Previewing Cal’s offensive line

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Cal’s offense is fully stocked at most positions, but when it comes to the offensive line, the depth runs thin which may be trouble for a high-scoring Bear offense.

Quarterbacks and running backs typically receive most of the credit on the offense, but without protection or room to run, an offense falls to pieces and Cal needs its big men if it wants to have a successful 2017 season.

At the left tackle, right tackle and right guard, the Bears only have two players listed on their depth chart. At left guard and center, they only have three players listed.

“It’s thin in terms of bodies but honestly I don’t notice that through the course of practice,” said offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin. “We don’t try to do anything because of (the lack of depth).”

With the departures of key seniors, the offensive line lacks a veteran presence. The Bears also recently lost projected starting right guard redshirt junior Dwayne Wallace, which leaves two freshmen at the position.

The left tackle position has minimal depth, with only two players listed at the position. Junior Patrick Mekari and redshirt sophomore Henry Bazakas are set to hold down the position and fortunately for the Bears, Mekari has experience at the position.

Mekari, the projected starter, has played in 14 games, including four starts, during his first freshman and sophomore seasons at Cal. Mekari’s backup is set to be Bazakas, who has yet to see a play on the field as a Bear.

At left guard, junior Kamryn Bennett is the projected starter who will move from right tackle to left guard. The Bears lost two seniors at this position, including former first-string Chris Borrayo and second-string Jeremiah Stuckey. With those losses, Bennett and second-string guard junior Semisi Uluave will have high expectations to live up to.

Uluave, like Bennett, switched positions for the upcoming season, moving from right to left guard. Uluave has played in eight games off the bench in his two seasons at Cal, but with the loss of Wallace, he may be sent back to the right side of the line.

The center is Cal’s most secure position on the offensive line as redshirt junior Addison Ooms returns for another season. Ooms has established himself as dominant force for the Bears and will be the man who Cal’s turns to for leadership. He has played in 15 games, including all 12 in 2016, and has started in 12 total.

Redshirt sophomore Ryan Gibson is the projected second-string center, but it is likely Ooms will be entrusted with most of the minutes as Gibson has minimal experience.

With Wallace gone at right guard, redshirt freshman Tanner Prenovost may become the team’s starter. Much is going to be expected of the young guard if another player is not brought into the position, but for Prenovost, this could be an opportunity to shine.

Backup to Prenovost is true freshman Poutasi Poutasi. He was the top-ranked offensive guard in the state of Nevada before committing to Cal and was ranked No. 32 nationally, according to Scout.

Much like other positions, there is very minimal depth at right tackle with only two players are listed at the position. Redshirt freshman Jake Curhan owns the starting spot and redshirt senior J.D. Hinnant is the second string.

Curhan was a mid-year enrollee who began at Cal in January 2016, though he dealt with injury during and did not play in his true freshman season, he is back in business after participating in the 2017 spring game. Hinnant was a tight end/fullback last season but has since transitioned to the line. Seeing that both players have little playing experience, they are likely to share time on the field unless one proves worthy of the sole starting spot.

The offensive line is riddled with inexperienced players and a lack of depth. The young players must step up to the challenge and hope to stay healthy throughout the season if they want to make lanes for their rushers and allow their quarterback to step on the field without fear of being mauled on every drive.

 

Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].