That’s why Gates and his teammates have worked exceptionally hard since the Music City Bowl to get stronger – both on and off the field. That doesn’t just include physical strength either. The group is also working hard on its bond with one another.
“We’re definitely a closer group off the field and we’ve been hanging out a lot more,” Gates said. “We try to go eat and have a couple of O-line parties so it’s definitely exciting.”
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is known to host the line for dinners. He’ll invite them over for steaks and a game of cards. It’s something the group looks forward to, but the food seems to be the major draw.
“That’s the big one,” sophomore Michael Decker said. “[Food] usually attracts everyone to come. If foods involved, you definitely get more guys to come.”
As for what they do when they’re not eating, Gates would rather not say. He smiles thinking about the shenanigans he and his teammates have gotten into it. Press him a little harder though and he’ll divulge just a little more.
“We play some cards,” Gates said. “Drink some apple juice.”
Decker laughed when he heard what Gates had said. It doesn’t surprise him that his teammate is more cautious to reveal the offense’s bonding strategies, but Decker is a little more open.
“We just hang out,” Decker said. “We go randomly to a buffet once in awhile and just pig out on some food. Sometimes Cav will invite us over to his house. It’s a good time. It’s fun to hang out with the guys on the weekend and play cards, whatever.”
The time spent together has started to pay off, at least from a personality standpoint. Both Gates and Decker, alongside senior David Knevel, practically echoed one another on a variety of topics following Thursday’s practice.
Ask any of them about having a new quarterback behind them and the answer will pretty much mirror what Gates had to say.
“It’s exciting having a new quarterback back there,” Gates said. “Tommy [Armstrong] was definitely good. He did some things good and he did some other things not as good, but it’s a little different. We have more of a pocket passer now and he steps up in the pocket a little but more. That’s exciting and helps our jobs out a little bit.”
Plus, they’re all on the same page when it comes to Saturday’s practice. Word was spreading that a real scrimmage would take place, which made each offensive lineman pretty happy.
“That’s the rumor, so we’ll see,” Gates said. “I’m excited for that.”
Decker is too.
“That’ll be fun,” Decker said. “It’ll be good. It’s definitely something you want to have happen after hitting your own guys all the time. Being in a live game scenario will definitely help let loose a little bit.”
There are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered with the offensive line in 2017. They know that. If there’s one positive though, they’re all pretty much on the same page so far this spring.
Both on and off the practice field.