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Starter at left guard up in the air, but Omiyale, Beekman both in the mix
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/20/2009 12:12 AM

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BOURBONNAIS - The Bears haven't changed their depth chart for Saturday night's second preseason game, which means they still list Josh Beekman as the starter at left guard. Odd, since Frank Omiyale will actually start, as he did in the first preseason game.

So what's up with that?

"We're still looking," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We're trying to sort everything out, but still looking. Frank has done a nice job, and 'Beeks' has done a nice job."

Beekman started all 16 games at left guard last season, but the Bears gave Omiyale a contract worth $14 million (including bonuses and escalators) over four years to leave the Panthers and presumably not to sit on the bench in Chicago.

The problem is that Omiyale was mostly a tackle with Carolina, and he's still adjusting to playing inside. Team sources say Omiyale has not outperformed Beekman to this point, but he's making progress in adjusting to his new position.

"At tackle you have more space to work, but at guard everything is right now," Omiyale said. "You have that nose guard sitting right on your shoulder. But I think I'm starting to develop pretty good with it.

"I was frustrated at first because I want to get it right, right now. But I know that it's a progression, just like (offensive line) coach (Harry Hiestand) was telling me, and I'm happy where I'm at right now."

Beekman's battle for the guard spot could be hindered because he is also being groomed as the heir apparent to 12-year veteran center Olin Kreutz, who can't play forever. Being able to start at both guard positions and at center would make Beekman more valuable to the Bears in the long run, but it doesn't necessarily keep him in the starting lineup at present.

"You've just got to be versatile," Beekman said. "You've got to show a club that you can do multiple things. John St. Clair last year was the starting left tackle, but he played left guard, he played right tackle and I think he's played right guard, too. He coached me up. You've got to be ready, you've got to know what you're doing. He helped out a lot by being an example for me."

At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Omiyale has a bit of a size advantage on Beekman, who is listed (generously) at 6-2 and 310. Omiyale may be a better fit at guard, while Beekman's size and quickness are more suited to center.

"He's powerful, he's got excellent strength and excellent explosion and quickness off the ball," Turner said of Omiyale. "He's gotten better every day as far as the adjustment. He's got the natural talent; now he's getting comfortable in the system."

Publicly Beekman shows no bitterness at being a potential utility man.

"The coaches said it would help me, showing the versatility," he said. "It just helps you overall with the game. If you know what the center's supposed to do and you know what the guard's supposed to do, it just helps you when you're playing and trying to anticipate everything and how the offense should run."

Turner said the best player will be the starter, regardless of other factors.

"The best guy is going to play," he said. "Whoever is going to help us win is going to play left guard. If (Beekman) is not a starting left guard, he'll definitely be a backup center, and a good one. He's a smart guy, a very mature guy and he's a team guy. He's got a good head on his shoulders."