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Cal offensive line roundtable: How did Zach Yenser's boys perform in 2014?

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Let's look at the Cal OLine this past season.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

(NOTE: The majority of this roundtable was completed before Zach Yenser departed for KansasHere is news on one Cal offensive line candidate.)

TwistNHook:  How do you guys think the OLine performed in 2014?

Leland Wong: The O-line showed great improvement according to my eye test. Generally, Jared Goff seemed to have more time in the pocket this year than he had last year and when we were in short-yardage situations, they were great at getting the hole open for Luke Rubenzer or Vic Enwere to power through. The War Pigs benefited greatly from the leadership of senior center and Academic All-Everything Chris Adcock. (As an aside, we'll miss him sorely next year at a critical position. Chris Borrayo continues to impress, earning a bevy of All-Conference honors and proving that Coaches Sonny Dykes and Zach Yenser knew what they were doing by burning Borrayo's redshirt last year. Egg on my face for questioning that move.

I did see a lot of places where the team must work. Despite the improvement I saw this year, there were still plays where they missed on critical blocks, forcing rushed passes from Goff or allowing defenders to make early contact with our running backs. This was especially evident against teams with elite defensive lines--like Washington, USC, and Stanfurd. If Cal wants to compete with these rivals and become a feared force in the conference (which we really really want to do), then our O-line must be able to manhandle these guys.

Avinash Kunnath: The most important thing was health. Cal's offensive line started the season healthy, and for the most part stayed healthy. Cal needed these guys to stay strong and stay effective most of the season and they did their job. They also looked much stronger and physical, and at points were able to maul teams in a way they weren't able to in years previous.

The run blocking was what was most impressive; the Bears were able to run much more effectively than in previous seasons. Borrayo provided the nasty, Adcock was solid, Crosthwaite did some good stuff. I'd obviously prefer Jordan Rigsbee at guard rather than tackle next season, but we'll have to see if we have the personnel to make that happen.

Unfortunately, the pass blocking still leaves a lot to be desired. The last seven games of the season saw Jared Goff often running for his life. Cal ran up against a bevy of experienced defensive line talent and didn't have the elite tackles necessary to block them. The Bears struggle to get things in order there this season if they plan on making the next elite leap.

What needs to improve next year?

Cal needs to find the right center to replace Adcock. When Adcock went down his junior season, Cal went from slightly competent offensively to a total haphazard mess. Matt Cochran and Addison Oooms seem to be the primary contenders for this position here, and Cochran struggled with his first stint on the job. Hopefully an additional year and a half of experience.
Cal needs two offensive tackles, particularly on the blind side. Steven Moore is ready and able and is probably our best option, but I think we'd love to see new guys give us added depth so that Rigsbee can move back to guard. Dominic Granado is one possibility.

Cal has surprisingly little guard depth if Matt Cochran takes over the center spot. There's Aaron Cochran, Ooms, and a lot of freshmen/redshirt freshmen/sophomores. Who is ready to make the leap?

boomtho: The OL certainly performed better than last year, but that's quite a low bar. I expected some degree of improvement, due to continuity (both with personnel and in the TFS). LIke Avi mentioned, the improvement was much more pronounced in the run game, with Cal able to improve both the number of carries (a sore spot in season 1 under Dykes) and their YPC average. Pass blocking was more hit or miss - against the soft defenses in the first half of the schedule, the OL looked generally good; however, toward the back half of the schedule, superior defensive linemen were able to generate pressure without the need to bring additional rushers. The UW game was the first sign of impending collapse - they completely stymied the Bear Raid by playing 2 high safeties and killing us with their speed rushers.

Moving to next year, I'm excited to see the OL continue to progress. There are are obviously people that need to be replaced, but year 3 under the TFS, with perhaps some of Dykes' recruits in the mix, should be an even more productive one.

Nick Kranz: If we're looking for reasons for optimism, it should be noted that a ton of really elite pass rushers will be leaving the conference. USC, Stanford, Washington and Utah all should have weaker pass rushes next season.

Obviously, the question is how much better can the line get? Cal is basically maxed out in terms of talent at QB, WR and RB. If the offense is going to take another step forward (from top 25ish offense to top 10) then it will have to come from the line. I don't know nearly enough about the typical aging curves of college offensive linemen, so I'll just hope that our returning starters haven't yet come close to maxing out their talent at the college level.

LeonPowe: Whelp. Yesner is rumored to be moving on.

Trace Travers: This line has more than enough potential for improvement. Though two starters are leaving, the Cochran brothers have more than enough size and potential to fill in those spots. Chris Borrayo is an excellent run blocker who will develop even further through strength training this spring. Rigsbee and Steven Moore are solid bookends who know how to do their job. I wouldn't be surprised if Rigsbee moved back to guard, and Aaron Cochran could move to tackle. Time will tell in the spring however.

boomtho: Welp... that certainly changes my optimism for next season...

Avinash Kunnath: Guess we have to talk about it now; how does the departure of Yenser affect your viewpoint of the line?

Nick Kranz: I'll be interested to hear other opinions, but as best I can tell, Yenser got average talent to perform at an average level. He neither overperformed nor underperformed relative to the ability that had been recruited to Cal. So losing him hurts from a continuity perspective, but this doesn't feel nearly as dangerous as losing, say, a Jim Michalczik.

Leland Wong: The progress of the O-line may not have been particularly earth-shattering, but that may have been because he was still trying to teach spread/vertical set pass protection schemes to pro-style recruits. Who knows what could have happened with more time for the players to be further acclimated in the offense? I think this style of play could still be considered relatively new, so one of Yenser's unique strengths was the fact that he not only understood the offense, but he actually played in this offense at Troy. We'll need to find an O-line coach who's familiar with this style of offense and willing to work for cheap. Bonus points for experience playing in the system and for interacting with the fans on social media like Yenser did.