RETURNING STARTERS: Mitchell Schwartz, Brian Schwenke
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Dominic Galas
POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Matt Williams
THE BREAKDOWN: The Bears have recruited very well along the offensive line in recent years, and although the unit has played well at times, frankly it should be better. Cal’s biggest recruit this year was Jim Michalczik, the Bears’ former OL coach who is back in Berkeley for a second Tour of Duty. Michalczik will be charged with making sure the Bears get the best offensive linemen on the field, and in the right roles.
Michalczik no doubt was pleased to see the familiar face of Schwartz when he was re-hired. Schwartz was Michalczik’s starting left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2008 and is the clear rock of the unit this season. Schwartz was an All-Pac-10 second team selection last season and should return to his role of left tackle this season.
Schwenke figures to play one of the guard spots. He started last season at left guard but moved to right guard late in the season when Matt Summers-Gavin reclaimed his position there. Schwenke showed promise as a sophomore and could emerge as a top O-lineman this season.
Chris Guarnero is gone, opening up the center position. It would be hard to imagine anyone but Dominic Galas taking over, but the spring will be a time for other candidates such as Mark Brazinski to make a push. Galas had a couple opportunities for significant playing time last season when Guarnero was banged up and looked pretty good.
Assuming Schwenke is solid at one guard spot, the other position could be a battle between Summers-Gavin and Justin Cheadle. It looked as though Summers-Gavin was going to be a starter at left guard last season but he was injured early on in training camp and barely played until late in the season. When healthy, Summers-Gavin is potentially a dominant player.
(Note: I didn’t list Summers-Gavin or Cheadle as returning starters even though each started some games last season. But given Cheadle lost his starting job at the end of the year and Summers-Gavin barely played for most of the season, it would be hard to fairly call them returning starters)
Summers-Gavin could also play right tackle. He took reps at left tackle last spring and looked to be the favorite there with Schwartz moving to right tackle. But on the first day of training camp, Summers-Gavin lined up next to Schwartz at left guard, and was going to play there before he got hurt.
Right tackle appears to be the biggest hole along the offensive line, as Donovan Edwards has moved on. Cal could use Summers-Gavin and Cheadle on the right side of the line to give the overall unit more experience. But the spring will give the coaching staff a chance to look at others, most notably newcomer Matt Williams, JC transfer who was recruited by a handful of big-time schools. Williams is 6-7 and athletic, and could give the Bears a dynamic addition to the line.