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February 27, 2013
With the second day of spring practice in the books for the Bulldogs, steps are definitely being made to make sure they are in full throttle for the beginning of the 2013 season.
Once again fundamentals were on tap for players today as they ran through individual drills and leading candidates for starting jobs began to take shape.
A group that is looking to replace a few key starters is the offensive line, which is looking to fill vacancies at center and guard.
Offensive line coach Cameron Norcross, who helped lead a group to explode for enormous offensive numbers in 2012, is poised to make the unit one of the best in the conference despite the losses upfront.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but we have some good candidates to fill in," Norcross said.
Two players that Norcross mentioned as possible replacements are Lars Bramer and James Le'au who each saw a substantial amount of playing time in 2012.
Also in the mix to possibly start are junior college transfers Patrick Kim and Josh Tremblay, who Norcross says their biggest challenge is adjusting to playing in Division I.
"They are picking things up pretty well on their assignments, but they have to learn how to compete at this level," Norcross said. "Once they can pick up the speed of the game they will be fine."
Depth is an issue at the position, but Norcross says that it's his responsibility to get the younger players acclimated to the system and ready to step in at any time.
"You're not going to see a 330 pound guy for us," Norcross said. "You are going to see a 300 pound guy, but we are going to be faster and more physical."
One guy Norcross is looking to help anchor the unit is returning first team All-Mountain West left tackle Austin Wentworth, who Norcross says has filled into the leadership role nicely.
"He's a guy that gets it schematically and is first in every drill," Norcross said. "He's more vocal this year as a senior leading the group."
Wentworth, a fifth year senior, was exited to get back on the field to put things he worked on in the off-season to the test and so far he likes what he sees for 2013.
"We have a lot of good assets on the line and I like where we are going as a unit," Wentworth said. "Right now we're working on individual drills that are a necessity, we have to make it natural to move forward."
Wentworth is almost certain to play left tackle in 2013, however Norcross mentioned Wentworth's versatility when asked about who would be playing in the season opener against Rutgers.
"I'm going to find the best five lineman to play even if it means moving Austin to guard," Norcross said. "It's about finding whoever will fit the puzzle."
And while 2012 was overall a great season for the Bulldogs, both Norcross and Wentworth were left with a bitter taste in their mouth after the loss to SMU and the criticism the offensive line took.
"We got criticism and rightfully so after we didn't play physical and fast enough," Norcross said. "We got guys working and the key is to take pride and not accepting being beat, it's never ok to be beat."
"We are definitely looking to redeem ourselves since we didn't play to our standards," Wentworth said. "We got to keep our heads down and the rest will take care of itself."
You can follow Rudy Rendon on Twitter at @rendonrudy.
Fresno State NEWS