CORVALLIS – Oregon State's first official spring scrimmage of the year took place on Friday during the Beavs' eighth practice of the spring. The Beavers' 52-play scrimmage saw a spectacular run, strong defensive fronts and some interesting new looks at the younger players trying to make an impact in 2013. A ton of insights from our man on the ground...
Much of the former half of the scrimmage was dedicated to throwing the ball, whereas the latter half was almost entirely about the run. Mike Riley and Co. implemented some fresh schemes into the offensive game plan, as the Beavs got to see firsthand what worked well and what failed.
Cody Vaz saw some success as the No.1 QB on Friday, finding receivers left and right and putting forth a good effort when it came to red zone offense. Vaz's second generation of throws were not as sharp (but still completions), and he had a harder time making a decision under pressure. But otherwise the senior signal caller gave the defense a run for their money.
Speaking of running – Storm Woods broke through a cluster of defenders and took one of his two carries on the afternoon 80 yards all the way to the house. His touchdown came against the defensive 2's, and appeared to be the result not only of effort, but a missed assignment by Joel Skotte who was slotting as the MIK on the play. Skotte was reprimanded by ‘backers coach Trent Bray, and saw very little action for the rest of the day.
Terron Ward and Chris Brown experienced only mild success during the first scrimmage of spring. A note on Ward – he has a tendency to run backward or try and overcorrect if he sees the defense closing in on him. It is an unhealthy little habit that left Ward stuck in the backfield for a loss on more than one occasion.
Dustin Stanton and Kellen Clute made some tough catches when running drills with the QB's prior to scrimmage. The young TE duo is shaping up to be some considerable talent in the wings for the OSU aerial attack. Clute seems to be winning over the favor of his coaches, as he lined up with the 2's on nearly every play Friday afternoon.
Riley followed through on his aim that a good portion of the scrimmage was going to be about giving the younger talent in the depth chart a variety of looks on both sides of the ball. Brent Vanderveen in particular showed some confidence -- he looked very comfortable throwing to the likes of J.C. Grim and Malik Gilmore.
Another dangerous combination was that of Vaz to Obum Gwacham. The two seem to have good chemistry – one can only assume that Gwacham's 6-5 frame is an inviting target for a smaller QB such as Vaz, who seems to have a hard time seeing the field over the heads of his blockers from time to time.
Overall, the QB's had a lot of time to throw the ball today, and one guy greatly benefited from having some additional time in the pocket to make a decision. Sean Mannion was hot and cold on Friday, but when he had considerable time to toss the rock (which was the case roughly 50 percent of the time) he was a dynamo. Just goes to show that a little protection can go a long way for even seasoned signal callers.
Brandon Bennett has a knack for getting his hands up and blocking passes – he knocked down what would have been a bullet from Mannion to Cooks after a swim move gave him early penetration into the offensive backfield. Bennett actually laced up with the 1's for part of the scrimmage, and was in the rotation at least every three or four plays.
Edwin Delva had one of his better days on the 1's and 2's. I was impressed by his ability to snake through the line despite being rather bulky. Occasionally, Delva was pushing so hard that it took two linemen to hold him off – and that was opening up lanes for other defenders.
With the exception of the 80-yard dash toward the pylons by Woods, Devon Kell, Dylan Wynn, Blake Harrah, Bennett and Delva did a great job stuffing the run, allowing a grand total of 25 yards on 16 carries.
Jabral Johnson and Caleb Saulo worked their tails off Friday, spending more time on the field relative to the likes of starters Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander. Saulo appeared to be quickest of the three ‘backers running with the 2's, and he caused problems for Sean Mannion and Vanderveen. His agility allows for him to get a good jump on the ball, and his smaller frame helps him slip right by offensive linemen. He didn't get a "sack" today, but there were a few plays where he threw off the quarterback's timing and forced quick decisions.
Both Zack Robinson and Ryan Murphy snagged an interception today when the offense and defense ran plays sans the down linemen. Murphy's was a beauty of a pick which he returned for a significant gain in the other direction. Robinson's came just inches away from the red zone, and he too bolted the other direction for a solid gain.
Micah Audiss and A.J. Hedgecock struggled to keep Gwacham away from the end zone. Audiss and Hedgecock are pretty speedy young players, but they routinely eat the dust of some of OSU's faster/stronger wideouts (Gwacham, Gilmore, Cummings) and their tackling still needs work.
Riley talking' Beavs
Friday was just another day at the office according to Mike Riley.
"All it is to me is letting them finish plays," Riley said. "We practice pretty fast and hard all the time, the difference today is they get to take them to the ground. It's good for the defense to be able to tackle and for the offensive backs to be able to finish."
Riley was impressed with the result of Friday's scrimmage, which ran a little longer than expected. He was quick to praise his quarterbacks for putting on a good show after not seeing live action scenarios for a couple months.
"I thought (they) were pretty good," Riley said. "We had a long pass skeleton period. I thought (Mannion and Vaz) both did some good things and in the scrimmage they each made some plays. It's nice to have two guys who know what they are doing – I feel pretty good about that."
The scrimmages, says Riley, are less about the hits, catches and blocks and more about getting the players into the swing of performing at a tier that is a step or two above practice scenarios. And of course, having a group of trained officials calling the "game" doesn't hurt.
"It amps everything up," Riley said. "Guys get nervous – you call it a scrimmage and they jump offside and lose their minds a little - but it's good preparation for a much bigger stage."
The Gwacham Grading System
Yet another impressive day for Gwacham. Has he found that little secret to success – otherwise known as consistency?