Wednesday, September 05, 2007

SF Chronicle: Offensive Line Gets Its Props

Rusty Simmons

On Justin Forsett's 13-yard touchdown run Saturday, center Alex Mack took out three Tennessee players.  On a clock-eating drive in the fourth quarter of the 45-31 win, Mack fell while trying to make one block but took out two other players from his seat. The All-America candidate provided just two of the reasons coach Jeff Tedford took notice of the entire unit. "If one thing stood out to me, it was the play of the offensive line," he said Tuesday. "Not only were they physical, they pass-protected well. They hustled downfield ... 25 yards downfield, they were still blocking people. "When you have a quality offensive line like we have, it can afford you the opportunity to do things." The Bears didn't allow a sack and got 241 passing yards. They also outrushed the Vols 230-111. It was a pretty resounding answer from a group that has been a training-camp question mark. The line had to replace gutsy left tackle Andrew Cameron, who returned after undergoing three surgeries in a 10-month span, and left guard Erik Robertson, who became the heartbeat of the unit.  "I was somewhat anxious about hitting a different color," Mack said, "but I'm really happy with our offensive line right now."

Rankings, schmankings: As usual, Tedford was less than enthusiastic about the polls, which moved Cal to No. 10. "It does nothing for the team as far as I'm concerned," he said. "We'll practice and prepare the same way." The Bears were No. 9 last preseason and moved to No. 8 in the AP poll before losing to Arizona. They finished the 2004 season at No. 9 and the 1991 season at No. 8. They were in the top five each year from 1948-50. When cornerback Brandon Hampton saw the poll for the first time Tuesday, he said, "That's not high enough. We still have work to do."

Altitude, schmaltitude: No one appears too concerned about playing against Colorado State on Saturday at high altitude. The Fort Collins, Colo., school sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet.  "A 4.3 seconds (40-yard dash) is still a 4.3 at altitude, but I don't know how long it will last," receiver Robert Jordan said. "Speed is speed. The altitude won't make that much of a difference, if it does at all."

Tailback threesome: Jahvid Best got four carries to James Montgomery's zero against Tennessee, but Montgomery, who caught a 1-yard screen pass, is still listed as the No. 2 tailback on the depth chart. "The three-back rotation is a little bit difficult to get all three in there," Tedford said. "I still think that James is an every-down back. I don't know if Jahvid is ready to be an every-down back, so that's the biggest difference right now." Montgomery is seen more of an extension of starter Forsett, while Best has special offense packages for his series. "We call James 'The Governor,' " Forsett said. "He's so distinguished, and he came in already knowing the playbook back and forth. "He's going to get more playing time, and he's going to do some great things."

Briefly: Tedford said receiver DeSean Jackson has a sprained thumb, but he should "be OK" by Saturday. ... Asked about the maturity of quarterback Nate Longshore, Jordan said, "He's getting his Peyton Manning on." ... Hampton started wearing a Superman T-shirt during pregame last season. He wore it under his jersey during Saturday's game. ... As expected, Cal's draftees - Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo), Brandon Mebane (Seattle), Daymeion Hughes (Indianapolis) and Desmond Bishop (Green Bay) - each made their respective NFL teams. Fullback Byron Storer (Tampa Bay) and defensive end Nu'u Tafisi (Seattle) made practice squads.


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