Position Preview: Offensive Line

The Year That Was

The boys up front were as inconsistent as the rest of Cal’s offense in 2010.

They helped running back Shane Vereen surpass the 1,000-yard mark on the ground — though he often had to work for those gains.

That doesn’t paint the whole picture, however. When Cal did lose big, the O-line was usually a culprit. The Bears committed 12 penalties—a number of them from the offensive line— in their 35-7 loss to Oregon State. They were also completely manhandled up front against USC at the Coliseum last October.

The offensive line’s depth was impacted even before the 2010 season started.  Guard/tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, one of the team’s most physical linemen, was injured on the second day of fall camp. He missed the first game and did not start until the ninth contest.

Key Changes

The Bears have a new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach: Jim Michalczik. He was the squad’s O-line coach from 2002 to 2008 before moving on to the Oakland Raiders for the last two years. During his first stint with Cal, the squad’s offense was among the best in the country, as were the team’s O-lines (ever heard of a fellow named Alex Mack?).

Two starters, Donovan Edwards and Chris Guarnero, have graduated. Edwards, a right tackle, started all 12 games in 2010, while Guarnero, a two-time All Pac-10 Honorable Mention selection, was the starting center in 11 of the 12 contests.

Junior Dominic Galas will likely take Guarnero’s place as the starting center. Galas has played in all 25 games possible in his career at Cal and excelled when starting in place of the injured Guarnero against UCLA in 2010.

Keep an Eye

Incoming freshman Jordan Rigsbee, a 6-foot-5, 300 pound offensive guard, is ranked No. 9 nationally at his position by Rivals.com.

Matt Williams, a Junior College transfer from North Dakota, is Rivals’ No. 13 JUCO prospect. The Liverpool, England native enrolled at Cal early to participate in spring drills.

Outlook

The Bears’ offensive line is full of veterans, save for Rigsbee and Williams. Along with Summers-Gavin and Galas, Mitchell Schwartz and guards Justin Cheadle and Brian Schwenke return to anchor the line.

Schwartz, a senior, was recently named to the 2011 Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List, given to the top lineman or linebacker in the country. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound tackle and 2010 second-team All-Pac-10 selection has started every game in his Cal career.

Cheadle started eight games at right guard last season, while Schwenke started all 12 games — the first eight at left guard before moving to other side.

The unit is big and experienced, and should greatly benefit from the return of a proven coach. As long as it stays healthy, the offensive line could show much improvement in 2011.

Image Source: Lara Brucker/Daily Californian