Cal Football Fall Camp Preview: The Oline

Jason O. Watson

The Big Uglies took this oft-used moniker a bit too literally over the past couple of years. Penalties, blown assignments, and just plain being beaten one on one were all too frequent occurrences. New position coach Zach Yenser has his work cut out for him. Not only does he have to replace three starters, but he has to teach an entirely new blocking scheme (Vertical Set Pass Protection) to go along with a new offense.

Our preview of the new Oline pass protection scheme can be found here.

If you trust the recruiting rankings, there is plenty of young talent on the roster. But offensive linemen usually take time to develop and the best lines often have great teamwork in addition to standout players. It's probably not realistic to expect any miraculous shortcuts in the maturation and gelling process.

Offensive Line:

LT: Freddie Tagaloa(So)/Matt Williams(Sr)
LG: Jordan Rigsbee(So)/Steven Moore(Fr)
C: Matt Cochran(Fr)/Mark Brazinski(Sr)
RG: Alejandro Crosthwaite(Jr)/Geoffrey Gibson(Jr)/Chris Adcock(Jr)
RT: Bill Tyndall(Sr)/Brian Farley(So)/Christian Okafor(Fr)

Also: Aaron Cochran(Fr), Eric Bunte(Fr), JD Hinnant(Fr), Chris Borrayo(Fr), Vincent Johnson(Fr)

Freddie Tagaloa has all the physical potential to be a future NFL player. He just needs to refine his technique and footwork. Last year, he showed a better ability to run block than pass protect in limited snaps. In particular, he had trouble with speed rushers off the edge. The switch to VSPP might actually suit him because he has the quick feet of a former basketball player.

Jordan Rigsbee is fiery and aggressive. He needs to better channel this emotion into mauling defenders instead of racking up penalties. A former 4* recruit and US Army All-American, the potential is there for him to be one of the leaders on the line if he can become more consistent.

It's a big change at center. Literally. 6'4, 340 lb man-beast Matt Cochran may very well be the most imposing center in Cal history. He beat out the more experienced Mark Brazinski during spring ball because he was more consistent with his snapping. He'll have a lot to learn since the center in the Dykes/Franklin offense also calls the protections. But, he's known for his physicality and penchant for aggressively finishing blocks.

Right guard is a question mark. Crosthwaite was listed as the starter out of spring ball with Gibson as the backup. Neither have distinguished themselves to date. Crosthwaite has been strictly a reserve while Gibson was looked at as a starter last spring, but was replaced due to inconsistent play. Incumbent starter Chris Adcock had an uneven year and is coming off of a shoulder injury.

Right tackle looked to be set with steady Bill Tyndall stepping into the starter's position. Despite backing up both LT and RT, he was actually our best tackle last last year. Unfortunately, he broke his left ankle during a spring scrimmage and required surgery. His original recovery time was projected at four months. If he can't go, neither walk-on soph Bill Farley nor redshirt frosh Christian Okafor have any game experience. Okafor is another another huge body (6'6, 320lbs) who enrolled early to participate in spring ball last year. He was touted for quickness, aggression, and athleticism as a recruit; he just needed more technique-work and experience.

The old coaching staff thought it was a big deal to win the recruiting battle for juco transfer Matt Williams. However, he couldn't beat out oft-injured Tyler Rigsbee or walk-on Bill Tyndall and was moved to guard. The depth chart indicates that he might have been moved back to tackle. The scouting report around his recruitment was a massive body that needed to get stronger and was raw from a technique standpoint.

Steven Moore was recruited as a tackle, but also has the ability to play guard. He's got a huge (6'7) frame and was a camp stand-out last year before redshirting to get stronger. Coach Michalczick was really happy to beat UCLA and Arizona for Moore. With his versatility, we might see him at multiple positions if he out-performs some of the older players.

Mark Brazinski was rated as high as the #2 center prospect during his recruitment. He's struggled with injuries throughout his career. And for some inexplicable reason, he simply does not seem comfortable snapping in the shotgun formation.

It's unknown how well the incoming class of freshman linemen will develop. Unless the injury bug hits, it's likely that all will redshirt. They certainly have accolades with Cochran and Bunte earning 4* while Borrayo, Hinnant, and Johnson were all rated at 3*. However, we've seen how projections for high school linemen can be all over the map. Let's hope that we struck gold (and blue) and have the foundation in place for some solid line play down the road.

You can drink all the Sonny Delight that you want, but odds are that we won't see the full potential of this unit until they've had a chance to grow together. How quickly that comes to pass may very well be the benchmark for this season.

Oline Summary:

Position Coach: Zach Yenser

Probable Strengths:

Size. This might be the largest group of linemen that we've seen at Cal. Tagaloa(6'8), Moore(6'6), and Okafor(6'6) all have huge frames. With the exception of Bill Tyndall, every other lineman in the two-deep is 300+ lbs.

Possible Weaknesses:

Inexperience. It's a completely new blocking scheme for a line featuring 3-4 new starters.

Biggest Questions:

Is redshirt frosh Matt Cochran ready to make the line calls at center?

Can we shore up the right side of our line?

Will Tagaloa and Rigsbee become standout performers this year?

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