Fall Camp Preview: Centers

Ryan Wendell (gobulldogs.com)

Fresno State returned one of the top centers in the country last year. All-American Kyle Young did not have a banner year in 2006. He was suspended and he missed the final four games of the season. Ryan Wendell moved over from guard and started in his place. He enters fall camp as the starter and the lone senior starter on the offensive line.

Ryan Wendell (6-2, 290) took second and third team reps at center as a true freshman in fall camp of 2004. He was expected to redshirt until an injury to Cole Popovich pushed him into a starting role at guard. He remained there until All-American C Kyle Young was suspended after the eighth game of the season last year.

Wendell assumed the starting center spot after Young's suspension and immediately made an impact. His strong performance shook up the offensive line this past spring. Wendell and Popovich were arguably the top guard duo in Fresno State history. Nonetheless, Wendell has proven to be a better center. He has quick first step and a natural leader on the line.

RFr. C Joe Bernardi (6-2, 285) signed with Fresno State in 2005 after being named the top offensive player in the state of Arizona. As a high school junior, he was former Bulldog QB Sean Norton's center at Newhall's (Calif.) Hart High School. He redshirted last season after a grayshirt in 2005. He was expected to be a four-year starter after Young departed.

However, Bernardi enters fall camp battling So. Richard "Oso" Pacheco (6-2, 300) for second on the depth chart. Bernardi took all the second team reps during spring but Pacheco has taken first and second team reps this summer, when Wendell and Bernardi did not workout. Bernardi could possibly be the strongest linemen on the team. Moreover, he is arguably the best center on the team, but probably will have to wait a year to make his first career start.

Pacheco redshirted last season after playing as a true in 2005. He was highly touted three-star recruit who chose Fresno State over Colorado. However, he plays a position dominated by talent, experience, and depth. He is penciled in as the third team center, but could see some looks at guard in fall camp. He is too talented to sit on the bench.

Walk on Nick Wright (6-3, 280) is the emergency center per se. He is better suited for guard. He will likely not see any time in fall camp at center. Incoming freshman Leslie Cooper (6-3, 280) came into summer as a guard but eventually saw all his reps come at center. He is extremely quick and athletic for an offensive lineman. Cooper will likely redshirt to create separation between himself, Bernardi, and Pacheco.


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