BERKELEY, Calif. – California will be without its most veteran offensive lineman Saturday when it hosts Southern Utah, while one of its most experienced defenders will take on an expanded role.
Right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin will not play because of a left MCL injury, head coach Jeff Tedford said. The redshirt senior, who had started 18 consecutive games over the past three seasons, is week-to-week, but will not need surgery.
“People have played through those sometimes,” Tedford said. “It just depends of the level of swelling and soreness.”
“Matt doesn’t want to miss (a game),” offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik said. “It is killing him right now. You can look at him all practice, he is coaching guys up.”
Redshirt junior Bill Tyndall will take on the task of protecting quarterback Zach Maynard’s blind side, while redshirt sophomore Geoffrey Gibson has moved from guard to tackle to add depth at the position.
Tyndall and the rest of the offensive line will be asked to better establish a running game that managed only four yards per carry against Nevada.
“It was very inconsistent is probably the best way of saying it,” Michalczik said. “We never really got to a point we felt we could go run the ball. It was a variety of things. It was one guy here, one guy there, one guy here, and football is a game where it takes 11 people. Unfortunately, it was a different guy every time, and we just have to be more consistent in our overall execution.”
Tedford is confident Tyndall, with only four career appearances, will be able to step in for Summers-Gavin and help boost production.
“It will be a game-test for him and we’ll see how it goes, but we have got confidence in Tyndall. He’ll play hard,” Tedford said.
On defense, starting safety Josh Hill will replace sophomore Kameron Jackson covering the slot receiver in nickel personnel, a position he held last season.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said Jackson made too many mistakes against Nevada, electing to go with the more versatile Hill instead.
“Josh is kind of our utility man. Wherever we need him, nickel or safety, we can use him,” Pendergast said. “Kam, he had two good weeks of practice but was inconsistent in the game and didn’t play as well as I would have liked. He cost us some plays throughout the course of the game that I wish we would have had back, mistakes he shouldn’t have made. That’s something as a defense we’re not going to tolerate, so he has to earn his way back in the mix.”
Sophomore Michael Lowe will take over for Hill at safety when Cal uses five defensive backs.
Many Happy Returns?
Cal could get two defensive linemen back in the near future, while linebacker Khairi Fortt is increasing his activity level as he returns from knee surgery.
Sophomore defensive Mustafa Jalil could play Saturday after practicing this week, Tedford said. Jalil dressed and went through pre-game warm-ups last week against Nevada, but would only have played in an emergency.
Clark, who injured his right foot shortly before the start of fall camp, returned to practice. His trademark intensity is something coaches must manage.
“He wants to play so bad, but you have to be smart too,” Tedford said. “You come back and reinjure that, it’s another six to eight weeks. You have to put wisdom in front of courage. He is dying to get on the field.”
Fortt, the Penn State transfer, started running, but is still several weeks away from beginning contact drills. Pendergast said.
“He is really trying to strengthen that leg,” Pendergast said. “He is going to all the meetings obviously and going through some of the non-contact walk-through type things during the body of practice just to get acclimated.”
With sophomore David Wilkerson out for the season, Fortt would at a minimum provide valuable depth. Pendergast said Fortt would “almost definitely” play this season if healthy.
Freshman left tackle Freddie Tagaloa has been working with the first and second-team offensive line this week and could play Saturday. “We got to get Freddie in the rotation,” Tedford said.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.