Avinash Kunnath: It will be better. We are returning four of our five starters from last season, and the one that we lost was probably one of the worst performing tackles of the modern Cal era. All five starters this season saw significant playing time at multiple positions last season, and we do have one backup that can probably be plenty capable if given the shot.
Now it's not all strawberries and cream. We are really thin in terms of depth. There are so many freshmen and redshirt freshmen on that two deep and none of them are players I would really like to see out there this season. Chris Borrayo turned out to be a pleasant surprise, but I'm not so certain on any of his other compatriots being quite ready to be that good that quickly. And the tackle situation is precarious. Steven Moore is our only proven tackle--Jordan Rigsbee is out there but I'd much rather see him on the inside; Brian Farley has his good and bad moments.
The ideal situation would be if one of the new faces can get into the lineup. Thankfully, it looks like Dominic Granado is starting to make a move to be a starting right tackle. If he can handle it, that could allow Rigsbee to move back in and play guard. I'm pretty confident in feeling Rigsbee/Borrayo/Adcock interior would be top-5 in run blocking in the Pac-12, and Matt Cochran/Alejandro Crosthwaite would be ready to step in and play as a super-sub.
This could turn out to be the breakthrough unit in 2014, or could have just one too many weaknesses to really allow the Bear Raid to break out.
Nick Kranz: Here's a question worth pondering: How good does the line need to be to allow the skill position players to do their thing? Do we need a top half of the conference line? Can we get away with a mediocre line? Obviously, improvement from last year is necessary, but how much?
If Goff is ready to take a major step, if the receivers are as talented and as deep as we hope, and if there's some improvement from the running backs, then maybe the line doesn't need to be great - just good enough to give Goff a little time and some escape paths. Just good enough to let our backs find a few holes and take advantage of a defense worrying about four good receivers.
We can all hope that somehow the line turns from liability to biggest strength, but I would happily settle for a line that simply doesn't hinder everything the offense tries to do, even if it doesn't make a hugely positive difference.
boomtho: To Nick's question, I think if we get league average line play, we can have an above average offense given the depth of skill players we have.
Now, will we get to league average? You always want to extrapolate improvement as players mature in the system, but my counter-worry is that 1) other DL's will be improved, too and 2) there's now a year of tape on the Bear Raid in the Pac-12. Sunshine pumper that I am, I think we'll get to at least league average, due to players growing in the system, a deep RB stable (that will take pressure off the offense, in particular the OL, if we can avoid obvious passing downs), and the maturation of Goff as well.
Avinash Kunnath: The big issue with moving up is that the Pac-12 will be swamped with good O-linemen. The Ducks suffered a blow with Tyler Johnstone going down, but they still hold onto the majority of their lineup like Hroniss Grasu. Arizona and Washington return plenty of experience--none of them are big names but they will be deep and able to give their offenses plenty of time. UCLA is through with the "starting three freshmen" blues and should be a much improved unit even with Xavier Su'a-Filo off to the pros. Furd lost almost everyone, but they have that monster 2012 class coming in to replace everyone with Andrus Peat leading the way. And USC will always have enough talent to be a competent unit, particularly with Max Tuerk holding the middle.
So I see this unit being able to work their way to the middle of the pack. ASU has Jamil Douglas returning but a pretty average line otherwise. Ditto Oregon State with Isaac Seumalo; the Beavers ran the ball almost as badly as we did last year. Colorado and WSU are probably going to struggle this season. This is a strong offensive league this season so I think middle-of-the-pack would be great progress for the Bears.
TwistNHook: How bad can we be when Coach Yenser uses the hashtag #WARPIGS for their group photo?
I'm happy with this tweet here about the play of Jordan Rigsbee:
Biggest takeaway from last 3 #Cal practices: since Jordan Rigsbee has moved to first team RT haven't heard a single Brennan Scarlett mention— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) August 16, 2014
Avinash Kunnath: Do you all feel more concerned about the run blocking or the pass protection next season? Both sides had their struggles last year, although both units figure to be massively improved in this aspect.
[LeonPowe] @Avi Conventional wisdom says that pass protection is always more difficult conceptually and executionally than run blocking. This makes sense to me, as run blocking, even with pulling guards and shifts still seems to appeal to a football player's base instinct of going forward and pushing the guy ahead of you back, while pass blocking is seems more to be setting up the pocket, making sure you're picking off blitzers or delayed pass rushers.
Vlad Belo: For some reason, I am more optimistic about the O-line than I have been going into the last couple of seasons. And that was even before the Jordan Rigsbee tweet shown above, suggesting that Rigsbee was doing a good job against Cal's best returning defensive lineman. With a year under O-line coach Zach Yenser and the Bear Raid system, I expect to see that the O-line will show improvement. Familiarity with what we're doing will be a big plus for these guys.
To Nick's question, I don't think we need to have an elite offensive line to be successful. I'm not sure I'd call what we need simply "mediocre" or "average." I just think we need an offensive line that is good at what it does. Execution, execution, execution. For example, I'm not sure how often you'd say that Navy has an elite offensive line. But they have some success because they are extremely good at what they do in their blocking for the option offense.
To Avi's question, I'm worried more about run blocking simply because we haven't had much success blocking the running game the last few years. If the offensive line is truly improved to where we can get yards in the running game on a consistent basis, it might be must-see TV when Cal is on offense
Ruey Yen: Last year, our O-Line was so overmatched, that I think it is a forgone conclusion that this year will be "better". To Avi's question, I agree with LeonPowe in that run blocking would be easier than pass protection. I think the main reason for that is that pass protection requires more of reading the defense than run blocking, where the offense line can better dictate the play.
I would just add that I am optimistic that our skill players are good enough that they can make our O-Line looks more adequate as teams may not rush as guys. I may be wrong here but I think the proper oiled Bear Raid may be the type of system that makes everyone in it looks better, so maybe our lack of great individual O-Line prospects may not be a problem. So while the O-Line improvement is essentially, maybe we can get away with just hitting a relatively low threshold to be competent.