OSU SPRING BALL DAY 1: The Big Report

CORVALLIS – The first day of spring ball for the Beavs was about the fundamentals for players and coaches alike. With new graduate assistants taking a stab at the coaching side of things and players taking a look at some new schemes on both sides of the ball, did Day One shape up to be a compelling look at a newer, faster OSU football program?

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We have notes on position battles and coaching additions, a defensive player switches platoons and more in BF.C's coverage of OSU's first day of spring drills in 2013.

Players participating in practice were limited to shorts and helmets on Monday and while that restricts the team from experiencing much contact, it didn't prevent the Beavers from running hard on Day One.

"We just try to start working on techniques and assignments," Mike Riley said. "And I think we should do more of it just like this. I liked this day – besides that, the guys were good and it looked a little bit like football."

The offseason for Oregon State's coaching staff focused on research and development heading into the spring and the looming 2013 season. Riley made reference to the offseason as "the second most valuable time" OSU players and coaches have available to them.

"(Training camp) is the most valuable time," Riley said. "We get 15 days of this – and that is the best."

So what has changed? Sans the typical comings and goings of a new year of football – nothing much - yet.

"There is some new stuff that we did today," Riley said. "It might not necessarily be totally new. But how we do it is a little bit different – and we will always find times where we want to add a new pass pattern or a new running play."

Riley mentioned that OSU may be looking to up the tempo of their game plan, and noted looking for new approaches will stretch to the special teams as well. Oregon State's special teams unit took a hit at the end of the 2012 season when three key players – Jordan Poyer, Clayton York and Jordan Jenkins – all graduated, thereby leaving their roles on special teams up for grabs.

"We might want to block or return a little differently now," Riley said. "We lost some of our very good core players on special teams. We are looking for more core players on special teams, and right now it will be all about development."

Still, the last thing Riley wants is for his staff and his players to get ahead of themselves.

"The main thing we are trying to accomplish – right here, right now – is the growth and development of each player no matter where they are at," Riley said. "What is always interesting about spring ball is that there are 20 guys that have redshirted that breaking in for their first time. So seeing how they can develop into a guy that plays for us – besides just starters, we need quite a few guys to step up. The depth chart is not as important today as it will be at the end of August."

PRACTICE NOTES
Offense
  • Terron Ward, Storm Woods and Chris Brown all turned in solid looks on Day One. Woods was especially spry, and Ward at times played like he was in full gear despite the fact that the players were limited to shorts and helmets.

  • In lieu of Anderson's absence, Michael Balfour ran with the 1's today. He is a decent blocker out of the backfield, but what stood out to me was his ability to catch and run with the ball.

  • J.C. Grim, Stevie Coury and Micah Hatfield all had good days on the 2's. Hatfield got a lot of praise from Brent Brennan on his ability to follow the ball into his hands with his eyes and turn up field.

  • Hatfield and Kevin Cummings divided time at slot back.

  • Brennan told both Obum Gwacham and Malik Gilmore that they need to work on accelerating immediately after they catch a pass. Both wideouts struggled with making plays on the move.

  • Tyler Perry looked like a top-flight run blocker on Monday.

  • With the exception of Cooks, both Mannion and Vaz looked the most comfortable throwing toward Gwacham, who presents a great target with his 6-5, 227 frame.

  • The TE squad focused more on pass and run blocking on Monday. The message here is – "we know you can catch, now show us that you can block."

  • Gavin Andrews looked at home beside Grant Enger. It appears as if he has some dropped some weight and he was swift off the snap. He will need a little work on keeping up with faster blitzes, but as Riley mentioned, these first few days will be all about shaping players and helping them slide into their roles.

    Defense
  • Redshirt Freshman Zack Robinson has made the switch from the cornerback corps to ranks of safety according to Riley.

  • JC additions Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau got a lot of work with the 1's and 2's today. One or the other was in the rotation on nearly every snap when it came to defensive drills, and Joe Seumalo took extra care to coach them through certain parts of the OSU game plan that are still foreign to the young defensive tackles.

  • On the whole, both Delva and Hautau looked right at home in Seumalo's schemes. The newcomers are big, physical options that show promise when it comes to plugging up running lanes. Delva was especially explosive when it came to running drills toward the beginning of practices - a very astute and nimble performer.

  • The starting ‘backer trio of Michael Doctor, Joel Skotte and D.J. Alexander ran well today, but were not as active as the 2's that will be backing them up this spring. Jabral Johnson, Josh Williams and Caleb Saulo spent a good portion of their time identifying where a hole would develop in their defensive front four. When they weren't working on stopping the run and getting quick penetration off the edge, they were focused on defending gaps in the middle of the field.

  • Riley loves his options in the secondary. "There are three young safeties - Robinson, Cyril Noland-Lewis and Kendall Hill - they are going to be good football players. However they fit in, whether it's a base defense, a nickel or a dime – they are interesting." Riley thinks that these three will play a big role in reclaiming some of the defensive production that Poyer took with him upon graduating.

    Coaching
    The first day of spring ball welcomed in Kyle DeVan as a GA, and Lyle Moevao as a member of the "quality control" section of the staff. DeVan will be working with the tight end group, while Moevao will be operating with the running backs predominantly. Devan's past experience as a center for OSU will come in handy – as expected, he spent most of his first day feeling out his role as a GA while showing the tight ends some more in-depth blocking tactics that they will hone as spring continues.

    However, Moevao's arrival is an interesting twist of sorts - will he be able to make an impact on the performance of Mannion and Vaz as they battle for a starting role this April?

    "There is no doubt about it," Riley said. "[Moevao] was in the same situation with Sean Canfield. And I think Sean and Lyle probably handled it about as well as two guys could have. I think [Mannion and Vaz] can learn from that."

    So while Moevao's capacity as an on-field coach may be limited, his presence and insight alone may be able to help a struggling corps of QB's find their groove.

    "I'm really proud to have Lyle here." Riley said. "He was such a heart and soul part of our football team, and if he can bring any of that as a coach to our team that will be really good. He was smart, and if he wants to do this long term as a coach, he will be really good."

    Injury Report
    Tyrequek Zimmerman, Scott Crichton, Garrett Weinreich, Tyler Anderson and Richard Mullaney were all on the field today but did not participate in any drills - they are expected to be out for the duration of spring ball. Isaac Seumalo and Chase Eldredge were limited today, but both looked healthy and did partake in a few basic drills alongside DeVan and O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh.

    Spotlight on some of the Position Battles
    QB – Day one goes to Cody Vaz, who completed more passes than Mannion and had more control over his accuracy. Mannion struggled with leading wideouts on passes over 25 yards, either underthrowing or overthrowing receivers with relative consistency. To be fair, Mannion exceeded Vaz when it came to accuracy and timing in the short game. The two passers will be splitting time with the 1's this spring.

    WR – Gwacham won the day on Monday. His hands have improved, and his route running is certainly a step above what he was capable of in 2012. On the other hand, Gilmore had a tough day characterized by dropped passes and poorly calculated routes here and there.

    CBSteven Nelson and Sean Martin are going to be a lot of fun to watch this spring. The pair had a solid start on Monday, showing a lot of speed and stellar tracking ability when practicing routes under the tutelage of Rod Perry and the watchful eyes of Poyer. This tandem seems destined to be dueling for a starting position during each and every one of the following 14 practices. After Day One, both Nelson and Martin are on a level playing field.

    Special Teams
    Brandin Cooks and Rashaad Reynolds both saw time returning kicks out of a punt formation today.

    Keith Kostol was booting the ball pretty well today. His average punt was a little over 50 yards.

    Trevor Romaine struck gold on a variety of field goal and his kicks had some serious gusto - two of them cleared the supporting net of the upright and landed in the adjacent parking lot.


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