Sunday, August 29, 2010

Position Breakdown 2010: Offensive Line

Returning: Andrew Jackson, Kenny Wiggins, Joey Bernardi, Devan Cunningham, Bryce Harris, Leslie Cooper, Matt Hunt, Richard Helepiko, Marcel Jensen, Austin Wentworth, Max Devlin, Trevor Richter, Lars Bramer
Newcomers: Andrew Gustafson, Cody Wichmann, Cameron Henderson (walk-on)
Lost: Richard Pacheco

Bryce Harris
LT, Jr, 6'6", 300
Tulare (Tulare Union HS)

Left tackle Bryce Harris, with a full year of starting under his knee braces, is Fresno State's least experienced starter on the offensive line. He's a big, strong, athletic player who will go from protecting lefty Ryan Colburn's front side this season, to protecting Derek Carr's blindside next season. Harris is expected to be an All-WAC caliber player as soon as this season.

DaCo on Harris: Harris is long and lengthy, with a build more suited for pass blocking. Even though he is a very capable run blocker, he is still learning to maximize his leverage. All in all, Harris is a very good tackle on an offensive line without an weaknesses.

FSDogs1 on Harris: Bryce Harris' development is of utmost importance for the Bulldogs, as he could be the only returning starter next season, when the team breaks in a new quarterback and possibly enters a new conference.

Devan Cunningham
LG, Sr, 6'6", 360
Rancho Cordova (Grant Union HS)

Devan Cunningham entered the program as one of the most heralded offensive line recruits in school history. He didn't exactly set the world on fire from the get-go, but he turned into a constant, dependable contributer last season. No one will ever successfully bull rush him (he's too dang big), but trimming down and adding some speed would work wonders for his overall game. That hasn't happened. Still, he'll be one of the WAC's top guards.

DaCo on Cunningham: The Kamala look-a-like is one person who does know how to use leverage. Cunningham is a run blocker extraordinaire, largely because he is so difficult to move at his size.

FSDogs1 on Cunningham: He'll never top the fluke winning TD catch at Illinois last season that got him highlights galore on ESPN, but I'm sure getting a few more wins this year will make up for it.

Joey Bernardi
C, Sr, 6'2", 285
Flagstaff, AZ (Flagstaff HS)

With 29 career starts, a father who's a longtime successful FBS assitant coach, a passion for Fresno State and an outspoken and loyal personality -- Joey Bernardi is the unquestioned leader of this unit and possibly the entire team. And he's made his voice more heard than ever (imagine that) this fall camp, making sure the younger players understand how to practice from Day 1. Bernardi is a likely All-WAC center, and has been the only snapper out of the shotgun to show consistency all camp.

DaCo on Bernardi: It's a shame the casual fan really doesn't know more about Bernardi. His leadership, energy and embracing of all things Bulldog Football are magnetic. He's played through surgery after surgery, and still is a top flight center. Hopefully every returning offensive lineman gobbles up as much of what he has to offer before senior day arrives.

FSDogs1 on Bernardi: Another of those "Mr. Bulldog" type of players that fans love to have, Bernardi will be sorely missed next season.

Andrew Jackson
RG, Sr, 6'5", 295
Grass Valley (Nevada Union HS)

Hands down the best offensive lineman in the WAC, Andrew Jackson enters his season year with an offseason of NFL Combine and draft to follow. But, first things first, while breaking in new starting running backs, Fresno State needs Jackson to be flatout dominant. During former Bulldog Logan Mankins' senior year (2004) the team ran right behind him play after play in an MPC Computers Bowl win over No. 17 Virginia. That type of confidence in a lineman would go a long way this season, but it's yet to be seen if Jackson truly can be THAT good. Jackson has loads of experience with more than 30 career starts.

DaCo on Jackson: Jackson is not in the mold of your normal guard. Just look at his left guard linemate Cunningham. Jackson has a lean midsection, monster legs and his overall size is a tribute to his commitment to football and the weight room. He's a dominant lineman no doubt, but even he has the potential to raise his game to a new level this season and beyond.

FSDogs1 on Jackson: The man built like Frankenstein (think giant, in-shape rectangle of a man) has turned into one of the best linemen this decade for the university. Enjoy seeing him one final season...

Kenny Wiggins
RT, Sr, 6'7", 315
Elk Grove (Elk Grove HS)

Like Andrew Jackson, Kenny Wiggins is a returning All-WAC player (noticing a common theme among this talented starting line?). For being the tallest of all the 'Dogs, it's a bit surprising he might have the quickest feet of all the linemen, but it's true. And it's a huge plus, being that he's responsible for protecting Ryan Colburn's blind side. He has the Bulldog mentality at the position, similar to former 'Dogs Joe Schey and Bobby Lepori (who both loved putting in that one extra hit during the whistle).

DaCo on Wiggins: A mountain of a man that not only can dunk a basketball (he is tall afterall), but dunk it like an athlete with 360s and such. Wiggins is also another Bernardi-type guy in the element of outgoing personality. Another guy with a professional future as well.

FSDogs1 on Wiggins: Big Wigs is poised for his best season yet, in his second as the starter.

Matt Hunt
So, 6'2", 315
Carson (Carson HS)

Matt Hunt is the perfect insurance policy -- good enough to where he should be a starter, but young enough to where he can be a great back up for one more year before stepping in next season. Hunt was a late signee two years ago after passing up an offer from USC. He's a boulder of a player, who just doesn't get pushed around. If any guard suffers an unfortunate injury, Hunt can step right in.

DaCo on Hunt: Hunt is a strong, rock solid guy who is extremely tough to move. His center of gravity and balance have been very evident this camp, and he is easily of starter quality right now. He'll fit into the line seamlessly at any point, whether he fills in this year or beyond.

FSDogs1 on Hunt: Bulldogs fans know one thing for sure -- they can be confident in at least one of the reserves stepping in to start next season. In fact, Hunt might be better than some of the outgoing seniors.

Leslie Cooper
Jr, 6'4", 305
Compton (Dominguez HS)
Like Matt Hunt, Leslie Cooper has the ability to step right in without the Bulldogs' offense skipping a beat. As the surprise player in the unit last season, making strides of progress in camp, Cooper stepped in and started two games in place of an injured Andrew Jackson. And the running game continued to dominate, a sign he's more than competent. Cooper has also worked on snapping a little bit, meaning he may step in at center if need be this season or next.

DaCo on Cooper: Cooper has gotten more comfortable in the offense within the last year and a half. Although he has game experience, Cooper wasn't necessarily fully ready to play at the same level as Bulldogs fans are used to from there starting offensive linemen. His development by the time the 2011 season arrives is important.

FSDogs1 on Cooper: It's always a good thing to have position flexibility with your top reserves, and that's what Cooper offers. He's put on some weight since he first arrived on campus, but remains one of the fastest linemen (I still can't get over that high school film where he outran his running back as the lead blocker downfield).

Richard Helepiko
So, 6'2", 300
Moreno Valley (Moreno Valley HS)

Last season, Richard Helepiko was one of the big improvement stories and really started to show progress in his development. It was enough to put him on the depth chart at center. But he seemed to regress this fall camp, consistently making bad snaps in the shotgun formation. He'll now likely have to compete to win the starting job next year.

DaCo on Helepiko: The shotgun formation is not going anywhere in this offense, so Helepiko needs to get himself right in that area. He's a good lineman, but he also still needs to make that stride and find his comfort level in the offense, because he'll be asked to step up next year.

FSDogs1 on Helepiko: The backup outlook at center is one of the biggest concerns on offense. Even when the quarterback is under center, there have been a few mishaps, but the shotgun problems are big right now.

Austin Wentworth
R-Fr, 6'5", 305
Rocklin (Whitney HS)

Offensive line experience will be a big concern for the Bulldogs next season, and with Austin Wentworth on pace to earn the starting right tackle job once Kenny Wiggins graduates, it'll be key to get him some live game reps this year, at least on special teams. He's got great size and natural ability and stands out amongst the younger guys in technique drills.

Marcel Jensen
R-Fr, 6'6", 255
Fairfield (Rodriguez HS)

After years of battling back to recover from a gruesome leg injury, Marcel Jensen was listed second on the depth chart at left tackle in spring. He's still working out in that spot and is a massive presence at the position, but a lighter, quicker version of linemen compared to what the team will start this year. The converted defensive lineman seems to be on a quick learning curve at his new position.

Max Devlin
So, 6'5", 275
Windsor (Windsor HS)
Max Devlin is one of the more mysterious hogs on the offensive line. Now in his third year in the program, Devlin has steadily progressed, yet hasn't received the amount of time with the advanced units (to this point at least) that would lead you to think coaches feel he is capable of being a consistent in-game contributor. That being said, Devlin is far from a weak link and adds the usual depth to a 'Dogs o-line, while still possessing the potential, given his youth, to develop into something more.

Trevor Richter
So, 6'4", 280
El Segundo (El Segundo HS)

After two years in the program as an offensive tackle, Trevor Richter is now getting reps as an offensive guard. In that role, Richter has already proven his ability on both sides of the line, receiving second team reps at both LG and RG in camp. He is powerful in size and performance, with much more room to grow and develop. It's not out of the question that he could blossom at this position and push for a job this time next year.

Lars Bramer
R-Fr, 6'5", 260
Clovis (Buchanan HS)

Considering his lack of size (at least on the scale), Bramer is showing progression as a center -- just not as much as hoped. The good news is he obviously is still very young in the program, especially as a center and anchor of a line that requires a ton of responsibility. Bramer will need to try and bulk hard over the next year, which will help his chances of competing for the vacant center spot in 2011. Considering he can already go toe-to-toe with guys bigger and stronger than he is, that extra size might be the launching pad he needs.

Andrew Gustafson
Fr, 6'6", 265
Scottsdale, AZ (Chaparral HS)

Andrew Gustafson caught our attention early on -- in voluntary summer workouts. The youngster was very receptive to his teammates' teaching, and in turn, they were plenty eager to help him get his foot in the door. In one of the final summer workouts, Gustafson went head-to-head with senior DE Chris Carter on back-to-back plays, and stopped the all-WAC first-teamer cold in his tracks, earning rowdy approval from his linemates. Although Gustafson had some beginner's luck with Carter, he still has the ideal body type for a tackle, and has shown a surprising mean streak in camp.

Cody Wichmann
Fr, 6'5", 290
Mariposa (Mariposa County HS)

Physically, Cody Wichmann is one of those guys who, as a true freshman, will make you do the Sgt. Slaughter face plus head nod in approval of his advanced appearance. Wichmann automatically has a physical advantage most newcomers don't have, but he will still have to be a sponge for offensive line coach Derek Frazier. Wichmann did nothing to bring concern about the his performance in his first camp, but didn't standout either. He's currently logging time as a right tackle, where he has a chance to make a terrific bookend with a any number of other Fresno State tackles in the future.

Cameron Henderson
Fr, 6'2", 285
Moreno Valley (Moreno Valley HS)

As a walk-on, Cameron Henderson, as you might expect, has had the most difficult time adjusting to the Divison I level. That story has been written plenty of times, though, with several past walk-on lineman getting the chance to prove themselves in a limited amount of time before coaches decide whether they can make the cut as a 'Dogs lineman. Henderson possesses the size necessary for a guard, but doesn't have the conditioning that he'll need quite yet. Only time will tell if Henderson can be an asset for the Bulldogs in the future, but he'll have plenty of hurdles to climb.

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