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Learning Curve: Sophomore Chambers doing his best to coach up Blue Devils' young line

It's fair to call Michael Chambers a multi-tasker.

In addition to his regular duties at left guard, the sophomore can be found padding his resume out on the Merced College practice field.

Chambers is a motivational speaker, an educator and sometimes even takes on the role of coach.

With 11 freshmen learning the collegiate ropes, the Blue Devils' only returning lineman has to play any role at any given time.

And in MC's opening-day implosion against Monterey Peninsula, Chambers was forced to assume every role at once.

"It was frustrating, because in my opinion (Monterey) wasn't that good," Chambers said. "We just basically handed them points."

Chambers and his linemates had little to do with the special teams mistakes that facilitated Monterey's 41-13 blowout victory.

Still, the line's lack of production in the ground game was the icing on an all-around disappointing performance.

The Blue Devils' backs combined for just 57 yards on 27 attempts.

"(Monterey) was filling holes fast, but it was a combination of things." sophomore running back Garrett Turner said. "You could see it on film, guys were trying hard.

"We just missed a few blocks."

The 2.1 yards-per-carry average was far below what MC coach Tony Lewis and his staff were expecting from a backfield he described as "explosive."

"It was the first game, so guys weren't used to the technique," Chambers said. "We watched the film and guys would either take a step back because they thought the play was going the other way or cut when they weren't supposed to.

"It's just stuff that's going to be fixed through repetitions."

That didn't stop Chambers from trying to fix things on the fly.

"A lot of (the freshmen) would put their heads down when things went wrong," Chambers said. "I tried to keep everyone up.

"If a guy used the wrong technique I explained the play to them and told them to just focus on the next one.

"There were some plays where guys would ask me what they're supposed to do, but for a first game I thought they did a good job."

Lewis said the onus wasn't entirely on the offensive line.

"Sometimes it was just one guy breaking down," Lewis said. "There were plays where the offensive line did their job and a fullback or tight end would miss their assignment.

"So, it was kind of a team effort."

A few early changes to the lineup didn't help the Blue Devils, either.

Things started off on the wrong foot -- or ankle, as the case was for MC's offensive line.

Starting left tackle Rondell Morgan sprained his ankle on the Blue Devils' opening series.

Morgan tried to play through the pain, but by MC's third offensive series, Lewis was forced to make a move.

Chambers took over at left tackle to help give quarterback Ryan Williston some backside piece of mind, but after that...

Chaos.

"I know how to play every position on the line, so in between series I tried to go over things with the guys," Chambers said. "Things have been a lot smoother in practice this week."

With NorCal-ranked opponents San Joaquin Delta and Reedley looming on the schedule in weeks three and four, there's a sense of urgency to get the running game figured out against De Anza tonight in MC's home opener.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

De Anza may be just the cure that ails MC after surrendering 348 rushing yards in a loss to San Mateo.

"We have film on these guys this week, so I think everyone's a lot more comfortable going into this game," Chambers said. "We've seen some things in the tape, and I think the guys have some confidence."

One area Lewis that doesn't concern with after the opener is his line's pass protection.

Despite being down 34-0 at halftime and Williston dropping back for 40 pass attempts, the young line only surrendered three sacks.

"We were very pleased," Lewis said, "especially with everyone in the stadium knowing we had to pass to try and get back in the game.

"Now we're looking just to have a little more balance."

If Chambers has his say, that won't be a problem.

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

De Anza (0-1) at Merced College (0-1)

WHERE: Stadium '76

KICKOFF: Tonight at 6 p.m.

AT A GLANCE: Both teams look to bounce back from opening-week losses. The Blue Devils are determined to show they're a much better team than they appeared while getting smoked 41-13 at Monterey.

De Anza suffered a similar thrashing as San Mateo rushed for 384 yards in a 38-16 victory.

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