CORVALLIS–Connor Hamlett went down, and Tyler Perry went down harder. Two Beav tight ends saw an early halt to their practice session on Monday and while one didn't appear serious, the other got hauled off the field in a cart wearing a look of anguish on his face. There was other news on Day Nine, including a new look on defense, the tailbacks put on a show and the secondary deserves some praise.
The Daily Riley – On the Tight Ends
"I don't know anything about it," Riley said of Perry's injury. "We will get that report later today."
Just my personal perspective here – it didn't look very positive for Tyler Perry
. The premier pass blocking tight end was cringing heavily and biting his mouth guard as the trainers drove him off the field.
The outlook for Connor Hamlett
sounded a bit brighter. Hamlett went down clutching his left knee with less than half an hour remaining in practice. Shortly afterward, the up-and-coming tight end was moving around with ice and tape covering the knee in question.
"I think (Hamlett) is OK," Riley said. "Everything checked out pretty clean with him, and they will always do a double check on it. I just told them to keep him out of practice for the rest of the day."
Does the loss of two integral members of the TE corps bring about concerns moving forward with the spring practice session ‘as planned'?
"There might be," Riley said. "I'll find out more."
Practice Notes – Day Nine
While Hamlett's late injury provides some cause for concern, let us not forget that there are a slew of additional TE's that are putting forth an effort this spring. On the whole, Caleb Smith, Perry and Dustin Stanton had top-notch practices. Smith and Stanton were the target of pass after pass, and the occasional defensive stop was the only thing that prevented them from reeling in tosses from Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. Collectively, the tight ends proved most effective in the red zone, where they were the primary target of many looks.
Prior to the potentially severe injury that occurred with less than five minutes remaining in Monday's practice routine, Perry was having one of his more impressive practices since the inception of spring ball. The junior set some strong blocks in the open field and managed to snag tough passes. Perry was removed from the field in a cart shortly after the team broke the final huddle of the day. How does this affect the blocking capabilities of the unit going forward?
Walk on Hayden Craig returned to the TE corps Monday. It seems likely his spring role is about to increase.
Isaac Seumalo resumed drills Monday. The sophomore center sported shorts instead of pants and pads during Day Nine, and remained limited throughout practice. The majority of the snaps Seumalo saw were with the 2's.
Grant Bays played well today. The 6-1, 300 pound redshirt freshman offensive lineman gave DT Edwin Delva a run for his money when the OL and D-line had 1-on-1 trench competition.
Both Grant Enger and Justin Addie missed practice. Addie was present but "sick" according to Riley. Enger had prior obligations that prevented him from participating on Monday.
Michael Philipp looked like one hell of an offensive tackle on Day Nine. He is moving faster, getting lower into his blocks and appears to have more stamina. Philipp has been steadily improving since Day One this spring. He had a solid freshman season but is 2013 the year that the senior lives up to the hype that surrounded him four years ago?
Granted, he was injured at times but in my mind, Storm Woods had achieved little more than mediocrity at the culmination of the 2012 season. Spring ball is serving as a stark reminder of how much a player can develop and mature over the course of just a few months. Woods is having a tremendous spring, and I can see it in every snap, every juke and every catch. Woods is quickly becoming one of the dominant playmakers on the offense, excelling in nearly every facet of his position – he sets strong blocks, has developed softer hands that aid in more successful screens and he is running like a 200-pound bull with a grudge. When his blockers were firing on all cylinders, Woods averaged a solid six to seven yards per run.
Still, Woods is just part of a whole. His complement in the backfield, Terron Ward, should by no means be discounted as an offensive threat. Ward has succeeded in strengthening the one aspect of his game that was lacking the most at the end of 2012 – his ability to catch and run. Monday played host to a superb grab by the junior tailback. Ward was the last receiving option in the corner of the end zone and Mannion blasted the ball to him. D.J. Alexander had coverage of Ward locked down, but the little engine that could bust your chops made a last minute adjustment and snagged the ball off his left shoulder for a TD.
Of course, then there are the QB's. Mannion and Vaz had run-of-the-mill Mondays. The majority of their passes were on point with a couple small errors the result of quick pressure, bad snaps or tight defense in the secondary. Both signal callers had pronounced success tossing into the red zone.
Mark Banker and his defensive coaching staff introduced a fresh look at the dime package today, and a solid 10-15 minutes of practice was dedicated to implementing it with the 1's and 2's. "There was some installation going on for sure," Mike Riley said. "The defense put in a new third down coverage and besides that, it was pretty situational. (We ran) some third down, red zone and first and ten."
Ryan Murphy endures as one of the more consistent and impressive members of the secondary. When Riley and Co. ran skelly formations on Monday, Vaz had a bead on senior wideout Mitch Singler for what seemed like a sure first down. Singler ran a crisp route, but Murphy read it like an open book. The junior safety adjusted and positioned himself in front of Singler for a sweet interception.
In a bit of a twist, Day Nine lent itself to the sight of Cyril Noland laced up alongside Murphy on the 1's at safety. Micah Audiss has normally occupied the other safety slot in the absence of Tyrequek Zimmerman but according to Riley, a great showing during the OSU's first scrimmage last Friday moved Noland up the pecking order. Both Murphy and Noland alternated between free/strong safety spots on Monday.
Kendall Hill is an aggressor in the secondary. A very physical and speedy athlete, Hill (currently the No.2 safety behind Murphy/Zimmerman) plays ball like he craves contact. He stays close to a receiver's body, rarely losing sight of an assignment or allowing them to navigate outside the reach of his arms. Hill had a handful of deflections today while running with the 2's.
Mishawn Cummings, Malcolm Marable and Naji Patrick were key members of the secondary rotation on Monday. Despite being some of the shorter members of the defensive back group, the trio consistently gets physical in the open field and causes havoc for opposing aerial attacks. Cummings and Marable seem especially keen on messing with tight ends. David v. Goliath - call it what you want. I call it tenacity.
Steven Nelson is proving that he is no slouch in the competition for playing time. Nelson's day was characterized by tipped passes and lockdown pass protection. He kept pace with Obum Gwacham and Micah Hatfield on most downs, forcing wideouts to switch up their routes in order to obtain some breathing room past that first five yards.
John Braun and Dylan Wynn looked good today and showed some attitude in the pit when the black and white jerseys went head to head. Wynn continues to grow as a vocal leader for the defense, and he offers the most on-field experience of any member of the D-line currently active for the spring.
Brandon Bennett has seen his role expanding on the defense. He saw time as both a defensive end and tackle on Monday, and in the limited time the redshirt sophomore spent on the right end, he opened my eyes to the fact that he is an impressive pass rusher when working against guys that are a closer physical match.
There exists a pressing question regarding the future of Oregon State's defensive tackle unit – who becomes the speed guy, and who becomes the strength guy? I can only offer a tentative answer at this phase but my intuition tells me Edwin Delva is better suited as the fast, penetration oriented DT. His skill set leans more toward technique and slipping between tackles and he struggles when it comes to facing bigger/stronger offensive lineman. To paraphrase – Delva equals the Andrew Seumalo equivalent if he puts some hard work in.
The Gwacham Grading System
Monday was an average day for Obum Gwacham. He received some constructive criticism from Brent Brennan on keeping up with routes and ensuring that he presents a big enough target to the QB in short/midrange scenarios.
Technique – 6
Hands – 5
YAC/Possession Capability – 6.5
Overall - 6
Running with the 1's
QB – Cody Vaz
TB – Storm Woods
FB – Michael Balfour
TE – Connor Hamlett/Dustin Stanton (TE/H-Back), Caleb Smith (TE)
WR – Brandin Cooks (Flanker), Obum Gwacham (Split End), Kevin Cummings (Slotback)
OL- Michael Philipp (LT), Josh Andrews (LG), Josh Mitchell (C), Grant Bays (RG), Gavin Andrews (RT)
Defensive Line – Dylan Wynn (RE/LE/DT), Brandon Bennett(DT/RE), Edwin Delva (DT), John Braun/Devon Kell (LE/RE)
Linebackers – Michael Doctor (Strong Side), Joel Skotte/Jabral Johnson (MIK), D.J. Alexander (WIL)
Cornerbacks – Rashaad Reynolds, Sean Martin/Steven Nelson
Strong Safety/FS – Ryan Murphy
Free Safety/SS – Cyril Noland