Monday, July 30, 2007


Returning: 12
Lost: 2
Incoming: 2

It’s the tale of two positions, with serious depth at defensive end and a serious lack of depth at defensive tackle, making it seem even more strange why Andrew Jackson was moved to the offensive side of the line.

At tackle, senior Jason Shirley (6-5, 330) leads the way and is likely NFL-bound. He’s the WAC’s top run-stuffer, and if he keeps his motor on the way he did against LSU last season he can go down as one of the best in school history – he’s definitely got the size.

The other tackle spot will likely be filled by junior Jon Monga (6-2, 280), though senior Charles Tolbert (5-11, 265) is right in the mix. Monga has stepped up as a solid option, but hasn’t yet shown that he can consistently be an impact player, which is what this team needs from all four starters up front. Tolbert drew early comparisons to former star Jason Stewart, mostly because of his size, but hasn’t come close to that yet.

Senior Tyler Clutts (6-2, 245) is the heart and soul of this unit. He’s the good old-fashioned, hard-working, undersized kid who refused not to be great. He enters the year on the preseason watchlist for college football’s best lineman and will be critical in helping a defense that had a problem pressuring quarterbacks last season.

Opposite Clutts will be junior Jason Roberts (6-5, 250), though redshirt freshman Chris Lewis (6-3, 245) has progressed. Roberts, a Central High product who originally went to Washington State, is easily the most gifted athlete on the unit but hasn’t put it all together yet at the college level. If he does, he can be better than anyone in the conference. The scary thing is, the same might be true for Lewis, the Clovis West star who originally signed with Miami before deciding to return home. The former top-ranked heavyweight wrestler in the state took a year to get to know the Fresno State system and should be right on track to battle for a starting job now.

Where junior Michael Stuart (6-4, 245) fits in is anyone’s guess. The former USC signee was far from outperforming his competitors in practice last season and saw little playing time. But he has as much speed, if not more, than any other lineman, and is one to watch. Junior Ikenna Ike (6-1, 255) is a proven commodity since walking on two years ago, and might be the team's top pass rusher. Redshirt freshman Taylor Smith of Buchanan (6-3, 230) is another quick and athletic end, but isn’t yet ready to impact the battle for a starting spot.

At tackle, with Shirley and Tolbert in their final season and Monga gone after 2008, the Bulldogs need to find the personnel to fill those voids, and now is the time to groom them. Redshirt freshman Mark Roberts (6-2, 305) is quickly making his way up the depth chart after originally showing up to fall camp out of shape after high school. Along with redshirt freshman Cornell Banks (6-3, 265) of Edison and versatile sophomore Wilson Ramos (6-4, 270), Roberts will compete for a second-string job.

But the one to watch might be new signee Porter Hill (6-4, 275) out of Compton, cousin of Leslie Cooper. Whether he’ll see time right away or redshirt is still up in the air. End Kenneth Borg (6-3, 235) out of Los Alamitos is likely to redshirt this season.

Rating: 7 of 10

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