You don’t know their names. You haven’t seen them play.
The most intriguing players in the Cal Poly spring football game also inspire the most Pepto Bismol-worthy fright.
The defensive line.
The Mustangs had a whole team’s worth of seniors run out of eligibility at the position last season. It will be intriguing to see who emerges to replace them. Of course, there’s also a fear that Cal Poly will take some lumps up front next year.
“If there’s a question mark, that’s probably the place,” Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said.
See for yourself Saturday at 1 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium when newcomers and seasoned backups alike jockey for positioning on the depth chart heading into fall camp.
The 100-play scrimmage is open and free to the public. The program is asking that spectators provide a nonperishable food item to be donated to the San Luis Obispo Food Bank in a charity drive operated by a football-specific booster club. The Home Team will also run a kidzone and tailgate area before and barbecue after the game.
After losing nine seniors and six heavy contributors, Cal Poly returns only three defensive linemen, and junior Sullivan Grosz, the only starter coming back, will be sitting out the spring game.
Three transfers are also competing for playing time, and this is the closest thing coaches will come to evaluating those newcomers in a real game since spring drills started late last month.
Wisconsin transfer Jake Irwin, a 6-foot-4, 247-pound sophomore, headlines the transfers and has impressed coaches with his athletic ability.“He’s pretty intense, which we love on the defensive line,” Walsh said.
Junior college transfers Barrett Wangara (6-3, 285) and Omar Omilabu (6-2, 235) are looking more like situational players.
Wangara, a junior from College of San Mateo, is going to give the Mustangs girth at defensive tackle. Walsh needs him to take on blockers to free up linebackers behind him to make plays.
Omilabu, a junior from Laney College in Oakland, is a fast end that is lining up as a speed rusher in passing situations but needs to be more disciplined in his assignments to become an every-down player.
Junior Andy Alcaraz (6-3, 250) is versatile enough to play inside or out. He received playing time at defensive end last season but after spraining his ankle in fall camp, never really played at full strength.
Chris Lawrence (6-2, 270) got into the rotation at defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman last season.
“He does a great job of being quick off the line of scrimmage and disrupting things,” Walsh said. “He needs to find a way to get off blocks and make plays.”
Nick Leyden (6-2, 250), a former Pioneer Valley standout, has waited his turn for an opportunity by being a leader on the scout team the past two seasons. Walsh said he’s also versatile enough to play multiple positions.
With turnover at three of the four starting positions in the defensive backfield — all four if senior cornerback Bijon Samoodi is forced to redshirt with a hip injury — there will also be plenty of interesting things to watch for at those spots during the spring game. Elsewhere, the players people are used to seeing most will be spending much of their time on the sidelines.
Walsh said 18 players are being held out because of injury, and healthy starters like quarterback Andre Broadous and running back Deonte Williams will be limited to about a dozen snaps.
Soon after, the playing time will be doled out to younger players fighting for backup roles. And the playbook might not be as expansive as it would for a regular-season game.
“We’re going to play a lot of young players that are going to play the majority of the game, which is good from a depth standpoint,” Walsh said. “Now, how much are we going to make them ready to play like we would starters during the regular season? We might be somewhat conservative.”