OSU SPRING BALL: The day after

CORVALLIS -- Now that 15 spring practices have come and gone for the Beavs, the real question for fans and pundits alike isn't necessarily found in the looming quarterback controversy or the starting running back situation. It's not, "Who replaces Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton?" No, the real intrigue looking ahead to fall camp and the 2013 regular season for the Beavs...

... should rest with guys like Micah Hatfield, Edwin Delva, Cyril Noland, Joel Skotte and Gavin Andrews.

Because it's not just about the best known starters on the Beavs. When it comes down to it, that sliver of difference between winning and losing may instead rest more on the next man up.

I saw every practice this spring at OSU and I can tell you that for the Beavs, it's about the players who represent a foggy, indiscernible blip on the media radar right now.

Riley and Co. know what to expect from guys like Ryan Murphy, Brandin Cooks, Sean Mannion, Cody Vaz, Terron Ward, Storm Woods, Michael Doctor, D.J. Alexander and Rashaad Reynolds.

But what happens when football happens? What happens when the next man up instead becomes, the man.

By that, I mean it's about what happens when injuries occur and guys drop off the scene for a game or two, or more.

You don't find coaches throwing up their hands and lamenting the loss of a starter or key cog. You find them turning to the next man on the roster, calling his name and fully expecting him to get his butt out there and make plays. Big plays.

To a lot of folks, Delva was the only DT making a legitimate bid for playing time this spring (with Siale Hautau injured). But he needs to show more, that he's ready to make that big impact up front. Andrews? He has some fundamentals he needs to master if he hopes to be a force on the offensive line heading into the fall.

Meanwhile, Hatfield has arguably been more productive in the receiving game this spring than Kevin Cummings. But post-spring, I'd still bet that Cummings sees more time with the offense during the regular season. Why? Because Cummings is more reliable at this point. And the Beavs need for Hatfield to find that consistency.

Joel Skotte was a decent enough option at MIK this spring, but he stands at 6-2, 229 and looks more like a safety rather than a middle linebacker. Is he truly ready to be that prototypical OSU run-stopper in the middle of the box?

Just a few of the things to ponder with the OSU spring session now in the books…


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