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Cal Football

Bear Insider Video: Frosh OT Will Craig

October 27, 2018
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Cal freshman offensive tackle Will Craig saw significant playing time last weekend in Cal's victory over Oregon State after offensive guard Mike Saffell was lost for the season to injury. It was the second game for the true frosh and increased the likelihood that he'd continue to play past the four game maximum for a player to maintain his redshirt season.

The 6-4 Craig came into the season thinking he might play offensive guard but so far this season has only seen time at OT, where his long arms are ideal for holding off edge rushers on the line.

[01:08] So you've seen time on the field against Idaho state and now Oregon State. Have you played both guard and tackle or one or the other?

"I don't really see like my height as a disadvantage and I have long arms," said Craig. "It's just never really been an issue. I'm like like 273 I think, but I dropped a lot of weight in the summer -lost a lot of fat- and now I'm just slowly building up and adding muscle, which obviously takes longer but this is the right type of way to add.

"I like playing at this weight. I think I move faster and quicker and can still take on bull rushes. 

"It's obviously tougher at this weight and I'd like to be a little heavier but I'm not going to put on just fat because I think that's the wrong way to do it. I think in the long run, putting on muscle like three years down the road, if I just keep putting on muscle, it will be a lot easier."

Offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin was asked what he saw from Craig in his first significant playing time this season.

"His athleticism," said Baldwin. "Best thing I can say as a coordinator and a playcaller, I didn't notice him. And I mean that in a good way because if you notice him, like a longsnapper, you notice them when something goes wrong. That's just the nature of that position (left tackle) on the 0-line. I didn't have to worry about any kind of protection because we had a freshman on the field. I didn't have to think of any of that stuff."

"Some guys are gifted with more athleticism," said Baldwin. "Certain things like that can get you out of a jam when you do something wrong and Will has some of that."

"It makes me really happy to see him play and to see the potential that he has as a bigtime player in this conference," said QB Chase Garbers. 

Is Craig expecting to play throughout the season?

"You hate to see Mike go down," said Craig. "We love that guy, but if they have me play, I'm ready to play. I'm willing to do whatever that helps the team. That's what I'm here for. And if someone else plays, I'm going to give them the my best on scouts or whatever serves the offense. So I'm just here to play if they need me to play."

One of the hallmarks of a Steve Greatwood line is versatility, with most of the lineman able to play more than one position while also knowing the calls for multiple positions, as well.

"I think that's really ideal," said Craig. "Especially because when injuries happen, you can kind of plug people in. There's always the next guy up mentality. And yet, with everyone knowing other positions, it makes it a lot easier for us to just plug guys in rather than like, 'Oh, you're specifically this and only this.' So it just makes it a lot easier.

"Injuries do happen, which is basically inevitable. You hate to see it, but I think it's good to know multiple positions and it only makes your job easier. You have to know what the guard's doing when you're playing left tackle. You've got to be working as a unit. You've got to know what everyone's doing. So I think it's the best to play multiple positions."

Craig has the advantage of coming in playing with a veteran offensive line, with their top seven starters returning, meaning he wasn't rushed into playing time and has a wealth of knowledge and experience surrounding him on the field and in the locker room.

"It's just been awesome," said Craig. "I mean I just try and be a sponge and absorb everything I can learn from Pat (senior OT Patrick Mekari), like trying to just be like an apprentice to him and take his techniques and everything. 

"And playing next to Val (Daltoso), he just knows so much. And Addi (Ooms) -he just knows the playbook by heart, basically. I roomed with Jake (Curhan) and I talked to Jake about some stuff. Really, you can ask anyone about things and there's just so many little techniques they've helped me out with.

"When I first came here, my technique was pretty terrible, but they've just kept working with me and they've been so helpful. So I'm really appreciative."

Interestingly enough, Craig came to the program as a highly-touted 4 star recruit who exhibited tremendous technique on the prep level. But as coaches are quick to point out, prep ball and the big-time world of Pac-12, Power-5 conference ball is a different beast altogether.

"There's obviously just so many little minute things that you have to do at the college level," said Craig. "I had really solid high school coaches. They were great, but it's a whole different ball game. There's so many little things in college that you have to do and each of them it takes up to like a week to master them. You've got to just keep working at the craft. Like one week it's one thing, the next week it's another. Each week, work on something and get better at it. Just so many little details that you have to know."

Craig arrived at Cal with friend and Granite Bay High School teammate Evan Tattersall. The two have remained close, rooming together at Cal.

Tattersall made a nice impact in fall camp as an aggressive, playmaking middle linebacker for the Bears and continues to make an impression on scout team during the season.

"I haven't gotten to go against him too much, but if I get reps with the ones, I see him in the service period," said Craig. "He's always been a freak athlete and I think with coach Sirman, he's learning so much. He's starting to get the whole like football IQ of it and he's using that freakish athleticism to his advantage.

"0\It's great to see him becoming a complete football player and I think he's just going to keep getting better and better. He's an absolute freak in the weight room and he's fast. He's going to be a stud and just keep getting better and better."

Craig also had great things to say about fellow frosh Aaron Maldonado, who's seen good playing time so far this season for the Bears at nose tackle.

"Aaron's tough," said Craig. "Aaron's a beast. I think we have to play him. He's just an absolute stud. Pass rush, run defense. He's tough. He came in like ready to go. Day one. He's an absolute stud."

After three weeks of disappoinment and struggles on the field, the Bears' 49-7 thrashing of Oregon State in Corvallis last weekend was just what the doctor ordered for the program -both fans and players.

"It's just great," said Craig. "You know, the locker room, it's a different atmosphere. People are happy and we're still working just as hard. I think it's great to get a win like that. We really needed a solid one, where we played well on both sides, not just one side, because we've had games where one side plays well and the other doesn't. It was great to have a whole team victory there."

After disastrous mistakes derailed the Bears in all three of their losses, playing clean football, with a distinct lack of turnovers and penalties made a significant difference in the team's rhythm and ability to move the ball on offense.

"We had only had one penalty on offense and when you play clean like that, it just makes those drives so much easier, because when you shoot yourself in the foot,  you have those third and long situations and it's always tough. It's pretty. It's a lot easier to just have sustained drives and we had a lot of them were just great, We gad like 10, 10 plus play drives and then we also hit the big plays too. So being able to be explosive or grinding it out or being able to do both, it's just great."

The Bears hope to be able to carry the momentum from last week's victory into a strong performance today. The Bears will need it, taking on the first place Washington Huskies, who top the Pac-12 North with a 4-1 (6-2) record so far this season.

Kickoff begins at 3:30 pm at Memorial Stadium and will be televised on FoxSports1.

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Bear Insider Video: Frosh OT Will Craig

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