August 21, 2010

Plowing the way

BERKELY- It was a gloomy and cold morning in Berkeley when the Cal football team began their double-day Saturday. On a morning where they San Francisco Bay was smothered in big and ugly clouds, it seemed only appropriate to look into Bears' big uglies.

Offensive Lineman Matt Summers-Gavin has not returned to the practice field since his injury early in camp. The sophomore is no longer walking with a limp and head coach Jeff Tedford says the coaches will take a closer look at him next week.

"He's progressing. Hopefully by midweek next week we'll see and evaluate him. We'll see when he comes back," said Tedford. "Matt can play both guard and tackle so we'll see at that point. A lot can happen between now and then so depending on our health and things, we'll figure that out then."

In his absence, the offensive line has worked hard throughout camp. The offensive line during first-team reps Saturday morning included Mitchell Schwartz at left tackle, Dominic Galas at left guard, Chris Guarnero at center, Brian Schwenke at right guard and Donovan Edwards playing right tackle.

"They're doing fine," said Tedford of the offensive line. "It's been the whole camp, (Summers-Gavin) got hurt on the second day, so they've been at those positions throughout camp and they're doing just fine."

Galas has played both center and covered for the injured Summers-Gavin at left guard. Both Tedford and Galas are unsure of what will happen when Matt returns to play.

"I've been running center and left guard," Galas said. "The coaches are going to put us in the best position to win so wherever they tell me is where I'll end up. Wherever the coaches think is the best position for the team is where I'll be."

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson spoke last week of the extra work that the backs and offensive line had done since last year. So far in camp, it looks as though that work has paid off.

"I think we're really coming together, gelling," explained Galas. "Everyone is talking, communicating, getting along real good on the line, making all the calls; I think the team as a whole is coming together real well. We're closing in on two weeks so we're excited, we're warm, we're ready and we're ready to get on with the season."

"In the spring and the summer we've all been alternating, getting ready to play any position, so there's been a lot of shifting around, a lot of movement, so you kind of prepare for that," said Schwartz after practice on Saturday morning. "Luckily we have a lot of smart guys, so the transition is pretty easy because they know their job and I know my job. We all get along pretty well so it's been a lot of fun to work with all the guys."

By playing both center and left guard, Galas says he has developed a much better understanding of the relationship each offensive lineman plays to the person on either side of them.

"The assignments are definitely different at center and left guard, but a lot of times they help out with each other," Galas said. "If you're at left guard and you know what the center is doing, you know where you should be. So they kind of complement each other real well, that experience is a good thing. It gives me a better understanding of where the help protection is, where the center is going to be versus the tackle and the left guard when I'm at center. It helps out a lot."

Schwartz has noticed the payoff of the offensive line's off-season work, particularly that of Galas.

"Him specifically, he has come a long way and just keeps getting better every day through understanding," said the 6-foot-5 junior. "There's a lot more to protection then just your job - it's kind of seeing how the other linemen fit, how the running back fits, tight ends - so it's more than just knowing your job.

"With all the extra time he's putting in and all the meetings and stuff, he specifically is getting better at doing that. For us as a unit it's the same type of thing, we keep getting better at understanding the protection as a whole. So we know how we all fit into the protection rather than just what our job is on that play."

Throughout the Tedford era at Cal, a combination of great protection and extraordinary talent at tailback have led to a great running game for the Bears. Both Schwartz and Galas had nothing but great things to say of the guys they will be paving the way for.

"We're excited to block for them, open up holes for them," said Galas of the Bears' tailbacks. "They're going to make us look good and we're going to make them look good. We're going to open up big holes and they're going to hit those holes hard. We're excited because we know we've got the best backs there are out in the backfield and I think we're excited to block for them."

"Ever since coach Tedford got here we've had so many great backs," said Schwartz. "It's always been not just the one back but the second and the third guy, and this year we have great depth. Just having a whole stable of guys and they all bring something different. It's just great knowing no matter what the play is, you have complete confidence in them not only to hit the hole, but if you miss a block or make a bad play they will still make you look good."

At left tackle, Schwartz will be protecting Riley's all-important blindside. He knows how critical his job will be each game and that it only takes one play to erase an entire day of great work.

"Pass blocking is obviously tough with Riley not being able to see," explained Schwartz. "You always got to be so perfect. If you have one bad play out of seventy five and the quarterback gets blown up and you have a terrible game and that guy on defense has one good play all day and all the sudden he's in the papers for blowing up the quarterback.

"He might have had sixty-four terrible plays and that one play kind of defines his day. So you always have to be perfect on each play. With pass protection it's a little bit more specific because it's a bigger picture thing and guys are able to see your faults if you screw up."

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has brought some serious heat on the line thus far in camp. Schwartz sees the new, more complicated schemes as invaluable preparation for the season, and is confident that it will pay huge dividends once the first whistle blows.

"He's probably got some of the most complicated stuff out there, coming from the NFL and that background," said Schwartz. "So it's been great to go up against that kind of stuff in practice. It kind of prepares us for all the complicated stuff we're going to see in games.

"It's a little tough because he keeps throwing stuff at us and we have to adjust on the fly. You get into a game plan and plan for certain things; certain personnel and who you want to block and that type of thing. Right now we're just trying to apply our base rules to the defense and so it's been great from that perspective too because it really reinforces your rules and you have to know what your doing on each play and where to go and then you let the rest take care of itself."

Practice Notes

• 11-on-11s on Saturday morning all took place from the defense's four yard line. Playing in their own end zone, the defense held strong before allowing some scores.

Kendrick Payne quickly got to quarterback Beau Sweeney for a sack. Payne has been great all camp. Sweeney scored on a keeper up the middle on the next play. He continues to show great ability on his feet.

• Cornerback Steve Williams made a pair of great plays. First he broke up a pass intended for Michael Calvin before locking down his man in the end zone, forcing Sweeney to throw the ball out of bounds. Tedford said yesterday the redshirt freshman Williams and sophomore Marc Anthony are both competing for a starting spot at corner.

Ryan Wertenberger had some good reps to end practice. First he escaped the pocket and headed to what looked like a wide open field on the left side before Dash Oliver closed in an instant and forced him out of bounds for a short gain. He then threw two touchdowns, the first by way of an incredible catch from starting tight end Anthony Miller and then with an impressive connection to receiver Spencer Hagan



 

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