Aug. 15, 2002
BERKELEY - He may be soft-spoken, but junior left tackle Mark Wilson is prepared to have a loud impact on the field.
After playing on the right side the past two years, Wilson switched to the left side in the spring after new offensive line coach Jim Michalczik decided he was better suited to protect quarterback Kyle Boller's backside.
While moving from one end of the line to the other might sound simple, Michalczik assures that the differences and difficulties the change possesses are vast.
"It sounds real simple, but it's switching everything over," Michalczik said. "It's like trying to eat left-handed when you are used to eating right-handed."
"It seems a lot simpler than it is, but it takes time and effort."
The time was put in and the effort was made during the summer months. After last spring Wilson came away from the field feeling the need to improve in his new assignment.
"I was a little uncomfortable coming out of the spring, but now I feel like I've got a pretty good grasp of it," Wilson said. "This year, I've worked really hard in the summer and right now I feel really good. I feel ready."
Wilson may be ready, but improvement will be needed from all members of the offensive line. Protecting the quarterback hasn't been an easy task for the Golden Bears over the last few years. Last season alone, Cal signal-callers were sacked 32 times.
And while right now Michalczik is looking for the right combination of guys that can get the job done every time, Wilson believes that there is no comparison between last year's offense to this season's unit.
"Our offense is a lot more complex now," Wilson said. "We're running all sorts of different plays and our playbook is much thicker than before. We definitely have a bigger arsenal to choose from."
With a new offense in order, Wilson plans on getting back to the way he played his freshman year. In his impressive debut, he graded out at 89 percent or better in 10 of his 11 starts, earning freshman All-American honors from both The Sporting News and Football News. In 2001, he was honored by his team with the Andy Smith Award for most playing time and the Big Hit Award for the most big hits during the season.
He is a junior on an offensive line that features two seniors, but Wilson is quite possibly the most seasoned of the veterans. He brings a lot of experience, returning as the only lineman to start all 22 games over the last two years.
"I'd say my experience has put me in a leadership role," Wilson said. "But we also have two seniors, so it's still pretty much their line. I like to lead by example all the way around, drill for drill, and just want to give it my best."
Giving it his all is something that Michalczik has seen much of so far during training camp. With Wilson's size and athletic ability, he is quickly becoming one of Cal's top pass protectors.
"Leadership is just somebody wanting to get it done and get it done right," Michalczik said. "Someone to step up and say, 'Hey we are here for a purpose, we're not just trying to get through things. Follow me and let's go work.' And that is what Mark is good at."