OSU SPRING DAY 3: Battle in the trenches

CORVALLIS – Day Three of spring ball marked the first day of shoulder pads for Oregon State, and it was a significant change of pace. The cracks were louder and the competition got heated. Sean Harlow made his presence known and Tyler Hasty made the sidelines roar. Couple that with Storm Woods and Terron Ward turning on the jets, and it added up to one heck of a day inside the Truax Center.

Mike Riley was very pleased with his players on Thursday, saying they ran a thorough and physical practice considering it was OSU's first time back in pads in over three months.

"I'm just glad that they practiced fast and pretty much stayed on their feet," Riley said. "I thought that overall it looked like the guys were playing smart and playing fast."

The session was just what Riley wants at this early stage of the spring – nothing overly heavy or aggressive, just crisp football with a lot of teaching mingled in.

Riley also offered a brief comment on the departures of Desmond Collins and Shaydon Akuna, who are no longer with the program due to academic ineligibility.

"They are out," Riley said.

And when asked if it was a blow to the depth chart, Riley's brow furrowed and he simply stated – "It's not."

Sometimes, keeping it simple is best.

Practice Notes

  • Talk about a battle in the trenches. Highly touted freshman Sean Harlow (6-4, 275) went to the pit with Dylan Wynn twice in a row halfway through practice and dominated the junior defensive end each time, despite have a relative disadvantage against the smaller, faster Wynn (6-2, 260). Harlow's success juiced the offensive line corps -- and drew the ire of Wynn, who did not appear to enjoy defeat. One could practically see the steam coming from his nose as he stared Harlow down.

    This should be a fun battle to watch going forward.

  • Storm Woods and Terron Ward blew past the defensive line when the team ran simulations from scrimmage. Both Woods and Ward broke off 20-plus yard gainers on more than one occasion, aided by some stellar blocking on behalf of Michael Balfour and Grant Enger.

  • Chris Brown demonstrated some improved ball handling skills as well.

  • Obum Gwacham's hands became an issue. If you recall Tuesdays' coverage, Gwacham had a "boomer" of a day and drew the praise of Brent Brennan on multiple occasions where he made nifty catches. However, Thursday lent itself to another instance of Gwacham's hands being slippery and inconsistent. If this inconsistency continues, should we anticipate Gwacham's role decreasing as decision time draws closer?

  • All in all, both Malik Gilmore and Gwacham had less than efficient outings. Dropped passes, missed cues and shabby routes characterized their performance. When Brennan is yelling more than he is teaching, you know there are some areas of concern.

  • With the exception of the aforementioned wideouts, the receiving unit had a relatively strong day. Elsewhere there were minimal dropped passes and only a few missed cues on the day.

  • Thursday signified a slight change of pace for the OSU tight end corps under Kyle DeVan. While the last two practices had been devoted primarily to blocking, Thursday saw the TE's running a lot more and honing their receiving skills.

  • Caleb Smith, Connor Hamlett and Tyler Perry looked solid running routes Thursday.

  • Smith is arguably the most agile member of the tight end group, and it really shows when he is running in the open field.

  • Hayden Craig, the newest member of the TE corps, struggled to reel in catches. Craig stands at 6-2, 262, making him the second heaviest TE in the lineup next to Hamlett. But at five inches shorter than Hamlett, the additional weight Craig carries hinders not only his speed to the ball, but his speed in setting a block after those first five yards.

  • Justin Addie had one of his better days blocking during the trench war portion of practice. He was particularly effective in standing his opponent up and forcing them to play at his pad level.

  • Tyler Hasty got his first interception of spring camp defending a pass from Cody Vaz to Dustin Stanton. The secondary jumped as if their rear ends were on fire as soon as it happened, and Rod Perry… well he was stoked. And if a guy can solicit real emotion from Rod Perry during practice, they have got something working in their favor.

  • Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva saw another hard day's work under the surveillance of Joe Seumalo. Based on just these first three days of observation, I would say it is pretty apparent that one or both of these newcomers is poised to take over a No.1 slot on the roster come fall camp. Both Delva and Hautau saw time with the 1's, 2's and scout team during drills and managed to get penetration consistently, despite seeing more work than many of their counterparts.

  • Noke Tago performed particularly well today when the D-line went head to head against the offensive line. He slipped right past Michael Philipp when the duo faced one another. Tago is someone I plan to keep an eye on as camp continues. He has the raw physical talent to make an impact on the defensive line, perhaps in a super-sub role with the defensive tackles that allows the likes of Hautau and Delva to stay fresh. Consider the recent departure of Collins, and it becomes even more likely that Tago will see an enhanced role in the defensive schemes.

  • Sean Martin was all over Brandin Cooks during practice, blocking a few passes before they could touch the speedy wideout's hands.

  • Corner Mishawn Cummings had a solid practice. He saw some work with the 2's and the scout team and was aggressive in getting to the ball -- and mildly hindering the progress of the Woods/Ward rushing tandem. His strength currently lies in two particular areas – he displays decent zone coverage skills, and his speed to the ball closes off potential running lanes, forcing the tailback to change direction and head toward more black jerseys.

  • Kendall Hill and Zack Robinson performed well today with the second team. Mike Riley has every reason to be excited about these two safeties if they continue along the productive path they have established early on in camp.

    A.J. Hedgecock also saw a stint on the 2's in order to give Hill a rest, and looked comfortable tracking wideouts and tight ends in the open field.

  • As a whole, the linebacker squad struggled. Even guys like Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander had a rough go of penetrating the offensive line or scooting past TE's to make a stop on the ball. However, it appears as if Trent Bray and his crew of ‘backers are taking it easy and still honing in on some fundamentals and strategies that will be key to successes in the future – Bray did a lot of teaching and pulling guys aside to discuss angles on Thursday.

  • Juniors Jabral Johnson and Josh Williams are showing stretches of improvement early in the spring and continue to see a lot of looks on the 2's. Senior Dyllon Mafi saw playing time, replacing Akuna in the lineup.

    Injured/Taking it Easy
  • Isaac Seumalo and Chase Eldredge took a break from the offensive line drills today.

  • Tyrequek Zimmerman, Scott Crichton, Richard Mullaney, Garrett Weinreich and Tyler Anderson remained on the injured list.

  • Blair Cavanaugh sported a ball cap instead of a helmet on Thursday and didn't run with the receiving group. Riley indicated that Cavanaugh was having some issues with his back, and would rather play it smart with some of the limited players heading into the first few days of pads.

    Running with the 1's

    QB- Sean Mannion/Cody Vaz
    TB- Storm Woods
    FB- Michael Balfour
    TE- Connor Hamlett (H-back/TE), Caleb Smith (TE)
    WR- Brandon Cooks (Flanker), Obum Gwacham (Split End), Kevin Cummings (Slotback)
    OL- Michael Philipp (LT), Josh Andrews (LG), Roman Sapolu/Josh Mitchell (C), Grant Enger (RG), Gavin Andrews (RT)

    Defensive Line – Dylan Wynn (RE), Siale Hautau (DT), Edwin Delva (DT), John Braun/Devon Kell (LE)
    Linebackers – Michael Doctor (WIL), Joel Skotte (MIK), D.J. Alexander (Strong Side)
    Cornerbacks – Rashaad Reynolds, Sean Martin
    Strong Safety – Steven Christian/Kendall Hill
    Free Safety – Ryan Murphy

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