Spring practice review: Offensive line

HELPED HIS CAUSE: Tyler Rigsbee. Because of the back injury to starting tackle Mitchell Schwartz, the Bears got a look at some of their younger tackles during the spring. Rigsbee ended up taking much of the first team reps at left tackle with Matt Summers-Gavin at right tackle. Coach Jeff Tedford singled Rigsbee out as one of the players that stood out during camp. Even if Schwartz and Summers-Gavin are the starting tackles, which appears likely, the experience Rigsbee got this spring should help Cal in the depth department this fall.

WORK TO DO: Matt Williams. The transfer from North Dakota State picked Cal over a host of big-time suitors, but even though he’s a junior, he doesn’t appear close to cracking the rotation yet. Rigsbee, Sam DeMartinis and Bill Tyndall all got more reps and seemed to be in higher regard among the coaches. Williams is no doubt still getting used to the complexities of Cal’s blocking schemes — he’s a Liverpool, England native who is relatively new to football. But Williams, by all accounts, has good athleticism for his size (6-foot-7, 286 pounds), and still could make a push in the fall.

WHERE WE STAND: It was hard to get a true evaluation of the offensive line because of the injuries to Schwartz and projected starting center Dominic Galas. The unit the Bears did line up struggled, but some of that has to be because of the inexperienced players getting reps in the injured players’ absence. Guys like Rigsbee, DeMartinis and Tyndall will be better off in the long run because of the reps they got this spring. But as of right now, it’s clear the Bears need Schwartz and Galas to be healthy for the offensive line to be at its best. Cal also needs tight ends Spencer Ladner and Jarrett Sparks to get healthy, although converted wide receiver Spencer Hagan looked strong in the spring but needs to get bigger.

MOVING FORWARD: Despite the uneven play this spring, the Bears are looking at a pretty experienced unit when everyone is healthy. Assuming left-handed quarterback Zach Maynard gets the starting job, Schwartz should move to right tackle to protect his blind side. That would put Summers-Gavin at left tackle. Justin Cheadle looked strong at times I isolated on him this spring, and he should enter the fall as the starting right guard. Brian Schwenke is back at left guard and Galas has excellent potential at center. Throw in Anthony Miller at tight end, and new (and former) offensive line coach has to feel good about his starting point in the fall. Then throw in the experience the younger guys got in the spring, and there is definitely the possibility for improvement from a unit that has had ups and downs in recent years.

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.

  • Sean

    Of the offensive units, Im less worried about the O-line. Ive heard they looked off during the spring, but I really think thats because of the guys nursing injuries. We have a lot of experience here, and I have no doubt that Couch M will get these guys performing at their best. I’m more concerned about running back and qb. I think the O-line will be significantly better than last year.

  • Haas

    The OL looked worse this past Spring than it looked last year and the year before. What’s sad about that statement is that the OL has been very weak the past two years. I hope JO is right about Galas, but IMO he is a guy that excells at run blocking while really struggling in pass protection. His height and short wing span are a big disadvantage in pass blocking.

  • rollonubears

    I think if the O-line is significantly better than last year, the QB and RB situation should be better, too. Remember, for half the year, we had our backup QB in there. Finishing 5-7 wasn’t all that bad considering. Next year should be an 8-5 year, with a bowl win, provided we stay healthy, which is a big IF.

  • Meep.

    Well, finishing 5-7 was still pretty bad IMHO because of how we got there. Our backup QB basically did absolutely nothing during those last 4 games, and the only team we beat was WSU…and that was by an inch.

  • Sean

    Lets also not forget that we lost 3 games because of 3 plays. Had we had some luck this past season, we would have upset Arizona, upset Oregon and beaten Washington. Turn those three games, and its an 8-4 season, not 5-7.

  • milo

    Seriously, last season is over. Yes it was EF’ed up but as mentioned a lot went wrong at the same time and that includes bad breaks and bad luck. If Cal can get 25% better o-line play and 30-405 better QB play, I think expectations will be exceeded. Big IF but it’s not out of reach and I’m not talking complete revamp, just a reasonable improvement.

  • The only position of worry is RB.J.T. has no one that has shown anything.The freshmen better be good.

  • CalChicago

    I think that if teams don’t respect our running game it could be a very long season. JT hasn’t faced that situation for a long time. Teams have put 8 in the box to stop the pass for as long as I can remember now, and that’s because we had homerun or near-homerun threats every year, with Lynch, Best, Vereen, and Forsett was just plain solid his last season. In the freshmen we pray…