Cal's offensive line is undergoing another transformation this offseason even though the only starter from 2009 who left was Mike Tepper. That's how important the role of a left tackle is. The two frontrunners for that job is Matt Summers-Gavin, who started at left guard last season, or Mitchell Schwartz, who was the starting right tackle.
Schwartz also started at left tackle 10 games in 2008, which helps put him in good shape of doing it again in 2010. Listed at 6'6" and 331 pounds, Schwartz is the prototypical size for the left tackle position. Summers-Gavin, who also has the talent to perform at a high level as a left tackle, is just 6'4" and 290 pounds in comparison -- a size better suited to the right tackle spot or the guard position he held in 2009. What's great for Cal, either player can play on the right or left, and that can only make the offensive line better this coming season. Talking with Cal's offensive line coach Jim Marshall on Saturday, I asked if Cal had a player on the line that Bear Backers could count on starting this season.
"Schwartz will start somewhere," said Marshall before continuing with a chuckle. "I don't know where, but probably Schwartz and Chris Guarnero is a senior kid that played center for us. He's an undersized guy, but he plays hard." Guarnero, listed at 6'2" and 281 pounds is slotted to play center again in 2010 and judging by his '09 performance, it would be surprising to not see him crouched over the ball when Cal's offense takes the field against UC Davis on September 4.
As far as the offensive line having their struggles this spring, Marshall isn't worried. Spring practice is a tool for him to get all of his linemen live action rep's and he's been moving linemen around in order to see how they fit. This discontinuity is what leads to the defense being farther ahead every year at this time. Marshall's biggest concern is, "to get the best five guys at the best five positions."
With summer camp coming up in August, it's important to remember that even though a player looks to be a sure thing in April, nothing is certain. Marshall was sure to mention that as well. After mentioning Schwartz and Guarnero, he quickly paused the discussion to say, "We'll see. I don't want to...I don't know yet, but I like what I see so far." Whoever starts for the Golden Bears in 2010, the only thing that anyone cares about is that the line can open holes for Shane Vereen and protect quarterback Kevin Riley -- a task that hasn't been consistent over the last two seasons.