Bears Bringing in Former Clemson Standout OL for Tryout: Report

Gage Cervenka Bears

Getty Gage Cervenka celebrates Clemson's 44-16 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship in 2019.

The Chicago Bears are bringing former Clemson offensive lineman Gage Cervenka in for a tryout, according to NFL analyst Aaron Wilson. Cervenka spent four seasons with the Tigers, from 2015-19. He went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, and after not catching on anywhere, didn’t play at all last year.

He was at Chicago’s minicamp tryouts early this spring, but the team wound up waiving him in May. Considering the the Bears have three presumed starters from their offensive line (Germain Ifedi, Teven Jenkins and James Daniels) currently missing training camp with various ailments, it’s no surprise they’re looking at extra o-line help.

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Cervenka Worked His Way Up at Clemson

Cervenka initially redshirted as a defensive tackle in 2015, and he switched over to offensive line in 2016. He was Clemson’s backup center the following year before switching yet again to guard in 2018, when he became the team’s starter at the position. He was a second-team All-ACC selection his final year with the Tigers in 2019.

Cervenka had the highest PlayStation Player Impact Ranking in all of college football at the start of the 2019 season, per ESPN, and analyst Dan Orlovsky said this about him that year:

“When Cervenka was on the field, Clemson was twice as efficient moving the ball than when he was off. … With Clemson down 16-7 at halftime against Syracuse, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence out with an injury, Dabo Swinney inserted then-backup Cervenka into the offensive line for the rest of the game. Clemson would come back to win, with Cervenka leading the way for running back Travis Etienne.”

The 6-foot-3, 325-pound Cervenka never looked back.

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Could Juan Castillo Turn Cervenka Into His Latest Success?

Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo has had a good deal of recent success turning undrafted free agents into capable starters and role players on the line. He took two former Notre Dame standouts who also were UDFAs, Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher, and turned them into a versatile reserve o-lineman and the team’s presumed starting center, respectively.

Can he do the same for Cervenka? The 24-year-old o-lineman certainly has some traits Castillo can work with.

Here’s what Joe Marino of The Draft Network said about Cervenka heading into the draft in 2020:

Pros: Extremely powerful, much like others who have played the right guard spot for Dabo Swinney at Clemson. Set a new Clemson record with 44 bench press reps of 225 pounds in the Summer of 2019. Is a converted defensive tackle and is still new to playing offensive line as of 2016 – became a starter in 2018 and has played center in addition to guard. His play strength often shows up on the field with impressive moments anchoring, moving bodies and hitting devastating blocks on the move. Cons: Extremely raw and his newness to the position is evident. Has issues staying square and sustaining blocks. Has to develop the correct posture, bend and balance in pass protection. Major development needed in terms of footwork, hand usage/timing and rolling hips into contact. Still rotates a good bit, even in the early portions of 2019. Overall, has to develop proper blocking techniques and habits to maximize his physical traits.

If there’s one thing Castillo is good at, it’s maximizing the physical traits of his players. Ifedi played much more fundamentally sound in his lone year under Castillo in 2020, and the Bears’ o-line coach has a long history of developing young talent in the NFL. We’ll see if Cervenka catches on and becomes his next young pupil.

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