PRACTICE: OSU could be 2 starters down

CORVALLIS-Good and bad news for the Beavs, as they wrapped up the final week of fall camp in Reser Stadium. There's the potential loss of two projected starters – at least for the home opener against Nicholls State next Saturday. The lines and QBs turned in solid work, two walk on o-linemen joined the fray and LBs coach Trent Bray lends us his insight on what his charges must do to be successful.

TE Colby Prince and S Anthony Watkins may not be deemed fit to play in the first game of the college football regular season, said Mike Riley.

Prince was practicing catches on the sideline today and appeared to be in fair condition, but Riley and the Beavs won't be taking any risks.

"I'm worried about it, "Riley said Saturday. "I didn't think he (Prince) would still be in a sling. But they tell me he is going to be able to do some stuff on Monday, so we will see."

The best candidate to fill the void left by Prince if in fact his shoulder (separated earlier this week) does not heal in time for Saturday?

"Connor Hamlett – and that group is good, but I sure would like Colby to be front and center," Riley said. "And I think Caleb (Smith) is not going to redshirt and we are going to play him. Even though I have had second thoughts about that, I think that is the way we are going to go."

Another blow comes in the way of Watkins, who has effectively missed nearly two-thirds of fall camp, and continues to look as if he is not ready to play full contact football.

"It doesn't look like he is going to be ready at all." Riley said.

Watkins has been out with a hip flexor strain and his absence removes a key cog out of a defensive wheel that has been on a roll and gaining momentum heading into the final stages of fall training.

"If you are going to be a great team, you have got to play good defense," Riley said. "That is a common denominator of things that win championships – an offense can be really good and be really efficient, but they only contribute (to really good teams). Defensively you've got set the tone (of a game), and I think we still have a chance to do that."

His absence has been softened somewhat by Watkins' replacement this fall camp – Tyrequek Zimmerman has played well in his stead.

The Grass Is Greener:

And not just because the turf is artificial. In light of the nagging injuries to Prince and Watkins, Day 18 brought with it two additional jerseys to the offensive line ranks.

Jake Hatcher (junior standing, No. 76) from Astoria and freshman Garett Southam (No. 51) of Durham, Calif. took part in basic drills with the run blockers for the first time today. Hatcher as a prepster was named the Defensive POY of the Cowapa conference in 2009, Southam helped lead Durham High to its first football section title and return trip to the D-III final his last two years in high school.

They were, however, dwarfed in size by nearly every member of the Beavs' offensive line today. Frankly, the pair looked like linebackers, not linemen when standing next to some of the other Beavers.

Injury Report Day 18:

Prince and Watkins out – Prince's eventual return is still questionable, and Watkins is out for the foreseeable future.

Linemen Desmond Collins and Blake Harrah are still feeling the bite of an injury bug – as is Mishawn Cummings, who adorned sweats for the second day in a row.

Obum Gwacham is still favoring a foot injury that he incurred earlier this week, but Micah Hatfield made a full return today and made some smooth catches with the 2's.

Chase Eldredge, Garrett Weinreich and Kendall Hill remain on the injured list.

Position Nuggets/ Tweaks:

We mentioned yesterday that the defensive line for OSU seems to be the most game ready and talented in terms of strong players spanning the ranks who are ready to make an immediate impact if called upon. That was evidenced today during 11-on-11's, where defensive line coach Joe Seumalo had no issue letting Rudolf Fifita and Joe Lopez jump in on the 1's.

There was frequent rotation for the defensive line this afternoon, and it was an impressive show to watch.

Not only did the projected starters on D-line (Dylan Wynn, Castro Masaniai, Andrew Seumalo and Scott Crichton) look really strong, but the constant rotation of players seemed to catch the 1's on the O-line off balance – the combination made for some well executed pass rushes.

Another group that seems to have depth is the linebacker corps – they too went with a semi-sporadic mix of 1's and 2's during 11-on-11's today, and experienced a high degree of success in doing so.

The linebackers in particular embody the newly adopted "speed over size" ideology that has come to characterize OSU's defensive approach for 2012.

"It helps (being fast), especially the way we play," Bray said. "We are a fast-flowing defense and speed is our friend. We can create force and power with our speed, D.J. (Welch) (225 pounds) is very capable of doing that – he will hit you as hard as a guy that is 240 will.

"We are trying to use our speed to overwhelm people - that's what we are trying to do."

Even on the 2's, Bray's platoon boasts a intimidating combination of speed and size with the likes of Shaydon Akuna and Jabral Johnson – both have been coming on as fall camp has unfolded, and are healthy back-ups who will surely see game time reps come the regular season.

Practice Notes Day 18:

Offense:
Quarterback:
Minus a few fundamental errors today, the result of an often overpowering defense, Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz both had a good day. Each threw an interception – Mannion's the product of lofting the ball to Markus Wheaton in double coverage, and Vaz's due to a bad read of the opposition's zone coverage.

But those few hiccups aside, both QB's showed good awareness and were rock solid when they had some time in the pocket. Tailback: A rather bland day for the running backs, but not because of poor play or bad route running – the offensive approach for the day just was simply not a run-heavy affair. Combined, the tailback ranks saw little more than 25 carries cumulatively when the offense ran 11-on-11's.

Malcolm Agnew did score a touchdown in the red zone while running with the 2's, and Storm Woods saw looks in the short passing game, with marginal success being the final outcome.

Tight End: Again, Prince's absence for the last week has allowed Smith and Hamlett to see a significant boost in their playing time. Hamlett looks more than prepared to assume the role of starting tight end if in fact Prince does not make a full recovery by Saturday. He ran some good routes and managed to get good separation from defenders in the secondary on Saturday.

Hamlett is not as fast as Prince, and therefore becomes less of a target when considering an offensive game plan built with a strong receiving tight end in mind. But he is nonetheless effective at the position, a healthy No.2 by any measure – and he can block.

Throughout fall camp, Hamlett has shown that he is slightly more adept at blocking for the run and taking advantage of gaps in the secondary – he held his own a few times today against Crichton and Fifita, but only time will tell if he can do that consistently and when it counts on game day.

Offensive Line: The starters on the O-Line seem clear -- Michael Philipp, Josh Andrews, Isaac Seumalo, Grant Enger and Colin Kelly – and they had a solid day blocking, in spite of having to cope with a rather wild attack on behalf of the defensive line today.

They were caught off kilter on occasion with the constant influx of 2's onto the 1's and vice versa – different defenders on the line bring different approaches to a pass rush in terms of technique, and it can be difficult to account for all those variables.

But while there were small inconsistencies here and there, the o-line, on balance, has been more productive and on-point this week than either of the previous two, which just goes to show that hard work or diligence can indeed pay off.

While the 2's for the line still struggle with a considerable lack of depth and field experience, they also continue to learn and grow as the practices go on. One thing that the reserve unit has that the starting front five ultimately lacks – size.

Gavin Andrews, Jake Welch and Justin Addie are all big, big guys that take up a lot of space on the line and use their girth to their advantage when attempting to gain leverage on blocks.

Defense:

Defensive Line:
Masaniai and Seumalo had a great day stuffing the run up the middle. When the offense did run the ball today, (and Riley and crew made it a habit to attack a certain area), more often than not the running backs were met by a brick wall courtesy of the two defensive tackles.

Crichton has been a quiet force during camp, but a force nonetheless.

What Crichton has been is very consistent, and he's displayed a high level of endurance. Two other aspects of Crichton's game that have been well honed -- his reaction to the ball, and his awareness of how a play is developing in front of him.

He hasn't tried to do too much – he just controls his gaps and makes a play on the ball, and has become particularly effective impacting the success of outside runs by the offense.

Lopez continues to shine, and Fifita and Rusty Fernando have started to kick it into high gear when they hear their names called.

Lopez and Fifita saw some time alongside Seumalo and Wynn, and when they did they got quick pressure on the passer and forced some split-second (and sometimes inaccurate) decisions that led to errant throws, including a few interceptions.

Linebackers: Feti Unga (or Taumoepeau) has been making his presence known more often this last week – vocally and physically and did so again today.

"He he has done a better job of being disciplined," Bray said. "He is sitting where he is supposed to first (in order to defend the pass) and then getting to the ball."

Earlier in camp, patience was an issue at the MIK spot – the result being missed reads and over-pursuit on the kinds of plays where that should never be the case. While it's not a night-and-day difference, it should be noted that Unga looks far more collected in the middle and has been making more and bigger plays in both stopping the run and reacting quickly to short passes and screen plays.

"The biggest thing for us is one, the recognition of pass," Bray said. "Being able to see high and low sets on the offensive line and being where we need to be. In our base defense, we want to get our hands on receivers and disrupt routes – that has been the biggest focus for us."

Bray also said recent practices have him much more confident in the starting unit's ability to stop an offense down inside the red zone -- run and pass scenarios alike.

Secondary: Ryan Murphy and Steven Christian made the two big defensive plays today.

Christian did so in a shift from cornerback to safety in lieu of the recent trouble with Watkins' hip. Christian has been playing the role of the No.2 free safety off and on during the fall, and has had moderate success thus far.

Christian is very fast - he is also bigger than the average corner, so the transition hasn't been difficult. He picked off Vaz today as the young QB scrambled out of the pocket to avoid heavy pressure from the defense, throwing an off balance pass that was originally intended for Hatfield. Christian made a great read on the ball and a swift pick.

Murphy picked off Mannion after the starting QB threw into double coverage trying to avoid the blitz. A jump ball followed, and Zimmerman got the upper hand, tipping the ball away from Wheaton.

Murphy then snatched up the ball just before it hit the ground and returned it about 15 yards the other way.

Depth Chart Day 18:

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

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

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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