CORVALLIS - At long last, OSU has named a starting quarterback in Sean Mannion and it was a very solid afternoon for the offense. A rookie linebacker has left the program with less than a week before the opener. An illness has prompted a true freshman to start at RT - otherwise the Beavers showcased healthy core talent on Monday, with Oregon State now fully engaged with Week One prep.
"The quarterback is going to be Sean Mannion
, he is going to start," Mike Riley
said Monday afternoon.
Riley has noted numerous times throughout the last four and a half months that the Beavers are fortunate to have two QBs of starting caliber with senior Cody Vaz
, and not a first and second string.
"Of course, Cody will be ready to go as always." Riley said. "It's great to have both of these guys. There are tons of things that go into (naming a starter) and we can't go over it all (right now), nor is it important to – basically I'll just tell you we went through a lot of different things for a long period of time. I'm excited about our decision."
In slightly more somber news, BF.C has it from Riley that starting right tackle, sophomore Gavin Andrews
, indeed has mono.
"That's one of the new words I hate to hear, is ‘mono.'" Riley said. "(He will be out) 2-3 weeks probably."
– a true freshman --will start at right tackle in Andrew's stead.
"Harlow is a good player, he is just young and inexperienced – but so was Gavin (Andrews)." Riley said. "(Harlow) will be surprised by game speed. It will be fast and furious, a lot going on. He will get his eyes opened up but I think he is pretty tough physically and mentally – he will be fine."
Oregon State lost some linebacker depth, with freshman LB Terin Solomon
leaving the program "of his own accord" Riley said. Solomon (6-2, 195) was receiving very limited reps with Trent Bray
's backer unit, and his body language seemed to indicate some discontent last week.
Monday represented the first bona fide day of game week preparations that the orange and black will participate in before Saturday's tilt against Eastern Washington. The focus of the day was largely on "first and ten" offensive and defensive looks.
Freshman tailback Chris Brown was still sporting a boot on Monday. A timetable for his return is unknown – Jovan Stevenson saw playing time as the third string tailback in lieu of Brown.
Mannion's body language was all confidence on Monday. The junior had swagger and it was reflected in the precision of his throws and the timing he displayed with both short and long tosses throughout the afternoon. Mannion was not perfect, at this point, I've realized that few QB's ever are, and he did throw an interception, but it was mostly due to some top-notch defensive handiwork. Is Mannion's confidence – so integral to the Beavs 6-0 start in 2012 –a commodity the Beavs can count on again? We'll see, starting with Saturday.
A handful of key players adorned shells and hit the turf of Tommy Prothro Practice Field. Terron Ward, Storm Woods and Brandin Cooks were all back in action as members of the starting rotation alongside Mannion. Woods and Ward both carved deep gashes into the scout team defense when they ran the ball, aided significantly by an overall routing of the D-line by the first team offensive linemen.
Woods did make a mistake, this one with his hands. He risked a nervous glance over his shoulder at the oncoming scout team defenders that were about to swarm him - the Beavs starting tailback dropped the pass, something that he does not do often.
Harlow was susceptible throughout the day to the "game speed" that Riley mentioned. He did his best work in run blocking, but had his hands full when the Beavs came hard on the rush, particularly when it was 1s vs. 1s. Harlow looked better against the scout team defenders, but needs to work on his ability to pick up on variations in opposing blitz packages.
Roman Sapolu and Grant Bays remain the two main plugs for the offensive line corps, especially with Josh Mitchell still filling in at center for Isaac Seumalo on the 1's. The timetable for Seumalo's return remains foggy. Riley is hopeful that Seumalo will be reunited with his fellow starting O-linemen sometime before the EWU game, but declined to make a guarantee one way or the other.
Sapolu and Bays have both been working under Mike Cavanaugh long enough to have a good understanding of their role on the line and what to do in order to avoid Cavanaugh's trademark barking. Mitchell has been turning in solid performances from what I have observed of him on the line, and he kept up with it today. The sophomore is fortified on either side by senior guards Grant Enger and Josh Andrews, so he often has help if needed.
Junior Connor Hamlett (H-back) and the probable selection at starting TE, Caleb Smith, both had sharp performances with the 1's. Both tight ends picked up yardage in the pass game and threw some good blocks down in the trenches. Hamlett received props from Riley on a Mannion toss to the sprinting H-back that was thrown slightly behind him - the 6-7, 263 pound target reeled in the catch on the run without missing a beat. Kellen Clute continues his impressive run of fall camp with a few receptions on Monday, and freshman Dustin Stanton worked with the scout team offense.
The first hour of practice was dedicated largely to warm-ups and special teams work, with an emphasis given to proper punt blocking, receiving and defensive formations. Keith Kostol is kicking with accuracy, which is always nice to see. Cooks and Victor Bolden were the two primary candidates for time at punt returner and CB Rashaad Reynolds even got a few healthy looks at punt returns before the rest of practice resumed and he was once again slated with his fellow defenders.
A Note on the Split-End Battle
In a column not long ago, I expressed confidence in the idea that Obum Gwacham would be named the starting split end. A week's worth of observations later -- and as Richard Mullaney has come back with a vengeance off the injured list -- plus in reading between the lines, I have changed my mind. Gwacham is certainly capable, but he has been seeing fewer and fewer first team repetitions now that Mullaney is running at full speed. Gwacham was also chastised by receivers coach Brent Brennan on Monday for his inability to make a crisp decision on a route - something seen from time to time with the junior since spring ball. That indecision can slow down the timing, the QB's reads and extend the play longer than coaches want.
Mullaney could very well get the nod for PT against Eastern Washington due to a little something called consistency. Mullaney at 100 percent has brought an element of reliability that doesn't exist quite as much with Gwacham's hands or routes. Mullaney has very good hands and runs clean, almost seamless routes. Mannion and Vaz both have shown a lot of confidence that No. 8 is going to be in the right place at the right time in accordance with the tempo of each play. Gwacham's routes take longer to develop, despite athletic capabilities that would suggest he was capable of better.
Running with the 1's
QB – Sean Mannion
TB – Storm Woods
FB – Tyler Anderson
H-Back – Connor Hamlett
TE – Caleb Smith
LT- Michael Philipp
LG- Josh Andrews
C- Josh Mitchell
RG- Grant Enger
RT- Sean Harlow
FL –Brandin Cooks
SE – Richard Mullaney/Obum Gwacham (minimal w/ 1's)
SB –Kevin Cummings