CORVALLIS-Things really heated up on Day 8. A WR and CB got locked into a dispute down near the end zone, drills took on a more realistic tone and the Beaver players were more aggressive. The day did little to solve the starting QB battle but some running backs buoyed the spirits of the offense with some hard-fought runs. Mike Riley also talks injuries in this Day 8 report on the OSU offense.
Tuesday's practice was smooth sailing -- apart from some metaphorical butting of heads combined with the literal butting of shoulder pads into the chest area, and perhaps unnecessary dragging of offensive players to the turf.
The high level of contact did bring some attention to injuries in the media huddle, and Riley
felt compelled to address one key aspect of injuries during training sessions – small injuries, pulls, sprains and the like – are part of what the game is about. This stuff happens.
"The most serious thing that has happened lately (with injuries) is that Will Hopkins
has got a significant toe (injury)," Riley said of the freshman tight end. "They are going to let it heal without surgery." A return timetable was unknown.
Apart from that, injuries have been fairly minor to this point for the Beavs. The only offensive player aside from Hopkins currently a for sure no-go is senior receiver and second-string flanker Micah Hatfield
, who found himself the owner of a hamstring injury toward the end of Week One.
Senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds
did not participate on Tuesday (hamstring) and neither did junior corner Malcolm Marable
. Sean Martin
ran around for a bit before he shut it down and remained inactive for the rest of the day.
Practice Notes – Day 8
Cody Vaz spent his time with the 1's on Tuesday afternoon, seemingly reaffirming the theory Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf have yet to make a concrete decision on who will start at quarterback – at least not one they are willing to divulge to the general public. Things went rather smoothly for Vaz over the course of Day 8, but this is the fourth practice in a row where Vaz has tossed an interception. Vaz's pick, by senior CB Steven Christian, on an out-n-up to Obum Gwacham was an inaccurate throw -- and a great grab by Christian, granted. Still, it was a ball that could have been an easy completion if put in a better spot.
Sean Mannion saw his repetitions with the 2's on Day 8. He was consistently accurate and showed some good poise in the pocket most of the day. But his release remains generally slower than Vaz's – he can take a while to get rid of the ball at times, and appears to second guess his decisions while scanning through his reads. On a lighter note – Mannion ran the ball in for a touchdown during OSU's brief but adrenaline packed red zone operations on Tuesday.
Tailback Storm Woods was crackling on Day 8, especially when he got some time in with the starting O-line. On one play, Woods was more slippery than a seal covered in oil – he burst through a hole in the defensive line and quickly made it into linebacker territory. From there, he squeaked by a would-be tackler and juked closer to the sideline where he turned on the jets and picked up some additional yardage. A nice play and fun to watch.
Running Backs coach Chris Brasfield mentioned in an interview with BF.C earlier that Woods' gains in the weight room have not diminished his speed, and it was very apparent this afternoon when the sophomore ball carrier dug his cleats into the backfield. "Putting that weight on gives you confidence," Brasfield said. "The stronger you get the faster you can become."
Freshman ball carrier Damien Haskins has plenty of weight to work with, he's essentially just pure muscle. Haskins (5-8, 223) had a standout day with the scout team on Tuesday – he was light on his feet and didn't shy away from contact. His looks were limited when the veteran players were getting their reps in -- but when Riley called on the young guys to take the field for the last 15 minutes of practice, Haskins took advantage of the attention. After getting the ball in his hands and making it past the front seven of the scout team defense, he lowered a shoulder and laid into freshman corner Chris Hayes with a whap of pads that could be heard more than 30 yards away.
Woods and Chris Brown took care of business when OSU lined up for drills that pit the defense and offense nose to nose one yard shy of the goal line. Both tailbacks found the end zone, and Brown showed that he had the ability to be a bit of a power back when the situation called for it.
Fullback play was minimal during Day 8 – much of what the defense did (prior to the brief red zone drills) lent itself to having a solo back behind the QB.
Despite the fullback-less formations and the Beavs working on the pass game, the runners who did get turned loose managed to pick up some good chunks of yardage – Terron Ward and Woods were the most efficient, and really gave the D a run for their money.
The play of sophomore tight end Caleb Smith was typical of Tuesday's slightly more aggressive practice. He set some strong blocks alongside Connor Hamlett when Beaver ‘backers, D-linemen and safeties went up against the primary blocking units in run drills. Subsequently, the defense also teed off on Smith - he found himself on the turf after multiple snaps, the result of some very physical play against No.10. The Beavs we tight end also got his work out in the pattern and naturally the defense caught on to this quickly, making sure Smith didn't enjoy himself too much two days removed from having a boot on his left foot.
Tyler Perry returned to the TE ranks Tuesday, and ran drills with Kyle DeVan's crew during the early swing of practice. Otherwise, Perry was responsible only for some minimal participation. Perry's utility has always been geared toward blocking, something he is particularly good at in the open field. A gradual but undeniably safe recovery for him could mean wonders for the state of the OSU running game in certain offensive plays and sets. With Perry the owner of perhaps the best blocking frame available in the TE corps, he could squeeze into those plays and sets and be a difference-maker.
Brandin Cooks and Steven Nelson are starting to develop what I consider to be a friendly animosity toward one another. They had a bit of a scrap during red zone drills on Tuesday afternoon, one that had to be broken up by a huddle of black and white clad players. Cooks was clearly ticked off after the play, and Nelson probably took pride in knowing that he managed to push the buttons of the team's best receiver. Sometimes, sending a guy into orbit is the only real indicator that you are doing your job well – especially at corner.
Apart from the brief tussle, Cooks remained his usual dynamic, sure-handed self on Day 8. I only noticed one dropped pass from the 5-10, 186-pound junior and that was a stretch – it was placed right around ankle height, and it just narrowly slipped from his grasp. It was probably the most impressive dropped pass I've seen all camp, and I am running out of good things to say about No.7. Coincidentally, Nelson also dons No.7 for the black-clad Beaver defense – maybe he and Cooks are fighting over who looks better with that number on their back.
Gwacham's hands were a tad suspect on Tuesday, but he also proved that concentration can make up for some of the that. A thrice tipped pass was about to hit the turf before Gwacham snatched it out of the air -- and picked up a handful of YAC in the process. It was a nice display of hand-eye coordination, and something that may have earned him a vote of confidence from the decision makers that will eventually have to name a starter at split-end.
Strong days for Derek Mitchell, Isaac Seumalo, Gavin Andrews, Michael Philipp and Roman Sapolu on the o-line. The tackle position saw a ton of heat go their way courtesy of a revamped D-line that is sporting two converted LB's at defensive end in certain scenarios. Andrews held his own against Dyllon Mafi and Dylan Wynn, while Philipp squashed some attempts to overload the right end of the O-line by diverting traffic further outside to open up gaps between himself and Josh Andrews at guard. It was gaps similar to this one that played host to some big gainers by Woods/Ward/Brown.
Riley said the first fall camp scrimmage for the Beavs is likely to take place on Thursday and with referees involved. Riley also made a point to say that he is very reluctant to run the ‘old guys' during anything more intense than a glorified pillow fight at this juncture, so veteran play may be limited during Thursday's simulation.
Let's say Riley throws either Mannion or Vaz into the mix. Will one of them also see some starting talent at WR and TE? If so, could that be taken as an indicator of who the staff has deemed most likely to start against Eastern Washington on August 31? Food for thought.
Running with the 1's – Day 8
QB – Cody Vaz
TB – Storm Woods
FB – Tyler Anderson/Michael Balfour (both limited reps)
H-Back – Connor Hamlett
TE – Caleb Smith
LT- Michael Philipp
LG- Josh Andrews
C- Isaac Seumalo
RG- Grant Enger
RT- Gavin Andrews
FL –Brandin Cooks
SE – Obum Gwacham/Richard Mullaney
SB –Kevin Cummings