Guillory, who will be a senior defensive lineman in the fall, is a veteran of the camp.
“I love it. My game has improved so much as a defensive lineman,” said Guillory. “I always want to come back. I’m glad I’m here for my senior year.
“All my pass rush moves have improved. As a defensive line unit, we are improving as a team.”
Sorrell, who will be a junior defensive end in the fall, is experiencing the Line Camp for the first time.
“My expectations were great,” said Sorrell. “Talking to people that had been here before, they all told me it would be a great camp. I feel it’s a good deal and I think I’m getting better.
“I’ve gotten better at a lot of drills like pass rush and run block. I think I got better at those. I like the stations. I like the way it’s set up; you can get a lot of work in and that everybody gets to see every coach.”
Another first timer at the camp is Jason Brown, who will be a freshman center in the fall at Shaw.
“It’s been good for technique,” said Brown. “It hasn’t been too, too hard. A lot of us are getting tired, but it’s good.
“I learned a lot with my footwork and getting my power.”
The 7 of 7 leagues and tournaments are in vogue these days among summertime activities for football programs. Coaches often cite the team-bonding experience, yet there are no linemen involved. The Line Camp allows linemen to grow closer, especially if they take part as an entire unit.
“Linemen get neglected from time to time. Coaches that really understand the game itself really understand that this is really different from 7 on 7. This is quality work. It is bonding because you are going through some kind of hell for three days. The 7 on 7 is all about winning and scoring touchdowns. This is all about flat-out getting better.”
“Big guys can’t be in 7 on 7 so I think a camp like this brings us all together,” said Guillory.
“This is a good thing for linemen. If you are not part of (7 on 7), what do we do? I think this is a good thing for the linemen part of the team. We’re not left out. We have something to get together for,” Sorrell said.
Many of the coaches offering instruction at the camp have done so for years. That, Songy said, has provided the camp with teaching continuity.
“A number of guys have coached here before and been through it. We are all saying the same things and we all know what it takes to get through this camp successfully. The crew of coaches we have to turn down that want to work this are among the best guys in the state. We just don’t have enough room for them,” said Songy.
Likewise, many of the linemen are repeat attendees.
“You wouldn’t waste your money or your time coming back to something that wasn’t worthwhile. It grows every year for a reason and our guys (from Jesuit) actually look forward coming to camp but they also look forward to it being over too because it’s tough. They look forward to it because they know they will get better.”