This is the fifth in an eight-part series previewing each position group within the Cal Poly football team.
Who’s back: The group that paved the way for Cal Poly to lead the FCS in rushing for the third straight season returns largely intact. Seniors Matthew Fisher and Nick Enriquez, two all-conference performers, will anchor the tackle positions, while junior Joey Kuperman moves from guard to center. The 6-foot-1, 295-pound Kuperman takes over following the graduation of three-year starter and respected team leader Stephen Sippel. Senior Billy Shipman brings 33 games of experience to the right guard position and will back up Kuperman as needed. The offensive line will be working under new assistant coach Todd Spencer with the expectation of being one of the most effective units in the Big Sky Conference.
Who’s new: Sophomore Harry Whitson (6-4, 280) played in all 11 games as a redshirt freshman last season, and he will be counted on to take over as the starting left guard. Redshirt freshman Tyler Whisenhunt is listed as Whitson’s backup on the preseason depth chart, which also includes experienced reserves Zach Shallcross, Calvin Sandeen, Ross Berry and Sam Ogee, among others.
Tim Walsh’s take: “I think making sure all five guys are on the same page and playing as hard and as tough as we’ve played in the past, I think, is becoming a tradition. I don’t foresee it being a problem, but it’s something we’re going to have to mold as we go through.”
Projected depth chart
LT: Matthew Fisher, 6-5, 280, sr.; Colin Goebel, 6-4, 280, jr.; Sam Ogee, 6-4, 275, soph.
LG: Harry Whitson, 6-4, 280, soph.; Tyler Whisenhunt, 6-3, 275, rfr.
C: Joey Kuperman, 6-1, 295, jr.; Billy Shipman II, 6-4, 270, sr.; Paul Trujillo-Langdon, 6-1, 285, rfr.
RG: Billy Shipman II, 6-4, 270, sr.; Ross Berry, 6-4, 285, soph.; Calvin Sandeen, 6-6, 275, sr.
RT: Nick Enriquez, 6-5, 285, sr.; Zach Shallcross, 6-4, 275, soph.; David Chellsen, 6-5, 265, rfr.
X Factor: Losing former offensive line coach Saga Tuitele less than a month before the start of fall camp put Cal Poly in a tough situation. Fortunately, Walsh was able to land a 30-year triple-option veteran in Spencer on short notice. Walsh said he believes Spencer’s knowledge will help the Mustangs fine tune their attack, and he “may be disappointed” if the offensive line doesn’t match, or at least come close, to last year’s production. That could be tough for a team that rushed from more than 4,200 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2015.