BERKELEY — Before he got hurt, Chris Guarnero spent last season playing alongside arguably the best college center in the country.
Now, it's his job to replace him.
Guarnero won the starting job at left guard last year and was playing well before a toe injury sidelined him for the rest of the season after just three games. Now that All-American Alex Mack has moved on, Guarnero is back at his more natural position of center, trying to replace one of the most decorated lineman ever to play in Berkeley.
"I'm just going out there trying to have fun and doing my job," Guarnero said. "You always want to be better than the guy before you, but even if I'm a little bit under him, I'll be happy."
Guarnero was a highly regarded high school prospect from Denver but spent his first two seasons at Cal playing the waiting game behind Mack. Last year, in an attempt to get Guarnero's considerable talents on the field, the Bears had him work out at guard during training camp. By the start of the season, he was the best guard on the roster.
Guarnero was playing well before he tore a tendon in his big toe. He had to have surgery immediately or risk losing use of the toe.
"It was really tough," he said. "I couldn't really do anything about it so I just tried to make the best of the situation. I just tried to help guys with their technique if I saw something."
Because Guarnero's best position is at center, the Bears plan all along was moving him back once Mack was gone. Coach Jeff Tedford has been happy with what he's seen from Guarnero so far this spring. It's the first time he's been back on the field practicing since September.
"The first practice was a little weird, but I got back in the swing of things," Guarnero said. "It's clicking now."
Clap for Kapp
Tedford has said fullback is the most wide-open position on the team following the departure of Will Ta'ufo'ou, but he's been impressed with Will Kapp so far during the spring.
"He's really done a nice job over the first couple of weeks," Tedford said. "He has a really good feel for the position."
Kapp, the son of legendary Cal quarterback Joe Kapp, has emerged along with Brian Holley and John Tyndall as leading candidates for the job so far. Holley has been taking first-team reps recently.
"Evaluation is definitely still in progress, but they are getting better every day," Tedford said.
Along the line
Chet Teofilo, a starter at tackle last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury, is moving to guard. The Bears need more help at guard and Teofilo figured to be the odd man out at tackle with Mike Tepper getting an extra year of eligibility.
"He's a swing guy. It gives us flexibility to be able to move out (to tackle) if need be," Tedford said. "We feel like with his size and athleticism, it's a good fit for him at guard."
Tedford said running back Jahvid Best is starting to run on a treadmill but still won't practice this spring. Best had elbow and foot surgery in January. ... The Bears have seven more practices this spring, including scrimmages each of the next two Saturdays. The final one, on April 18, wraps up spring practice and is open to the public.
— Jonathan Okanes