Fred Tate and Brandon Jones give a deeper look into the Cal offensive and defensive lines

BERKELEY -- We talk with Cal offensive line coach Brandon Jones and defensive line coach Fred Tate about the big boys in the trenches, plus film of a competitive round of one-on-ones from Thursday.

Read More in our Live Thread From Day Four

BERKELEY -- After losing Kyle KragenMustafa JalilTrevor Kelly and Jonathan JohnsonCalifornia has to rely on some young blood on the defensive line, to go along with veteran hands James LooneyMarcus ManleyDavid Davis (pending his sixth-year appeal) and DeVante Wilson.

New in camp are  Evan WeaverChinedu UdeoguChris Yaghi and Tevin Paul, but because of the early start this year, they're all still in Summer Bridge, and so miss much of the early-day goings-on, including meetings.

"They get to practice by 10th period, so we haven't gotten good, true evaluation on them, because they haven't been here through individuals, through the better part of practice, and the teaching aspect of it," said defensive line coach Fred Tate. "We've thrown them in there blind in the team periods, but, having said that, the last couple days, we see the athletic ability, why we recruited these young guys, and we see some signs that they're going to get there. Now, they're going to be here for the next however-many days, full-time, we'll be able to tell a little bit more." Weaver, the former Washington State Player of the Year, has perhaps been the most impressive, and the most violent. Weaver helped set the stage for an almost-interception on the last play of 11-on-11 work, invading the backfield and forcing a rushed throw from Ross Bowers, looking for Demetris RobertsonMalik Psalms tipped the pass, and Ashtyn Davis nearly came down with the interception, but couldn't hold on to the ball.

"That kid can run," Tate said of Weaver. "He can fly."

Udeogu, Tate said, has "flashed a little bit, in terms of getting off the ball," as has Weaver. After two days in uppers, Tate said that the staff will get a better feel for the inside guys -- Yaghi and Paul -- once the full pads go on.

"By this weekend, we'll get a better feel for what they're going to do, and if they're going to have a chance," Tate said. "Off the cuff, the two ends are going to look better, because they're outside, and they can just run up the field. The inside guys, it's a little bit tougher."

With defensive end Noah Westerfield on the shelf with a sprained ankle and in a walking boot (he'll be eased back in over the weekend, before turning in full on Monday), the Bears had to turn to other solutions at defensive end on Thursday, the team's second day of fall camp in shoulder pads.

One of those solutions was Cameron Saffle, who played in eight games last season, and deftly took Westerfield's place with the first line, opposite DeVante Wilson.

Saffle had a rough day in one-on-ones, being thrown to the mat by right tackle Steven Moore, but was stout during team work that saw the defense win each of the first two drives. Tate said that Saffle and Weaver -- both Pacific Northwest natives -- are all but twins.

"They are, but Saffle is probably the more powerful kid," Tate said. "Weaver is probably more of an athlete, this minute. Saffle's getting there. Saffle's coming off a knee situation that he had [early last season], and he just keeps getting better and better, in terms of his ability. We're looking for some real good things out of him. We're looking for a breakout year out of him."

Redshirt freshman defensive end Russell Ude -- who took Kragen's number 13 -- also got in on the action, batting down a pass from freshman quarterback Max Gilliam in full 11-on-11. In the board drills, he was persistent and pesky against bigger tackles.


For as good as some of the defensive linemen have looked thus far, the strength of the team is still undoubtedly the offensive line, though, if you ask coach Brandon Jones, the Bears still have a long way to go. "We're trying to develop some continuity," Jones said. "With four returners, there's obviously some room for them to gel a little bit better. I've been pretty pleased, but we kind of took a step back today, but we'll address that tomorrow. They did a lot of different stuff. They went with some three-down fronts, and our communication wasn't good. I think we had two penalties. That's obviously something I'm really discouraged at things like that."

While Jones had said in the spring that Jeremiah Stuckey would start at center, the Texas A&M transfer has played exclusively at right guard, while Dwayne Wallace has fallen into the second unit. Jones plans to swing Stuckey between right and left guard, as the No. 1 right, and the No. 2 left, so fourth-year starter Chris Borrayo doesn't wear down.

"My plan originally was to have Jeremiah at center, but there are so many moving pieces to this offense, he's not the most vocal kid, so I'd be doing a disservice playing him at center," Jones said.

Instead, Addison Ooms has taken a hold, seemingly, of the starting center gig, with last year's starter, Dominic Granado, only getting first team reps on Thursday after taking second-team reps the previous two days.

"I really just try to roll them both," Jones said. "It's similar to our philosophy with picking the quarterback: Whoever moves the offense the best," Jones said.

Speaking of that quarterback, Davis Webb wasn't touched on Thursday, though there could be an argument that, in a collapsing pocket on the first drive, Devante Downs would have gotten a sack in, had he been allowed to go all the way and tag Webb.

"I haven't gotten sacked since I've been here," Webb said. "Coach Jones does a great job teaching them, each and every day of practice. They're a very hard-working group, and I'm very pleased with those guys. Addy and Dominic have done a really good job. The center is the most important position in this offense."

Jones said that Ooms is "slightly ahead" of Granado at this point, because of his ability to communicate.

"I think he's a fairly good leader," Jones said. "He's a walk-on, he really is an over-achiever. What he lacks physically, he makes up mentally, and with his technique." In one-on-ones, Ooms has struggled at times, and looks to be a bit light in the lower half, falling victim to a swim move from Manley on Thursday, and a bull rush by Manley that drove him back on Wednesday.

"He gets us in the right situations, calls the right protections, and his overall communication, playing next to Dwayne, a junior college kid, and Jeremiah and then Chris -- who struggled at times, too -- it's just the comfort that I have with [Ooms]," Jones said.


With Webb being named the starter, the Bears are now set to the task of molding the offense around him, but there won't be much the offensive line has to do, Jones said.

"I know his O-line coach from Tech; I worked with him, and the one thing that he assured me, is that we won't give up as many sacks, so I'm pretty fired up about that," Jones said.

One of Webb's more impressive attributes is his ability to move and slide in the pocket, and to move the pocket itself to avoid pressure.

"It's probably pretty similar [to Jared Goff]," offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said of Webb's pocket presence. "I couldn't tell you until the bullets are really flying, but you can tell that they've both got about the same body type -- they're both very tall and long -- but you can tell that Jared, to get where he's at, you've got to be pretty calm in that pocket, and that has a lot to do with maturity and the experience. With Davis playing 14 games as a starter, you can kind of see how he's going to be calmer in that pocket."

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