Here is your projected two deep offensive line chart (courtesy of CalBears.com).
|Left tackle||Left guard||Center||Right Guard||Right tackle|
|Matt Summers-Gavin||Brian Schwenke||Chris Guarnero||Justin Cheadle||Mitchell Schwartz|
|Donovan Edwards||Dominic Galas||Dominic Galas||Richard Fisher||Sam DeMartinis|
Since it's hard for most fans to talk about offensive linemen without hours of game review, here's some questions to guide you in the comments.
1. Which likely starting offensive linemen are you most confident in next season?
2. Which likely starting offensive linemen are you least confident in next season?
3. What aspect are you more concerned about, run blocking or pass protection?
4. Who do you feel will be the most important lineman this season?
After the jump, a quick look at every lineman who's 99% likely to see significant game action in 2010 or witnessed it in 2009.
(These observations are based on only what I saw on gametape. Feel free to splice in your own interpretations in the comments.)
Departing (You remember their names)
Mike Tepper. Tepper was good against slow defensive ends and pretty average against athletic defensive ends. Unfortunately, his inability to consistently move laterally really gave us a lot of trouble. Cal fans (including me) made a big deal about him being granted his sixth year, but we probably should have been celebrating that he was still playing football at a competitive level rather than expecting him to protect Riley’s blind side all season.
After a strong showing the first three weeks, he struggled containing the outside. Like when Kevin Riley threw a hurried interception at Arizona when he saw the edge breaking down. Or when Kenny Rowe beat him off the edge on the first offensive play from scrimmage in Eugene, sacking Riley and forcing a fumble (although it didn’t amount to anything, it seemingly set the tone for the game). Or in the Utah game, when the Utes rushed a linebacker against him, twisted the defensive end against slowed-down Shane Vereen.
Still, for a guy many of us thought would struggle simply walking a few weeks ago, he held his own. As much as we gritted our teeth about pass protection last season.
Mark Boskovich. I think Bosko would admit his 2009 campaign would be pretty tough to view without grimacing. Literally half the plays I saw him in last season ended up with him either blowing his assignment or ending up on the ground without even so much as giving his defensive tackle any force to fight through. He often needed double teams to help, because he was in trouble when he was left one-on-one with a solid defensive tackle (Stephen Paea and Jurrell Casey gave him all sorts of trouble, as did Washington and Utah's tackles).
So, not to be too cruel, we'll probably be better off at guard than we were last season. As a walk-on, we could only hope he produced well enough on the field--instead he joins the pile of players who managed at least the college dream of playing big-time football at a D-1 school.
Bosko is off to better things anyway (law school), and he’ll make us proud in other ways besides football.
Returning (You know their names now)
Summers-Gavin. Tedford's gone on record as saying Summers-Gavin is probably the most talented lineman we have right now. Makes sense that Summers-Gavin comes in to fill Tepper's shoes, which won't be easy. MSG seemed to have a better time in run blocking than in pass protection, so it'll be interesting to see if his athleticism can translate to handling athletic defensive ends better than Tepper's bigger body.
With a new starter at left guard, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if MSG is asked to pull backside a bit, come out of his stance, retreat behind his fellow advancing linemen and lead the way for his running back. It's doubtful that with this transition to left tackle Steve Marshall will abandon his ability to move downfield, so Summers-Gavin should make his own mark in whatever old and new blocking schemes we try out this year.
It won't be his primary responsibility though. Defending Riley from Kenny Rowe and Armond Armstead will be.
Guarnero. At 6’2" 281, our incumbent center is fairly undersized (Alex Mack in his final season was 6’5" 316, Marvin Philip 6’2" 305), so it’s no surprise our ability to dominate with the hybrid power rush/zone rush attack we tried last season. There’s no denying his work ethic. Still, he’s going to struggle in-conference with physical defensive tackles one-on-one. He needs a little bit more help than your average center, which makes it hard for the interior.
Guarnero often needed the help of an accompanying guard to seal off his block. This would open up linebackers to penetrating the gaps on either side on either blitz packages or run stoppages. That's something you want to avoid in the zone scheme Cal runs, where linemen need to be able to move from one level to the next as quickly as possible.
Cheadle. Despite winning the Most Improved Offensive Lineman award on the team last season, Cheadle still struggled in 2009. He was probably a little bit out-of-shape or just not ready to handle all of Marshall's schemes, but he had a rough season dealing with Pac-10 interior linemen.
One possibility that shines in favor of Cheadle is he stuck too long on his double-teams with the undersized Guarnero and was left a second late in trying to make the next block. However, other things stood out that didn't shine so favorably on Cheadle. For example, he sometimes arm grappled rather than push guys back on first contact, or would trouble getting the first handle on his assignment as opposed to the defender being the first one to him.
Cheadle should improve with another year under his belt, but nothing's guaranteed.
Schwartz. Schwartz returns with two years of experience under his belt and should continue to anchor himself quite well on the right side. After playing much of 2008 protecting Kevin Riley's and Nate Longshore's blindside with decent results (and definitely for a redshirt frosh), he spent most of 2009 on the right side.
Schwartz emerges as our offensive line captain for next season. He should be the most reliable Golden Bear and should be an instant contender for the All Pac-10 team. Cal’s offensive line struggled last season, but Schwartz had very little to do with the problems. He was solid, if not spectacular, and earned all Pac-10 honorable mention for his efforts. Although he might struggle against the better defensive ends in the conference, outside of that he should be our rock on this line.
Incoming (You'll know their names by the end)
Brian Schwenke. If Schwenke can pull off a similar season to Summers-Gavin (a downer game here and there followed by moments of brilliance), I think we'll all take that. Tedford and Marshall showed enough confidence to play him as a guard as a true freshman, which usually never happens.
Since there isn’t much gametape on him, let’s examine the things we do know. He’s 6’3", 302 pounds. That’s a good sign. He played all 12 games last year. That’s another good sign. Given that experience, he should be able to handle most of the power run plays (which is what the second unit handles). The key will be how well he can stay in front of defensive tackles in pass protection, and how quickly he can adapt to the zone blocking schemes. The positive things we're hearing from Tedford is a good sign.
Good bet that Schwenke will end up being the starting left guard, with Boskovich moving on and MSG moving over to left tackle.
Donovan Edwards: Our super-sub. Edwards was entrusted with both tackle and center responsibilities in the spring, and Tedford has stated he is flexible enough to play either position.
Edwards didn't see much starting time last season with both Tepper and Schwartz taking the majority of snaps at the tackle position. So you have to go back to 2008 to see how he fared against top-notch competition, when he started the last six games in place of the injured Chet Teofilio. After three tough games against Oregon (facing Nick Reed), USC (facing Kyle Moore), and Oregon State (facing Victor Butler), he settled down and helped unleash the hellstorm of Jahvid Best against the Furd, Washington and Miami. They even ran a lot of zone/power plays to his side of the field, where he'd either take out the end or pull from the right tackle position and lead the way for Best and Vereen.
If Cal can sub in Edwards liberally to spell either Schwartz or Summers-Gavin, it could provide Cal some flexibility at the tackle position. It could also make it harder for units to scheme against where to bring the pressure if he acquits himself.
Richard Fisher: Fisher has 13 games under his belt entering his senior season, but his time again.
Fisher did play with the first unit a lot in the Arizona State and Oregon State games. He played alright against ASU after Boskovich had his troubles. He did alright on blitz pickup on the final game winning drive, double-teaming a defensive tackle before coming back to hold off the fearsome Vontaze Burfict with a long crucial 1st down conversion throw by Riley to Alex Lagemann. He didn't look so good against OSU, but then again no one did.
That's about all I can tell you though. Here's to hoping experience pays off.
Dominic Galas: Played in garbage time a lot. Decent power blocking ability and could be our center next year (or the still developing Mark Brazinski), so I'll be monitoring him closely when he spells Guarnero. Also could see time at guard and can rotate between guard and center positions.
Sam DeMartinis: Hasn't played at all. But he'll probably be in the second unit. Both him and Galas figure to be rotated in on a game-to-game basis, as Tedford stated earlier this spring:
"Sam is another one who has made a really good contribution through the spring. He’s going to be in the rotation as well. It’s nice to see some of those young guys stepping when they get the opportunity to play. Because of it, they’re getting better each day."
Charles Siddoway: Not officially on the two-deep chart, but could see some action with the second-unit if he gets academics in order.