AN EARLY DEPTH CHART - OFFENSIVE LINEWell, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that Cal's offensive line will likely be stronger in '07 than it was in '06, particularly in the run game. The Bears return five guys who started at some point last season. Cal also has two very promising kids who could battle for starts at guard in Kevin Bemoll and Chris Guarnero.
The bad news? One of the maxims of college football is that offensive linemen get hurt, and Cal has very little depth at tackle. Given that one of our tackles - Mike Tepper - is fortunate to walk let alone play football after being hit by a car, that's a bit of a concern.
Tedford and Michalczik are addressing this concern in recruiting, securing verbals from four incoming freshmen thus far (with a fifth - Matt Summers-Gavin, down to Cal and Notre Dame). Unfortunately, none of these guys are jucos and true freshmen have a harder time making the jump to the collegiate level at OL than at any other position outside of quarterback.
LT: Mike Tepper (Junior)/Justin Pruiett (Sophomore)
Outlook - Tepper is very solid, and appears to be physically stable (which is a minor miracle, frankly). He's huge (6'6"/340) and athletic and should continue to shut down the blind-side rush for Longshore. Pruiett is intriguing, and still has room to fill out a very big frame. Still learning the position, though - his first start on offense was the HS Cali-Florida Bowl in early 2006.
LG: Kevin Bemoll (RS Freshman)/Brian De La Puente (Senior)
Outlook - We're betting that Bemoll beats out De La Puente for the starting job. By all accounts he's a monster in the run game and could be a four-year starter for Cal. De La Puente started three games this season on the other side, and is a good backup - though he was generally the weak link along Cal's line. He could easily flop to the right side and start in place of Malele, but we think Noris was the stronger contributor. This position is the single biggest question mark for the Bears along the line, since whomever starts will replace Erik Robertson, a solid performer.
C: Alex Mack (Junior)/Mark Gray (Senior)
Outlook - It never hurts to return an all-conference center. Mack is accomplished beyond his years at a position that must make line calls when the defense shifts. Gray is a very good backup, who may mix in a little at other positions if depth is required - he played some guard at JC. This may be one of the best center two-deeps in CFB.
RG: Noris Malele (Junior)/Chris Guarnero (RS Freshman)
Outlook - Malele started eight games in '06, though he occasionally struggled in the run game. Linemen often see a big jump between their sophomore and junior years, and here's hoping that Noris makes one. Many believe Guarnero may start here before the season's over (we knew there was a reason Miami offered him).
RT: Mike Gibson (Senior)/Matt Laird (Sophomore)
Outlook - Gibson is a returning 2nd team All-Pac 10 performer, so we're set here. Laird is untested, but he's a promising prospect with good feet (he played hoops and switched from tight end to tackle in HS).
Others: Cal doesn't have much scholarship depth beyond this two-deep (excluding the incoming players, who will hopefully blueshirt). Junior (to be) Chet Teofilo didn't play this year, but could be a third guard on either side. There are three walk-ons - Mark Boskovich, Richard Fisher, and Dan Lopez, who would be emergency guys.
Summary: Depth is an issue at both tackle spots. That said, this should be a better run-blocking unit than the 2006 squad, and pass blocking should be essentially the same. Look for the incoming juniors (Tepper, Malele, Mack) to perhaps make a leap in performance, and watch Bemoll and Guarnero in spring ball to see if they live up to expectations. Cal is bringing in a strong class, so depth should be much less of a concern in '08.