CORVALLIS – While the offense may have had an highly efficient day, the defense managed to do some damage too. The Beavs started to fine tune more details, and one D-lineman got a little pushy on Day 7. The secondary stood out, and some young linebackers are coming out of the woodwork. A couple injured players also took to the turf during the first half of Monday's long practice schedule.
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Practice Notes – Day 7
There were quite a few looks at the nickel package for Mark Banker's defense on Monday. Cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Sean Martin were very active, and displayed the ability to switch from man to zone coverage with relative ease. A note on both Martin and Nelson – they are uniquely interchangeable in some facets of Banker's schemes, especially when it comes to their physicality. Each man is wholly capable of transitioning from covering a slotback to split end to flanker if the situation calls for it, making the nickel an enticing formation for a defense that is stacked in the secondary, but running a little low on juice at linebacker.
Speaking of Martin, he had some really nifty coverage of Brandin Cooks today. I've questioned the senior's ability to keep pace with faster receivers before, even suggesting that he is better suited for zone coverages as opposed to man assignments. But on Monday, Martin blocked a long bomb to the star flanker and demonstrated there are times he can keep up with one of the fastest players in the Pac-12.
Tyrequek Zimmerman was back in action today running with the 1's on defense and making some strong plays in the open field. Zimmerman is especially effective in putting a dent in the opposition's running attacks, as he reads formations skillfully and can sneak up on a guy and make a stop. Undoubtedly, Banker and Mike Riley are glad to see him out on the field again.
I mentioned in part one of today's coverage that cornerback Larry Scott had an interception off of Cody Vaz. It could have gone for six had Monday's practice been more than just practice. It was a terrific individual effort form the sophomore corner, who made an impressive leaping grab to pluck the ball out of the sky and then took off toward the end zone with some unexpected speed.
Cyril Noland and walk on Micah Audiss both put forth a strong effort defending passes and attempting to lessen the impact short and mid-range throws had against the Beaver secondary. Noland had a near pick with the 2's and showed some great closing speed.
For all the aforementioned positives regarding the corners and safeties, it is worth noting that Banker had to yell at the 1's and 2's in the secondary to finish their plays on multiple occasions. Some guys were giving up on a play simply because it was practice and they thought they were beat by a wideout. Banker was not fond of this, and made it very clear.
Sophomore walk on corner Naji Patrick had a good day. Patrick made a diving block on a zinger from Brent Vanderveen today when the scout teams went head to head that made the defensive sideline cheer.
Starting WIL ‘backer, junior D.J. Alexander, created a bit of a hassle off the edge on Monday. He has bottled lighting in his cleats, and when he puts on a solid exhibition of technique, speed and attentiveness, boy is it a sight to behold. Alexander has had a mediocre run of fall camp by my standards (which are very high for him), but when he gets all the puzzle pieces to fit together, he can be a nightmare for offensive lines and TE's.
Caleb Saulo (MIK), Jabral Johnson (WIL/SAM) and Darrell Songy had nice outings on the 2's at linebacker. They proved to be especially effective in stopping freshman tailback Chris Brown on a number of plays. Saulo is slowly but surely starting to make better reads of the offense before the ball is free, and Songy – a freshman who has gone straight from rookie recruit to second team ‘backer – has shown that he has the speed to make some noise as a pass rusher.
Dylan Wynn was gunning hard for just about anyone on Day 7. OSU's run-blockers and run-stoppers only went head to head for about 20 minutes in 7-on-7's where the LB's, DL and occasionally a safety (nickel package) lined up against the OL and tailbacks. In that time, Wynn not only managed to blow past some of the big guys up front, but a little unnecessary roughness – nee healthy competition - saw the junior end bowling freshman second-string guard Sean Harlow to the turf in a less than friendly manner. It is a testament to how aggressive Wynn can be – Harlow blew it off and gave Wynn a light tap on the helmet, but Wynn had a head full of steam all afternoon, and he honed that energy into a concentrated effort to penetrate the backfield.
I had my doubts about Mana Rosa when Riley first made the announcement that he and John Braun would be starting DT's this fall. But Rosa has put up a valiant effort to clog the middle of the line and make proper adjustments to his personal techniques to suit more intense play on the D-line. And he was doing it again today.
Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva have remained relatively constant fixtires with the 2's these last couple of practices. Delva is a bit further along than Hautau in my opinion, due to the fact that the nose tackle – once listed as a starter alongside Delva on the spring chart – was injured for most of April. However, both Delva and Hautau certainly have room for improvement before they are sent out onto the field against the opposition.
Steven Christian returned to practice after missing all of Week One with an illness, and he looked better when he ran some drills with his fellow defensive backs under Rod Perry on Monday. Christian, a walk on, is a capable athlete who has played both corner and safety in his time at OSU, and he offers a seasoned option in the secondary should injuries start to plague the ranks. A fifth-year senior, Christian's role on the defense has been minimal thus far, and he has a line of guys in front of him at both corner and safety before he gets a nod for lengthy PT.
Walk on safety A.J. Hedgecock remained inactive during Monday's practice. BF.C has yet to receive clarification on the extent and likely time of return for the redshirt freshman. His injury does not appear to be too serious.
Chris Hayes, a freshman walk on corner, got his first interception while wearing OSU colors on Monday. It came just moments before the final whistle blew on the first half of Mondays two-a-day, when the ‘young guys' took the stage and went at it for a scrappy 10-15 minutes.
Running with the 1's
DE – Dylan Wynn
DT – John Braun
DT – Mana Rosa
DE –Scott Crichton
WIL – D.J. Alexander
MIK – Joel Skotte
SAM –Michael Doctor
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson/Sean Martin
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy