Center of Attention

Richard "Oso" Pacheco

Heading into Sunday night's scrimmage one of the biggest battles unfolding is the center spot. Joe Bernardi started five games last season before suffering a season-ending injury. Richard "Oso" Pacheco took over the starting spot and entered camp No. 1 on the depth chart. Bernardi has made a surprising return from his injury, but he must unseat his best friend if he wants his job back.

Richard Pacheco entered the Fresno State football program as a highly touted three-star prospect coming out of Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs. He ultimately chose Fresno State over an offer from Colorado with high expectations to make an immediate impact.

Joe Bernardi was an underrated center prospect his junior season despite playing for one of the premier programs in the state, Newhall (Calif.) Hart. He spent his senior year at Flagstaff (Calif.) because his father Gary Bernardi became an assistant coach with Northern Arizona. The younger Bernardi committed to Fresno State the summer before his senior year in 2004. That same year he was named the offensive player of the year in the state of Arizona.

Pacheco and Bernardi both signed in February in 2005. However, Bernardi grayshirted in 2005 while Pacheco played as a true freshman. Both players redshirted in 2006. Pacheco struggled in 2007 to find a place on the line while Bernardi started five games.

However, as the ‘Dogs enter their first fall camp scrimmage, Pacheco is the starting center. Moreover, the two friends will battle it out the rest of camp for the right to start the season opener at Rutgers on September 1.

"Os (Pacheco) is my best friend," said Bernardi. "There is no rivalry between the two us. If he's the starter, then I'm going to help him. Do whatever I can to help him to be the guy. I'm sure he would do the same for me. Were two buddies competing for the same job, and we both want to win the job."

Pacheco bounced from guard to center last season but with Ryan Wendell and Cole Popovich firmly in place at center and guard, respectively, playing time would be minimal. Adam McDowell won the other guard spot in camp, and Andrew Jackson won the No. 3 guard spot in the rotation. Bernardi was the No. 2 center last season leaving Pacheco as the third option at center and the fourth at guard. McDowell went down with a season ending and Popovich became injured as well. Bernardi became the starting center when Wendell moved to guard. Despite the injuries, Pacheco did not see much of the field.

The subsequent spring, with Bernardi out, McDowell was moved to center to battle Pacheco for first team reps. McDowell was also recovering from an injury, thus Pacheco took most of the first team reps in spring. The trend continued in voluntary summer workouts, and it carried into fall camp.

Head Coach Pat Hill raved about Pacheco's dedication in the off-season at the Fresno State Football Media Day. Hill stated Pacheco lost about 7% of his body fat and dropped to 285 pounds.

"We have a pretty grueling summer workout program," said Pacheco. "I ate a little bit better and just worked hard."

He does not care what spot he plays on the offensive line. Moreover, he is not trying to think about the center competition, he just wants what is best for the team.

"It didn't really matter just as long as I had the opportunity to play," said Pacheco. "It's like a dream come true, so it really doesn't matter to me. Whatever happens, happens, I'm for whatever is best for the team." Few expected Bernardi to compete for the starting spot this fall after injuring his knee for the third time in his career last October 26th against Boise State. Nonetheless, he says he is ready to roll in 2008.

"I am right at 10 months. I'm 100%, ready to go," said Bernardi. "Obviously I feel some soreness and pain, but I'm ready to go. My goal is to be back and ready to play against Rutgers. A lot of people thought I wouldn't be ready to go by camp."

The two friends are having great camps thus far and will have a huge opportunity to prove themselves during Sunday night's scrimmage.

"Well camp has been going pretty well so far for me," said Pacheco. "Just keep on doing what I am doing, keep on studying, keep on working hard and playing hard."

"Camp is coming along well," said Bernardi. "I missed a lot of time between spring and summer; right now Pacheco is the man. He's taken all the reps since spring ball. We're trying to fill the void left by Ryan Wendell"

Despite a close friendship between the two, Bernardi summed up what the goal is the rest of camp. "I got a job to win right now," he said.

Listen to both players interviews for more details and comments on their on going competition to win the starting spot at center…

Richard Pacheco Interview –
Joe Bernardi Interview –

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