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Heart Of The Team - Cal Offensive Line In 2011

TwistNHook: Well, hope springs eternal in Berkeley. After a few years of inconsistencies on the line, Coach M is back and (hopefully) better than ever. With question marks at other offensive skill positions, having a staunch OLine is more important than ever. What can we expect from the big uglies up front in 2011???

OhioBear: Call me a simpleton (pause while everyone reading this calls me a simpleton), but I think we can expect our O-line to be much improved. I think that highly of Coach M. His track record with Cal offensive lines during his first go-around on the staff is beyond reproach.

It has been discussed here that a big difference between Coach Michalczik and Coach Marshall is that Michalczik emphasized technique more than Marshall did. Coach Marshall had a lot of emphasis on the analytic side (i.e., O-linemen reading the defenses).

I'm not here to criticize Marshall (that's been done enough by Cal fans here and elsewhere). I just think that Coach Michalczik's technique-oriented approach and his proven ability to develop offensive linemen at Cal will pay immediate dividends. We will be better on the line as a unit.
And I look for great things from Dominic Galas at center. Dude seems mean. Really mean. In that good Alex Mack, Marvin Philip way.

Kodiak: For the record, I didn't call Ohio Bear a simpleton. (Kind of overkill considering he already lives in Ohio, right?)

While I think our starting Oline should be improved, I still worry about depth and injuries. Although Schwartz recently returned to practice, we were down to our 3rd string tackle(Bill Tyndall) because Tyler Rigsbee was also out with a shin contusion. Our other tackle, Matt Summers-Gavin hasn't made it healthy through an entire season yet and is learning an entirely new position.

On the inside, we're in better shape. If Galas can stay focused, he's a beast in the middle. There's plenty of young talent backing up Schwenke and Cheadle at guard.

But ultimately, it comes down to Coach M. I completely agree with Ohio Bear that he's a proven winner when it comes to teaching and developing an offensive line. If we can get competent play out of Oline, I think our worries at tailback and quarterback will be laid to rest. If we can get outstanding play, well...let's not taunt JuJu.

TwistNHook: Does it change anything that Maynard is a southpaw?

LeonPowe: The talk out of camp is that it doesn't and they're not flipping the line due to Maynard's handedness. But what do I know?

Berkelium97: Teams often line up their best DE on the left side of the line to attack the blind side of the more-common right-handed QBs. Apparently Schwartz will continue to line up at left tackle to block these DEs. Whether our opponents' dominant DEs will switch to the right side of the line remains to be seen, however...

Here's a recent quote from Tedford on the situation:

Tedford said the coaching staff discussed flip-flopping Mitchell Schwartz and Matt Summers-Gavin on the offensive line but decided to keep Schwartz on the left and Summers-Gavin on the right. Maynard is left-handed and conventional wisdom says you want your best tackle protecting his blind side, in this case the right tackle. But Tedford said "A lot of times the guy that’s in your face is more disruptive than the guy behind you because you don’t see the guy behind you… as long as we’re not whiffing on the back side. If you got a guy coming in your face, that’s going to affect your throw more. And the best defensive ends are usually on that side. But we have a lot of confidence in Matt, too. We have two good tackles. It’s not that big of a deal."

HydroTech: I'm definitely hoping for some improvement by the Cal OL this next year. Cal averaged 4.4 yards per rush last year. While that sounds great, it's only good for about #54 in the nation. In other words, we were just average (there are 120 college football teams in the NCAA). This is one of Cal's lowest averages in perhaps all of the Tedford era ( records only go back to 2006).

Cal has always been a dominant run team, and it needs to re-establish that this year. When the run works, it opens up the defense to playaction passes and in general can just make things easier for the passing offense.

If any coach can return Cal's running game to its glory days, it's Coach Michalczik. Having seen him conduct his practices myself, I can say he is someone who will push his players. He has an extreme eye for detail, and demands the very best of his players. Not only that, he holds his players accountable for their mistakes.

I think the return of Coach M to the coaching staff is at least worth a gain of .3 yards per carry from our ball carriers itself. I'm pretty sure we'll see Cal's average yards per rush attempt around the 4.7 mark this upcoming season at the least.

Kodiak: If the Oline can return to form, it may allow us to start throwing the ball to our tight ends again. We had to do a lot of max protect packages last year and it limited what we could do with our passing game.

Where I'm also hopeful that Coach M will be a huge upgrade will be with regards to developing the younger players. It sure felt like we've had some under-performance from previously touted recruits, or have been over-reliant on our starters staying healthy. If/when someone went down in the past couple of years, it had a huge impact on the whole line. Fingers are crossed that we don't have that issue this year, but it would be nice to know we have the depth to rotate guys in as needed.

OhioBear: For the record, here are Cal's yards-per-rush statistics for the Tedford era teams

2002: 3.3
2003: 4.3
2004: 6.1
2005: 5.8
2006: 4.9
2007: 4.9
2008: 5.6
2009: 4.7
2010: 4.4

For the years that the national statistical rankings are available on, Cal's national ranking for yards-per-rush were:
2006: 13th
2007: 14th
2008: 5th
2009: 30th
2010: 48th