Although spring football doesn’t always have a huge sense or urgency, it would appear to be important for this Cal football team if it expects to forge through to a Pac-10 championship.
This team has incredible strengths, but some huge holes to fill.
Those of you who have followed my stuff over the years know that I believe it is a huge bonus for a football team to take five starting offensive linemen through the spring and into the season. Teams that can’t do that tend to struggle. Fortunately for Cal, it has a great offensive line coach in Jim Michalczik. His importance has been hidden the past few years, but consider some of the injuries Cal has had along the offensive line and still managed to keep a high level of play. Look at last season, when Cal lost three NFL players off the line yet still managed to put together an above average offense.
That being said, being above average isn’t good enough when it comes to winning a Pac-10 championship.Cal is going to be challenged this coming year because two of its potential starters, Mike Gibson and Noris Malele, aren’t playing in the spring. That becomes more critical because Michalczik said he is going to experiment by moving center Alex Mack to tackle. Cal could get into summer camp with a lineup such as Mack at left tackle, Gibson at right tackle, Malele at right guard, Brian De La Puente at the other guard and Chris Guarnero at center. That would leave Gibson and Malele as the only guys who played that same position last season. They would have a crash course in terms of learning each other’s moves. The key here seems to be Mike Tepper. He’s got the size and strength to be a force. If he can prove himself in the spring, it could allow Mack to stay at center. Personally, I think a starting lineup of Gibson at right tackle, Malele at right guard, Mack at center, De La Puente at left guard and Gibson at left tackle would work well in terms of cohesion. Guarnero is a huge talent, but breaking in new centers every year is a dangerous practice. That being said, teams seldom flourish if defensive ends can blow past the left tackle.
I also wonder what it would be like to have Tepper at left tackle, Kevin Bemoll at left guard, Mack at center, Malele or De La Puente at right guard and Gibson at right tackle. In terms of running the football, Wow. Tepper is huge, Bemoll is a beast and Mack is the top center in the Pac-10. Need that extra yard? You know where to go.