The Newton Eagles football team. Pictured from left to right: Mason Mulvey, Cole Leonard, Adam Koebele, Dawson Dietz, Max Meinhart, Ben Meinhart, Brayden Bergbower, Jack Kinkade, Lain Burgener, Beau Slankard, Frank Cucinnela, Riley Darkow, Trenton Schafer, Gus Bierman, Austin Moore, Dalton Baltzell, Wade Wickham, Logan Ochs, Cole Phillips, Meyer Tarr, Evan Zumbahlen, Evan Baltzell, Kohlten Barthelme, Drew Tate, Braxton Griffith, Landen Blake, Calvin Probst, Weston Bierman, Daniel Spiker, Caleb McNary, Wade Probst, Jacob Wickham, Hayden Shamhart-Williams, Jacob Ochs, Tyler Olmstead, Riley Hart, Trevor Haarman, Drew Earnest, Peyton Harris, and Jesse Hawkins. Not pictured are: Issac Flowers, Dominik Utley, Cole Elmore, and Shawn Fore.

Depth in the offensive line is always a plus.

For Newton, that is an area where head coach Jason Fulton lacks experience and is looking for the right pieces.

Led by all-conference selection Jacob Wickham, Fulton hopes that the three returning linemen provide much more than production on the field.

"Leadership is the key, and we expect big things out of our older guys, like Calvin Probst, who's been a three-year starter for us," Fulton said. "Jacob Wickham, this will be his third year starting, and Jacob Ochs, who's a two-year starter at center for us.

"So, this will be a big opportunity for them to step up, be leaders and help these young kids progress. They've been through the trenches with them a little bit."

Fulton has been around the block enough to know that injuries will decimate any depth chart, and for his team this year, the offensive line can ill-afford that.

There are currently 15 offensive linemen on the Eagles' roster, seven of which are freshmen.

"We can't afford to get people hurt. I think that's the biggest issue," Fulton said. "We don't have a lot of depth at this time, but for our offensive line, the guys that are going to start are pretty solid.

"We got a couple of good backups. We need to stay healthy."

It isn't only staying healthy, though. It's also preparing the next wave of Newton linemen for their opportunity, which they didn't have that much time to do during the summer.

Due to the IHSA extending the season into June and some football players participating in other sports, coaches had limited time to work with the newcomers during the summer.

However, Fulton said that the training during that time is basically in the weight room, which incoming players could do themselves in some capacity.

"That's the biggest thing. We got to make sure we're in the weight room and getting stronger," Fulton said. "Then, it's just good technique. We got good line coaches. Coach Todd Short has been our line coach for a long time. He's a hall of fame coach, and he helps progress these guys along."

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or

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