What we've learned from spring: OSU O-LINE

CORVALLIS- How is Oregon State's front five shaping up with a spring session in the books and fall on the mind? We also take a look at the potential future success of Sean Harlow and Grant Bays. How did Josh Mitchell look as a center backing up a mostly limited Isaac Seumalo? Unlike last season, the Beavs have depth on the O-line – but do they have talented depth?

The Veterans
If spring was any indicator of how well Michael Philipp is going to do in 2013, I must admit that I am pretty excited. Philipp had a fantastic spring – he appears to have shed a few pounds and by virtue of that, the senior starting left tackle has acquired more speed off the snap.

He kept pace with an oft-blitzing Dylan Wynn all spring long and had better stamina. The quickness of his hands has also improved. Basically, he's grown into one hell of a blocker and I was impressed with his spring showing.

In April, defenders had their work cut out for them if they tried to penetrate the left hand side of the offensive line. Yet I cannot attribute all the success simply too the maturation of Philipp at left tackle – Josh Andrews is arguably the most unheralded member of the starting front five, and he had a solid spring as well.

Andrews (6-3, 303) is a true guard with the girth to plug up the middle of the line, and the speed/moderate agility to slide east/west with ease and provide help when needed. Andrews' gets a big first push and plays low on a defender's body, managing to get good position and push up on a D-linemen's chest and shoulders, giving them less room to maneuver and finding a crease in the line.

Between Philipp, Andrews and this next o-lineman, you can expect to see a lot of runs going to the left in 2013.

That would be Isaac Seumalo. The sophomore (who makes it on the Vet list after a tremendous 2012 season) was off and on for much of the first three weeks of spring due to a mild elbow injury. At first, Seumalo's snaps were limited, but once he got the go ahead to pad up, he rarely missed a beat and looked strong holding his assignments.

Notes on the sophomore are limited, due to his limited amount of playing time during the spring session. But Seumalo should be 100 percent in the fall and looks to have a big impact on Mike Cavanaugh's O-line.

Grant Enger continued to shine during the spring. The senior right guard brings stability and a ton of game experience to the table. Enger is lean, yet very strong and very much in control of every facet of his blocking technique. He makes very few mistakes, and is capable of multi-tasking blocks where others cannot.

In the event that Gavin Andrews remains the top dog for starting time at right tackle, one can only assume that opposing defensive coordinators are going to gear their approach toward that side of the field in an attempt to exploit the inexperience on the right end. That being said, I imagine Riley and Co. find a lot of solace in the fact that Enger is over there to provide support for Andrews.

The senior has a nasty streak that very few defensive linemen can account for – keep that in mind, because Enger is one of the biggest weapons OSU has at its disposal on offense heading into the fall.

Roman Sapolu picked up some of the slack at the center position, but the junior center did not see many reps outside of the confines of the scout team. Sapolu occasionally stepped up to fill in with the 2's, but apart from that he wasn't much of a factor in the spring.

The Young Guys
Josh Mitchell got the call to replace the injured Seumalo at the onset of the spring session and all in all, the sophomore exceeded my expectations.

Mitchell at 6-2, 286-pounds gets by based on technique and stamina as opposed to girth. He was able to hold his own against a variety of defensive looks – Mitchell picked up linebackers and defensive linemen alike, and even the occasional blitzing member of the secondary.

Ultimately, I look at Mitchell as the next Derek Nielsen for Cavanaugh's squad – he is a utility player. Not big enough to be overly effective as a guard, yet not too small to prevent him from stepping up as an efficient tackle when needed. Hence why Mitchell can just cruise the line as Nielsen did - a skeleton key for the offensive line.

Is Gavin Andrews ready to take the next step and be the right tackle OSU desperately needs after the graduation of Colin Kelly?

From this seat, the answer is no, not quite yet. If you were to ask me, I would say that Andrews is not quite athletic enough at 6-5, 327 to be an efficient tackle against modern day defensive ends. While he is certainly no lumbering oaf, it takes a lot of grit, stamina and well-developed technique to become an efficient tackle in any program, and to date, Andrews has fallen a bit short in all three of those categories.

The sophomore has some pressure resting on his shoulders. With that all noted, spring showed marked improvement in multiple categories for the young lineman, and he is the best option OSU has available for right tackle duties at this juncture.

One more thing – Andrews did not have a ‘bad spring' by any means. It just wasn't a great spring either. If Andrews can really take advantage of the fall session, he could make some noise moving forward.

The introduction of Sean Harlow to the program was welcome. Harlow routinely outlasted and outperformed members of the secondary offensive line unit. The 6-4, 275 freshman had particular success picking up blitzes off of the end and his technique remained superior to his teammates running with the 2's.

Harlow showed a lot in the one-on-one trench battles during the spring, most notably against Dylan Wynn, who appeared at times to be unable to figure out the young lineman. The idea here is that, if you can manage to tick off a veteran D-linemen and two-year starter in trench battles, you must be doing something right.

Justin Addie and Nolan Hansen manned the secondary offensive line alongside Mitchell and Harlow. Collectively, the trio had a mediocre spring characterized by some miscues which Cavanaugh made sure to point out.

Addie is a redshirt sophomore who has managed to improve quite a bit from last season, yet he still is at a middling stage in his development where he has yet to jump out and prove he is a potential contender for starting time. Hansen has yet to step up and indicate that he can fill X or Y role in the immediate future. From this chair, both are placeholders on the offensive line.

I anticipate fall ball will play host to Cav grinding into his unit with more intensity than he did in the spring – pushing guys to step up and make a statement before the season gets rolling. Should this be the case, rest assured that Addie and Hansen will be on the top of my watch list.

Grant Bays saw some playing time with the 1's this spring, filling in for Grant Enger at right guard when the senior was absent from practice. Bays is a strong substitute on the line and more than capable of stuffing running lanes.

The redshirt freshman is 6-1, 300 and showed at times that he could be a total tank against opposing defensive tackles trying to squeeze through the gap left between the center and guard. Bays is one of the more improved members of the young secondary line unit that OSU is running with right now. Bays is another one of the young players who can make an impact in the fall and potentially the regular season if he is called upon to fill a void due to injury.

Chase Eldredge donned full pads for the first time in recent memory about halfway through the spring, after being out with an injury for the better part of a year. David Keller managed to land himself in a boot during week one, exhausting any potential impact he could have had in the spring. Couple that with Garrett Weinreich's preexisting knee injury.

Walk on Tyler Ropp was another one of the newbies this spring. He saw limited action when compared to Harlow, and showed me that he had more of a learning curve to overcome as far as seeing significant time this fall is concerned.

While OSU is surely nowhere near the depth concerns they had last season, injuries remain a slight concern, and one can only hope that injuries are not exacerbated as the fall camp scenarios get more intense.

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