By Jonathan Okanes
Friday, March 14th, 2008 at 6:08 pm in off-season stuff.
The Bears have done a terrific job recently of plugging the holes in their offensive line when they lose players to graduation, and it looks as though this year should be no different.
For the second straight season, Cal will have to replace the left side of its offensive line. Tackle Mike Gibson and guard Brian De La Puente have moved on. Mike Tepper will move from right tackle to left tackle to replace Gibson. Tepper showed substantial improvement between his sophomore and junior year and will need to be even better as protects the quarterback’s blind side.
Mark Boskovich, who was pushing Noris Malele for playing time at right guard at the end of last season, gets the first crack at left guard. Boskovich started taking some first team reps away from Malele during practice at the end of last season.
With Tepper moving over from right tackle, that position becomes open, and Chet Teofilo is slated to fill in. Teofilo played pretty well for Gibson in the last couple of games of last season when Gibson was forced out with a concussion.
Of course, any transition in the offensive line is made easier by the presence of Alex Mack, who will be one of the top returning centers in the country last season. Mack’s decision to stay in school for his senior season ensured the offensive line will once again be a strength of the Bears.
Over the last two seasons, Cal has allowed just 24 sacks, the third-best mark in the nation.
Cal also is high on several young offensive linemen which should provide some quality depth. Sam DeMartinis was a scout team MVP last season and Justin Cheadle is another top young prospect. Chris Guarnero is Mack’s heir apparent at center, while Richard Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz could also be in them mix to become a backup.
Plus, dont’ forget a couple of wildcards: Kevin Bemoll, a well-regarded lineman who was suspended last season, has returned to active duty. And Matt Summers-Gavin, one of Cal’s top recruits in 2007, has finally enrolled in school after taking last year off because the effects of a bad concussion.
Cameron Morrah has big shoes to fill at tight end, but he showed glimpses of being an accomplished pass-catcher last season. Morrah has to improve his blocking. Coach Jeff Tedford seems intrigued by Tad Smith, who has made the switch from defensive line. Skylar Curran is listed No. 2 on the spring depth chart behind Morrah. In the fall, the Bears will welcome highly recruited tight end Spencer Ladner.
We’ll switch to the defense next, but with the beginning of spring practice being pushed back, I plan on holding off on those previews until we get closer to March 31.