DAY 17: Beavs look to be rounding into form

CORVALLIS--A lot of big hits for the Beavs, some smooth offense and decent accuracy from the quarterbacks despite strong winds. It was also the first time Mike Riley intentionally made mention of the upcoming home opener against Nicholls State, set for September 1. Joe Seumalo lends us his insight into the bright future of the Oregon State defensive line squad and more in this Day 17 report.

"Practice was good, we went through a lot of football," Mike Riley said. "We went through about every situation you could do in an hour and ten minutes. We will push through this week and we are doing a little Nicholls State stuff, then we will go from there."

Today was the first official day that Riley and crew worked on game sequences in preparation for week one of the college football regular season.

"We had done a little bit of it already, but mostly in the night walk-throughs'," Riley aid. "But today was our first day in practice."

Riley also acknowledged the fact that, despite Storm Woods recently being named the No.1 for the Beavs in the tailback slot, he saw no hint of hindered effort on behalf of the three guys backing him up.

"That group – there are no egomaniacs in that group," Riley said of his tailbacks. "I saw the other guys working hard and I saw Storm making some plays (today). They are all really good hard-working guys.

Injury Report Day 17:
With the injury bug apparently tapering off for the time being, only a few Beavs were out today -- and two returned to the ranks after missing most of week three with small injuries.

Redshirt sophomore Mishawn Cummings wore sweats instead of pads today, but appeared to be in no real pain as he paced up and down the sideline joking with his teammates and encouraging the cornerbacks during drills.

Micah Hatfield returned to the field for the first half of practice this afternoon, but removed his pads and observed when it came time to run contact drills. For the time he did play, Hatfield looked to be at full speed and ready to continue playing – his sitting out was likely a precaution, nothing else.

Peter Ashton also returned to the field on defense and fell right back into the grove on the 2's, holding down the strong safety position.

Obum Gwacham continues to sit out - all that is known at this point is that Gwacham suffered a foot injury earlier in the week. While he looks like he might be able to return, Riley is adamant about letting players determine for themselves when they are fully healthy and ready to start taking reps again. Gwacham was initially expected to return by the end of the week – we will keep you updated as the situation develops.

Desmond Collins, Blake Harrah, Chase Eldredge and Kendall Hill all remain out with injuries that will likely prevent them from participating for the remainder of the fall camp period.

Position Nuggets/Tweaks:
Shaydon Akuna looks to have solidified the No.2 strong side ‘backer slot behind D.J. Welch. For the past week, Akuna has seen the majority of the work on the 2's backing up Welch, and has looked like he is worthy of holding the position down.

Akuna displays solid pass recognition and quick hands when it comes to getting in the way of a ball. Akuna also takes up a lot of space on the field with his 6-2, 245 frame, and is one of the more physical ‘backers under Trent Bray.

Rueben Robinson and Joel Skotte have been doing a 50/50 time share on the 2's at the MIK position.

Robinson has also seen limited time at the weak side linebacker spot backing up Michael Doctor and Jabral Johnson.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled:
Not a position nugget or tweak – but a little insight from defensive line coach Joe Seumalo goes a long way when it comes to understanding who will hold what role when it come to the defensive line.

"Our top eight (defensive linemen), I am so encouraged by them," Seumalo said. "I'm encouraged by their progress. I'm kind of excited to see this bunch go out and play September 1."

Seumalo, however, wasn't about to name any one player who has risen above the competition during the course of the last three weeks.

"You know to be honest with you, we've got eight starters – and that is the way it should be," Seumalo said. "I would have no problem starting (Joe) Lopez or Mana Rosa – or Rudolf (Fifita) and (John) Braun."

Seumalo has reason to be optimistic - it would seem as if the only place on the roster where the Beavs are actually stacked with an efficient/game-ready back-up crew is on the D-line.

Practice Notes Day 17:

Offense:
Quarterback: On balance, it was a decent day for the QBs. But the wind came in intense pockets today, and it did mess a bit with Sean Mannion's rhythm and accuracy. He seemed reluctant at times to toss the ball up – this was due in part to the windy conditions yes, but it must also be said the secondary was on top of their assignments like white on rice.

Mannion overthrew a number of his targets when he did risk the deep ball – an inaccuracy that sometimes extended to the red zone offense as well. The biggest issue might have been that the wind caused him to hesitate, and too much time spent in making a decision threw everything off kilter.

Tailback: Par for the course today when it comes to the running corps. Woods looked good holding down the No.1 slot and Malcolm Agnew and Terron Ward got some sweet looks on a few runs in particular and in the passing game.

The RBs group did today what they have been best at throughout fall camp – gaining consistent chunks of yardage on each carry and moving in step with their blocks.

Tight End: Riley has been on the fence about his tight ends over the last week. But he still shows confidence in their ability to develop and eventually produce some key plays in the offensive game.

"That is a great group of young tight ends," Riley said. "Colby (Prince) is a great leader in the group, and with Colby out they are all getting lots of turns and are taking great advantage of it. They are all playing the best ball I've ever seen them play."

But there has been concern (and ample reason for it) about the tight ends' ability to help out with blocking in the run game.

"They can get better at that," Riley said. "But I think the combination of skills you find a tight end needs are pretty difficult, and it's always about refinement with those (skills). You need the ability to go catch a ball and then go block a defensive end – that's pretty unique.

"They are really progressing, I love that group. We are so much further ahead with them right now than we were a year ago."

Wide Receiver: The wide receiver corps had their work cut out for them. The secondary was tenacious, and Mannion had an off day.

Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks were able to some big plays in the red zone when they weren't double covered or trying to catch up to an errant throw – but overall the day can be chalked up as a mediocre one for the OSU grabmasters.

Kevin Cummings and Richard Mullaney continued to stand out in the absence of Obum Gwacham and along with Wheaton and Cooks, the group pretty much reeled in any pass that was feasibly obtainable and within a few yards of them – drops were not a problem.

With the exception of Wheaton, though, the other receivers struggled running some good routes, especially down inside the 20 yard line.

Offensive Line: An impressive day for the O-line, who played smartly for an entire hour and a half, and looked dominant during pass blocking drills.

Isaac Seumalo got some cheers from his teammates when he single handedly blocked Castro Masaniai – and made it look easy.

Another note: A Grant Enger/Colin Kelly blocking combination is a force to be reckoned with. Both players moved in sync with one another during pass blocking drills, and a lot of the runs that went their direction were pretty successful in terms of yards gained and big enough gaps for the back to slip through.

Standing alone, Enger and Kelly might each struggle here and there against some of the bigger, rushing Pac-12 defensive ends and linebackers. But together, they are a brick wall.

Defense:
Defensive Line: One player in particular that has made significant progress throughout fall camp has been Joe Lopez.

"I think J-Lo (Lopez's nickname) is not only strong – one of the strongest guys on this football team - but he is smart," Seumalo said. "He plays at a great pad level and he understands the game – he has football instinct. He has had a great camp for us."

Lopez has developed this fall camp into a rock solid No.2 at nose tackle, and has shown that he is very capable of maneuvering the defensive line and can be successful at just about any position. He has great speed off the snap, it's not too much of a stretch to say it's comparable to the initial burst of Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton.

Lopez's capabilities are a good concept to focus on, as questions will persist this season regarding Masaniai's (starter at the nose) durability – what if he gets injured? What if due to his size he the endurance begins to wane as the game goes on? Lopez's play this fall camp has alleviated some of that angst. And Masaniai, well there's more than meets the eye there, says his position coach.

"The funny thing is this – people talk about Castro but don't know that the kid is actually mobile," Seumalo said. "The kid is alive on his feet, he can move and he can run. His endurance has not been an issue since camp started.

"I'm confident that he will be one of the best leaders we have in our group."

Linebackers: The ‘backers had one of their better days today when it came to pass coverage.

Part of this may be attributed to Mannion and Cody Vaz showing some level of anxiety when it came to throwing the ball (giving the backers more time to set up in coverage), but in general, the 1's and 2's showed great closing speed.

The 2's (Johnson, Skotte/Robinson, and Akuna) in particular were stellar at interfering with the run game today.

The linebacker corps looks far more developed at this stage of camp than they did at its onset – which may seem like an obvious statement that kind of goes without saying. But improvement in their patience and increased focus on the fundamentals has really paid dividends across the board for the linebackers' over the last three weeks.

Secondary: Great performances from Rashaad Reynolds, Sean Martin and Brian Watkins today.

Poyer (as always) was a work horse and managed to shut down half of the field at a time when he was setting up in coverage.

Martin was all over the place in the red zone – using his height to his advantage and knocking down a few zingers form Mannion and Vaz. Martin, Poyer and Watkins were especially effective at defending jump balls in the corner of the end zone.

Martin has been seeing increased reps against certain sets – he's capable of making an immediate impact in the secondary.

BIG HIT
Ashton made sure Mullaney knew he was back in action today. Mullaney cut across the end zone during game simulation drills and was wide open for a fleeting moment, during which time Vaz zipped the ball to him. And Mullaney managed to take in the catch. For a moment.

Ashton dealt him a vicious blow that not only knocked the ball out, but put Mullaney flat on his back. Mullaney got up, but he was down for a good 10 seconds. A big-time hit.

Day 17 Depth Chart:

OFFENSE
Quarterback: Sean Mannion

Tailback: Storm Woods

Fullback: Clayton York

Tight End: Connor Hamlett/Caleb Smith

Wide Receiver: Markus Wheaton (X), Brandin Cooks (Z), Richard Mullaney/Kevin Cummings (Slot)

Offensive Line: OT- Michael Philipp OG - Josh Andrews C - Isaac Seumalo OG- Grant Enger OT – Colin Kelly/Gavin Andrews

DEFENSE
Defensive Line: DE – Dylan Wynn, DT – Castro Masaniai, DT – Andrew Seumalo/Joe Lopez, DE Scott Crichton

Linebackers (OLB): Michael Doctor (Weak), D.J. Welch (Strong)

ILB: Feti Unga (or Taumoepeau)

Cornerbacks: Jordan Poyer, Rashaad Reynolds/Sean Martin

Safeties: Tyrequek Zimmerman (Free), Ryan Murphy (Strong)


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