BERKELEY — Cal could have waited another year to get center Chris Guarnero on the field, but that would mean wasting half of his college eligibility.
So rather than have the redshirt sophomore wait behind All-American Alex Mack for another season, the Bears decided to try him out at guard. Now, Guarnero is lining up next to Mack.
Guarnero, a highly recruited prospect from Arvada, Colo., began taking reps at guard during the spring. The Bears continued the experiment this fall, and Guarnero has worked himself all the way on to the first team and would start at left guard if the season began today.
"This is something we talked about forever. He's Alex Mack's backup," offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said. "We wanted to make sure we felt good about him at center, then try him at guard. ... He started playing a little bit of guard here, a little bit of guard there, until it finally got to the point where he was the best guard."
Guarnero turned down a handful of offers from major programs to come to Cal but wasn't going to get much playing time at center until Mack moved on to the NFL. Mack considered going pro after last season but decided to return.
Guarnero still takes reps at center in case he's needed there, but he's proven to be a quick study at guard.
"It's been a good adjustment," Guarnero said. "Alex is a great mentor. ... I've just tried to learn from him and try to get myself better."
Richard Fisher, who had worked himself onto the first team at left guard during the spring, now is the second-team center at practice. But Michalczik said Guarnero still is the backup center if it comes to that in a game.
With Cal's top two nose tackles — Mika Kane and Derrick Hill — nursing sprained ankles, the Bears are experimenting with using offensive lineman Kevin Bemoll at that position Bemoll, a redshirt junior, started taking reps at nose tackle strictly in goal line situations, but he's been practicing strictly on defense the past few days. "We're doing a little experiment," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We have a lot of guys hurt right now at that position so it's a good time to see what he can do." Bemoll came to Cal in 2005 but has yet to play in a game. He was suspended last season for violating team rules. ... Hill, linebacker Worrell Williams and safety Marcus Ezeff returned to practice during the past two days. ... Tight end Cameron Morrah and cornerback Chris Conte suffered ankle sprains.
— Jonathan Okanes