Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Position Breakdown 2011: Offensive Line

Returning Lettermen: Bryce Harris, Matt Hunt, Richard Helepiko, Leslie Cooper, Austin Wentworth, Trevor Richter, Max Devlin, Lars Bramer
Newcomers: Allen Brown, John Archuleta, Justin Northern, Bo Bonnheim
Lost: Andrew Jackson (Falcons), Kenny Wiggins (49ers), Joe Bernardi

Bryce Harris: Harris-ing Defenders
Sr, 6-6, 300
Tulare (Tulare Union HS)

Bryce Harris is the veteran leader of an offensive line undergoing a lot of change. Harris has started 26 straight games and enters his third year as the key cog at left tackle. And that cog is more key than ever this year, as Harris will now be protecting quarterback Derek Carr’s blind side. Last year’s quarterback, Ryan Colburn, was left-handed, so it’ll be an increase in responsibility for Harris, an All-WAC selection last season. That said, we at the Bounce thought Harris was a bit overrated last season, especially in pass protection, but he made strides during the offseason. In fall camp, Harris was a force, consistently dominating his matchups. He’s definitely turned up the dial, and the ‘Dogs need him to assume that leadership role.

Matt Hunt: Hunt for Starting Role is Complete
Jr, 6-2, 315
Carson (Carson HS)

Matt Hunt replaces big Devan Cunningham as the starting left guard. Hunt has had the ability to start since he arrived on campus, and can turn into a mauler-type guard if he keeps the motor revving at full speed. He’s potentially deadly pulling in the run game – much the style of former Bulldogs standout Cole Popovich. Hunt’s also one of the strongest players on the team, and started two games last season. He’s plenty seasoned enough to make for a smooth transition into a full-time starting job.

Richard Helepiko: Get Ready to See Hella Helepiko Snaps
Jr, 6-2, 300
Moreno Valley (Moreno Valley HS)

Richard Helepiko also started two games last season at center, in place of the injured Joey Bernardi. Helepiko was impressive, with few issues, and entered the offseason as the undoubted starter for 2011. Besides the two starts, he got plenty of game action rotating with Bernardi and was also able to learn from the veteran presence who is now a grad assistant at tennessee. Bernardi was like having a coach on the field and the hope is a lot of that rubbed off on his successor, Helepiko.

Leslie Cooper: Hangin' With Coop
Sr, 6-4, 320
Compton (Dominguez HS)

Leslie Cooper has put on quite a bit of size since arriving on campus five years ago, when he had the speed to play defensive line if he needed to. Cooper still has solid speed for his size, but is somewhat lacking in the stamina department. He was thrust into a starting role early last season when NFL draftee Andrew Jackson (Falcons) went down with injury. Cooper started six games at right guard and the team didn’t miss Jackson much. As a pulling guard, Cooper has a big impact in the running game. His happy-go-lucky nature (one of the team jokesters who wore turquoise socks with white stripes throughout fall camp) is the opposite of his gameday personality of delivering blocks with an attitude. The ‘Dogs need their linemen to quickly adopt that swagger and impose their will on opponents.

Austin Wentworth: Wentworth Well Worth His Scholarship
So, 6-5, 305
Rocklin (Whitney HS)

The most versatile of the starting linemen, Austin Wentworth started once last season at right guard but will play right tackle this year. He can be plugged in at either spot equally well, and is one of the unit’s biggest talents. The line’s improvement was immediately noticeable last season when he debuted – part of the reason he earned a start the following week. Though he’s the least experienced starter, fans should be as excited for Wentworth’s potential as anyone’s.

Cody Wichmann: Burning the Wich at Both Ends
R-Fr, 6-5, 310
Mariposa (Mariposa County HS)

It will be critical for the Bulldogs to keep the line healthy this season, but if anyone does go down, young Cody Wichmann is the sixth man, so to speak. The last guy Fresno State recruited from the Mariposa area turned out pretty good – Logan Mankins (a first-round pick of the Patriots and the highest paid guard in the NFL). Wichmann is just as much of a project as Mankins was, but already ballooned in size during his redshirt year. Listed at 310 pounds, Wichmann looks solid and muscular with broad shoulders and big arms (characteristics Pat Hill loves in his linemen). He made a special first impression in fall camp, but definitely still has room to develop. There were days he was beaten in drills by young defensive linemen. The encouraging thing is coaches immediately let Wichmann know about his mistakes and he corrected them on the spot. If he is forced into action, Wentworth will likely slide over to a guard spot.

Andrew Gustafson: And You Thought Arizona Made Good Iced Tea
R-Fr, 6-6, 285
Scottsdale, AZ (Chaparral HS)

Andrew Gustafson was part of the same recruiting class as Wichmann, and has also shown great potential. With Bryce Harris graduating after this year, Gustafson and Wichmann are the likely replacement candidates. Based on size, Wichmann ranks as the favorite right now, but Gustafson is right there with him in technique. He’s listed as the backup left tackle, and it would be wise of Pat Hill to find some playing time for the redshirt freshman as soon as possible to start seasoning him for when his number is called.

Trevor Richter: Registering on the Richter Scale
Jr, 6-4, 280
El Segundo (El Segundo HS)

Coaches weren’t happy with Trevor Richter’s level of progress coming into the year, and paid him special attention during fall camp. He was expected to be capable of starting by this point in his career, and while he’s not there yet, he did make strides in the offseason. Richter is listed as the second-string right guard and will have a big opportunity to step into a starting role next year when Leslie Cooper graduates. That said, he’ll need to be prepared right away in case the need comes this year.

Max Devlin: Max Effort Could Put Devlin In Position for Future
Jr, 6-3, 275
Windsor (Windsor HS)

As part of the same recruiting class as Trevor Richter, Max Devlin is slightly more game-ready, but still a bit of a mystery. The most fame Devlin has experienced to this point was having his jersey No. 68 used as the photo opp example the day of the team’s fashion show for its new Nike Pro Combat Elite uniforms. Devlin is another guy the Bulldogs need to get on the field for limited reps right away to have him seasoned in case he’s needed this year, or even for next season.

Lars Bramer: Lifelong 'Dog Fan Second on Depth Chart
So, 6-5, 280
Clovis (Buchanan HS)

Local product Lars Bramer is the backup center. He continues to add size little by little each year he’s been in the program, but the team still has way too many botched snaps in practice when Bramer is at center. He hasn’t gotten much opportunity to take reps with starting QB Derek Carr, being that Leslie Cooper and Matt Hunt can also slide to center if need be. Bramer’s growth throughout this season and in the offseason will be critical in deciding how big a role he’ll have the rest of his career.

Kameron Henderson: It's Kameron with a 'K'
R-So, 6-2, 285
Moreno Valley (Moreno Valley HS)

Walk-on Kameron Henderson put up a good fight for a backup guard spot, but didn’t quite win out. He’s a big body who can pave some ground, but will have to really steal the show with his reps in practice to ever jump to the top of the depth chart. He’s come a long way since last season, though, and will be a guy worth keeping tabs on.

John Archuleta: Looking to Next Year
Fr, 6-4, 270
Chandler, AZ (Hamilton HS)
Recognizing the lack of depth among the offensive line, Fresno State recruited a few prospects this season, but none who are ready to make an immediate impact. John Archuleta had the best chance to do so, but didn’t make the two-deep. Size-wise, he’s the most prepared for this level of play, and looked the best in fall camp.

Allen Brown: What Can Allen Do for You?
Fr, 6-4, 265
San Dimas (San Dimas HS)

Allen Brown didn’t look far behind John Archuleta. Though he’ll have to really
work on adding size in the offseason, he showed a frame that looks like it can handle putting on a lot of weight. Brown was impressive at times early in fall camp, but can’t be considered an up and comer until he gets bigger.

Justin Northern: Northern Settles in Central Valley
Fr, 6-4, 270
Lakewood (Mayfair HS)

The same holds true for Justin Norther, who was also recruited by oregon. Northern looked significantly smaller than the guys he’s competing with on the line and will need to put on weight and muscle for next year. He is definitely skilled and should be considered a prospect a year or two down the road.

Bo Bonnheim: Bo Knows Walking On
Fr, 6-2, 260
Paso Robles (Paso Robles HS)

Walk-on Bo Bonnheim is in the same boat, needing to add size. He had some ball security issues in his limited reps during camp, but the Bulldogs won’t rush his development. If he turns into a contributor two or three years from now, his career will be a success.

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