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Football: Spring practice preview — offensive line

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.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Pcinsf

    6’7″ jeez what a beast!

  • Jan K Oski

    I’ll call it. If this group dramatically improves from a disappointing showing last year, the Bears will be in the top 2 of the North. If they don’t, it is anyone’s guess where our Bears land.

    Go BEARS!

  • c98

    There was so much hype about Mark Brazinski. IIRC he was rated as the #2 center in the nation out of high school.

  • StanfordJim

    Williams may have size/build, but he lacks the experience to get meaningful line time next season. Brazinski needs to finally grow up and grow into a starting role – most likely guard and backup center this season.
    MSG needs to protect his melon and stay on the field where he can be nasty and dominant.
    Crosthwaite would be my vote for “Possible Surprise” since he isn’t even mentioned in the article.
    It would be nice to finally see Rigsbee out there, but I will have to believe it when I see it.

  • Eric

    Whatever happened to Sam DeMartinis? That guy was a stud at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

  • rotfogel

    Cal’s biggest offensive play this offseason. Bye Bye to Andy Ludwig. Thank God that guy can no longer touch the Cal playbook. I’ve never seen such horrid play call in my life.

  • Michael

    I agree about the OL. A good OL will allow EVERYTHING else to fall into place.

    The one thing I will say about Ludwig is that he sometimes got to cute with his play calls. There were some plays that worked great, but were never used again. Opting instead to try a “new” play.

    Go Bears

  • David

    I believe more of Ludwig’s play calls would have worked if our OL and QB played well.

  • Ozone

    @Eric I believe Sam is a senior this year. He is still on the team as far as I know.

  • milo

    I agree…Ludwig’s offense probably would have done better with a decent o-line.

    Glad Coach M is back and hopefully these guys have enough in them and get some decent coaching to hang tough.

    p.s. StanfurdJim…TAKE OFF THAT RED SHIRT!!!