During the 2017 season, the California Golden Bears will be without the services of experienced offensive linemen Chris Borrayo, Steven Moore, and Dominic Granado, and have lost Aaron Cochran to transfer. That means that during the 2017 season, Cal will be without 4 of the 5 starting offensive linemen from the 2016 season. Naturally, Cal is looking to retain depth and add talent on the offensive line. That’s where offensive lineman Michael Saffell comes in.
Saffell has a great GPA according to Ryan Gorcey from Scout, so it seems that he certainly has the requisite smarts needed to play the center position. And based off of his senior highlight reel, he has the other tools needed to play center. He is already 6’2” 293 lb. and he plays like it. He bullies opposing players, driving them back and moving the line of scrimmage. We see him playing hard and with attitude throughout his highlight reel, finishing his blocks and playing through the whistle. Saffell moves fairly well for his size. We see him finish his tackle, move to the second level, and block another defender.
Saffell does a good job of locating a defender that needs to be blocked, whether he is dropping back into pass coverage or blocking downfield. When moving downfield, he has his head on a swivel and his feet moving, always looking for the next target to hit, showing good balance as he hits targets downfield. On pass coverage he shows the lateral agility to slide and mirror the defender, and once he has his hands on them he shows his strength as he is able to sustain his blocks. In Gorcey’s article, he notes that Saffell has trained with Jesse Sapolu, a former 49ers Pro Bowl OL, for about 5 years. We can see that Saffell uses good technique, playing with good knee bend and pad level. And from the sounds of his interview, it looks like he is looking to consistently improve.
From his highlight reel, we can see that Saffell is physical, athletic, plays hard and nasty, and already has a large frame upon which to build. With those physical traits and a strong work ethic, it is easy to see him slotting in at center a few years down the road, especially if he continues to refine his technique, to work on his flexibility, foot speed, and strength during his time at Cal.