No matter how many talented skill players a team has, they're of no use if they spend most of the time on their backs.
Lehigh Lightning coach Pete Fominaya knows this. That's why he has built his squad from the inside out. If Fominaya, in his third year leading the Lightning, is raving about how great his skill players are imagine how the interior is going to be.
Imagine how much better they will be than last year's 5-5 team that averaged less than 17 points a game.
Pounding North Fort Myers in the spring game certainly was a step in the right direction and it set up a successful summer and fall, where 14 starters, mostly linemen, return from last season.
"We're strong along the offensive and defensive line. That's our strength," Fominaya said. "With our skill players, I'm excited with what we have and the direction we're going."
The offensive line will be anchored by Eric Viaz and Aaron Ramos, whose job it is to protect senior quarterback Malik Simmons.
"We have a huge offensive line that takes two people every play," Simmons said. "I'm confident in them."
Nose tackle Austin Lias is the cornerstone of the Lightning's 3-4 defense, and is the strongest player Fominaya said he has coached.
"Austin's started since freshman year and he's strong," outside linebacker Isaak Reed said. "He squats 500 pounds, benches a ton, he never struggles in the weight room."
Reed, a three-year starter who has more than 30 sacks in his career, will lead the linebacking corps while Simmons leads a secondary that was hit hard by the graduation of Derrick Wells, now at the University of Minnesota, and Jamaris Brown.
"Nobody will be able to run on our defensive line and they won't be able to get outside," Reed said.
Offensively, Simmons will have many weapons to to use in operating the spread option.
Despite losing running back Curtavious Thornton, who gained 1,200 yards last year, Simmons will turn to senior Manny Copeland, junior Bobby Hart and sophomores Guillermo Hernandez and Jamal Madison to carry the ball if he doesn't decide to run himself.
On the ends, senior Michael Thomas and juniors Jessie Lastra, Aaron Parrott and Rianta Duncan give Simmons plenty of options in the passing game.
"This is the deepest we've been since I've been here. We'll use the running backs by committee," Fominaya said. "We want fresh legs in the fourth quarter."
"There's no No. 1 or No. 2 receiver. They can all get open and do their routes," Simmons said.
The schedule appears kind to start, with home games against Fort Myers and Dunbar to open the season. Their road games include tough matches with Venice, South Fort Myers, and Cape Coral before visiting Riverdale in the Battle For The Bell to close out the season.
"There's an excitement and energy in the team this season. It should be an exciting year," Fominaya said.
Sept. 2 - vs. Fort Myers
Sept. 9 - vs. Dunbar
Sept. 16 - at South Fort Myers
Sept. 23 - vs. Mariner-x
Sept. 30 - at Venice
Oct. 6 - at Cypress Lake-x
Oct. 21 - vs. East Lee County-x
Oct. 28 - at Cape Coral-x
Nov. 4 - vs. Estero-x
Nov. 11 - at Riverdale
Head coach: Pete Fominaya ('09), 3rd year (12-11)
Assistants: Joseph Skocik (QB), Eric Johns (WR), Todd Nichols (def. coord.), Joseph Anderson (def. coord.)
Team Colors: Midnight Blue & Gold
Stadium: Dr. James Adams Memorial Stadium, 901 Gunnery Road, Lehigh Acres
Playoff History: 2002 - Miami Washington 34, Lehigh 14. 2005 - Miami Edison 42, Lehigh 2. 2006 - Miami Jackson 40, Lehigh 0. 2009 - Lehigh 15, Riverdale 7; Lehigh 28, South Ft. Myers 14; Lake Wales 16, Lehigh 0.
Home: 2-3 Away: 3-2 District: 2-4
Lehigh 24, Ida Baker 13
Lehigh 19, Dunbar 0
Lehigh 26, Riverdale 21
Barron Collier 21, Lehigh 14 (OT)
Lehigh 27, Lely 21
Lehign 27, Golden Gate 12
East Lee County 28, Lehigh 18
Naples 35, Lehigh 0
Cypress Lake 21, Lehigh 13
Cape Coral 20, Lehigh 0