CORVALLIS – Day Six of spring ball is in the bag. If Week One was about identifying weaknesses, the onset of Week Two has been all about making adjustments in order to try and eliminate those weaknesses. In today's bag of practice goodies – Brandin Cooks continues to shine, Sean Martin is making his move, Malik Gilmore works on putting it all together, Gavin Andrews makes some headway and more...
Plus, a certain Beaver coach is quietly having an impact. But first...
You can't watch a single practice without noticing how dynamic Brandin Cooks is. He literally has it all – sticky hands, blinding speed, solid anticipation of defensive formations. But above all, he has been a consistent target for Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz this spring.
Cooks also has a devastating juke move. He provided an example to Steven Nelson today during drills that left the new Beav flat on his wallet, after which the defensive sideline erupted in a resounding, "Oooh!"
Both Obum Gwacham and Malik Gilmore got a lot of looks with the 1's and 2's today. Mannion looks increasingly more comfortable throwing to them, and it appears as if receiving a higher volume of throws has boosted the confidence of both wideouts.
Gilmore struggles the most when it comes to multitasking. He can catch, he can run and he has decent knowledge of where his body is in relation to the sideline – but he hasn't consistently accomplished all three at the same time yet. He dropped some passes because he was looking at his feet trying to stay in bounds before bringing the ball into his chest. He seemingly hears the footsteps and tries to adjust his route last minute and loses the ball. There are times when Gilmore just clicks and he makes a beautiful play – but that is only about 20 percent of the time thus far this spring. But if he can put it all together, it will be something to see.
Mannion saw the bulk of the snaps on Tuesday and had a strong day all in all. The junior QB is starting to develop a little more finesse on his midrange and deep throws. He continues to show some impressive zip on shorter tosses.
Josh Mitchell, Gavin Andrews and Grant Enger did a great job setting blocks on the right hand side of the O-line Tuesday. Storm Woods and Terron Ward saw a lot of good lanes and had success in some of the pass packages the team is implementing. Much of that success was due to the aforementioned blockers forcing blitzing linemen and backers to play at shoulder pad height and not get too low into their cuts.
Gavin Andrews is shaping up to be a powerful option at right tackle. With a little work on his technique and heightened familiarity with the assortment of Mike Cavanaugh's pass protections, he has the opportunity to shine during the 2013 practice sessions and beyond.
Caleb Smith is beginning to develop into an offensive powerhouse when consideration is given to route running, catching ability and blocking in the open field. However, Smith has been struggling with holding onto the ball once a defender makes contact with him. He became particularly flustered Tuesday afternoon after he caught a pass, and proceeded to muff it as three black jerseys swarmed around him.
Tyler Perry was slotted as the No.1 TE on Mike Riley's pre-spring depth chart, but things haven't played out that way. The junior-to-be has received only a fraction of the field time that Smith and Connor Hamlett have seen at this stage of camp. When Perry has seen time on the 1's or 2's, he's been in there working on his blocking.
From this chair, Joel Skotte is starting to get a good handle on the MIK position. Skotte's run stopping instincts are prominent, and he is displaying a strong aptitude for swatting passes down. He had two knockdowns when the offense and defense went head to head on Tuesday.
Jabral Johnson, Jaswha James and Caleb Saulo had good outings with the 2's when it came to cutting off running lanes. Terron Ward and Chris Brown had a hard time maneuvering gaps in the trenches on Tuesday because any holes were closed by the aforementioned trio just as soon as they opened.
Just one man's opinion here but Sean Martin is slowly pulling away from Steven Nelson in the race for that coveted starting corner spot alongside Rashaad Reynolds. The senior played some tough football today and was all over his assignments like a fly on… things that flies like. He had a mighty fine interception on a throw from Mannion that was intended for Gwacham, who slowed down mid-route for some unknown reason. It was Martin's first pick of the spring, and he sure looked good doing it.
Mana Rosa (6-3,275) has been seeing a lot of time as a scout team left end. This is an interesting development considering he is listed as a defensive tackle and does not necessarily present the thin, speedy and versatile option on the end that guys like Dylan Wynn (6-2, 260), Devon Kell (6-4, 234) and Scott Crichton (Injured, 6-3, 260) do.
A healthy Crichton is the left d-end starter, of course, but Rosa's time as a defensive end brings about another consideration – who replaces Rudolf Fifita as the (productive) super sub on the defensive line? Rosa is starting to look more and more appealing as an option, considering he already has experience as a DT, and is now honing his skills as a defensive end. John Braun, Devon Kell and Rosa are all seniors – should we expect a bit of a position battle when it comes to snagging Fifita's vacated role in Mark Banker's defense? Something to ponder.
Larry Scott is becoming much more of a vocal leader amongst some of the younger defensive players, particularly in the secondary corps. Better yet, Scott has been performing in a way that proves he can talk the talk, and walk it, simultaneously.
Riley didn't have much to say Tuesday when he met with the media, but when he did address questions, he had nothing but positive things to say. Go figure, Mike Riley, an optimist?
"I think Connor (Hamlett) can be a real horse," Riley said. "He is a good athlete and playing more confidently than ever."
How about that new talent coming along on the defense - how does Riley feel about Nelson so far?
"I really like him," Riley said. "Besides his ability the thing I really enjoy is that he loves to play. Since he has gotten here he has worked out hard, studied hard – he brings a lot (to the team)."
Between yesterday's praise of Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva and today's mentioning of Nelson, it would appear that Riley feels he has struck athletic gold with his JUCO recruits in 2013.
UPDATE: The Portland Tribune reported Wednesday morning that Hautau, one of two JC transfer defensive tackles who has been running with the 1s along with Delva, broke a hand during Tuesday's practice -- he is out for the rest of the spring session.
Spotlight on the Secondary – The Rod Perry Effect
Rod Perry has only been with OSU for a little more than a season after a lengthy NFL coaching career. What kind of impact has the secondary coach had in that time? A huge impact, if you were to ask me. Today I noticed something very interesting – the secondary is slowly starting to coach themselves independent of Perry's solo time with them.
It's something every coach wants – his players coaching themselves. In Perry's case, his troops are having in-depth conversations on the sideline about identifying offensive schemes, adjusting angles and changing positioning to accommodate different types of WR's. It's a testament to the ability of Perry having really dug into the psyche of his players. He's ingrained a culture of learning and teaching amongst teammates in the secondary that makes them less dependent on his constant guidance to succeed.
To use a mildly inappropriate analogy - Perry is silent yet deadly as a coach. He may not make much noise on the field day to day – but the secondary unit has been the most consistent group of players since the inception of spring camp. Sean Martin, Steven Christian, Rashaad Reynolds Larry Scott, Jovan Stevenson and Mishawn Cummings were incredibly talkative Tuesday, and it was all about how to make their performances rise to new tiers.
The Gwacham Grading System – Day 6
Gwacham had an average day, and he was a bit more physical with defenders - a significant change of pace for a junior wideout who has consistently played passively since last spring. Day 6…