SAN BERNARDIO -- The Bruins’ offensive line had questions coming in to camp and Thursday the biggest question was: Where’s the beef?
The Bruins were down to nine offensive linemen by the end of practice Thursday, when Alberto Cid left because of a head injury and Greg Capella tweaked his calf. They joined Jeff Baca (heat), Simon Goines (heat), Brett Downey (heat), Chris Ward (back) Tre Hale (heat), Colby Cyburt (back) and Torian White (chest pains) on the sideline, giving the Bruins as many injured linemen as healthy at the end of Wednesday's session.
The players out because of heat symptoms should return in the next day or two and so, too, should Cyburt, but this group still has to fill some holes before it starts making them.
Xavier Su’a-Filo is guaranteed to be starting at left tackle and Baca will be starting somewhere, but the other three slots are open. Jake Brendel seems to have taken a stronghold on the center spot and Capella is the early favorite for left guard, but the coaches are still searching high and low for a right tackle.
“It’s wide open,” offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said. “You can come right in off the street right now and start at right tackle.”
White, Goines and Downey were getting the right tackle reps before they were injured and Ben Wysocki is there now with Will Oliver backing him up. If none of them can win the job, Baca will likely move from right guard to right tackle, where he played last season.
Klemm says he prefers to have Baca at guard because that’s where Baca will play should he get drafted by an NFL team, but Baca is open to playing tackle if another player is better suited for right guard.
“I don’t have a preference,” Baca said. “I just like being out there and I’ll play any position. I just like to have some time to practice that position.”
Klemm says he had hopes that freshman Goines, Cyburt, Carl Hulick or Conor McDermott would come in and push for immediate playing time, but acknowledged that learning the offense while practicing at an up-tempo pace has made that difficult.
“To think that they are going to start on opening day is a bit of a stretch but hopefully they can add a bit of a competitive environment to the group,” he said.
Klemm said he doesn’t know when he’ll have a handle on his starting five. He said he’d like to have it as soon as possible to give the unit time to build chemistry and cohesiveness, but that if it has to go down to opening day, he’s willing to wait that long.
“Chemistry-wise, we want to get the guys together, but I’m not going to have five guys and three of them can’t play just for the sake of saying that they’ve been practicing together,” Klemm said.
Su’a-Filo said the key is to be patient and wait for the starting five to emerge.
“We need someone to step up and take those jobs,” he said. “I would love to have a starting five now, but we need someone to step up and say ‘I want those jobs.’ It would be best to leave camp with a solid five because we’re going to need them.”
Getting to that point would also stop so much of the talk Su’a-Filo hears about the offensive line being the weak link on the team and the one unit that could keep the team from succeeding.
“A lot of people talk about the offensive line and there are worries and all this stuff, and yeah, I take that personally knowing that people are doubting our unit,” he said. “The offensive line wants to be strong. We want to be the power of the team, but we’re going to work on it and I’d love to get there. I think we can, we have the potential.
“But,” he added, “we’re not there yet.”