CORVALLIS – The offense saw the big news on Monday with the starting QB named and that a true freshman would start at RT, but the defense got more overall ink in the BF.C notebook. The pecking order in the defensive rotation is looking more established. Three integral players were back with the 1's after a stint on the injured and/or resting list, and just in time for the first day of Game Week.
Practice Notes Defense
Tyrequek Zimmerman was the early bird on defense, notching an interception against Sean Mannion when the 1's faced off during the initial swing of Monday's practice session. Mannion had actually thrown a good ball, but a timely defensive effort by Steven Nelson tipped it mid-flight. Zimmerman was in perfect position to cradle the flailing pigskin just before stumbling out of bounds.
Mike Riley isn't ready to name a starting corner just yet between Nelson and Sean Martin in the spot opposite Rashaad Reynolds. But just one man's opinion having taken in all of fall camp, I think Nelson may have earned that spot. That said, Martin is going to play a lot, and the Beavs will go to more nickel when they feel the situation calls for it and that will usually mean a third corner, a la Martin. While Martin and Reynolds were both taking a day off Saturday, they returned to action in good form on Monday which certainly seemed to please Riley.
The Beavers' starting defensive rotation was on a roll during most of Monday's practice session. They were stout against the run and good in pursuit. Remember that Riley and his staff have been encouraging a mostly ‘hands-off' approach, so a successful Beaver D in practice is one that is always in the right position to make what is generally just a theoretical tackle.
Much of the focus for stopping the run has been allocated to coaching pursuit angles, proper technique and speed, speed, speed. Actual tackling scenarios were again absent but the stop corps put forth a invigorating effort Monday.
Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton were at their customary defensive end spots while John Braun and Mana Rosa were at the defensive tackles. Their work with the defense was on par with what one would expect out of two seniors in the middle and two juniors on the ends working against a scout team offense that has to use a converted LB as a tight end for some sets. They managed to push around some of the less experienced players like O-linemen Derrionte Freeney and Austin Johnson. But there are still concerns at the d-tackle position and because of that, for the line in general. Saturday can't get here quick enough to see how it looks when they go live.
A healthier Michael Doctor returned to the field on Monday, and he was crucial in run support as usual. Jabral Johnson and Caleb Saulo disrupted scout team QB Kyle Kempt in the backfield on occasion, and they were also largely responsible for preventing the freshman QB from gaining much yardage on the ground.
The safety corps saw a little movement within the 2's during Monday's practice. Cyril Noland (R-Fr.), Zack Robinson (R-Fr.), walk on Micah Audiss (So.) and now Brandon Arnold (True Fr.) have been highly interchangeable in the defensive playbook throughout the fall, moving from free to strong safety and back again with some frequency. Noland and Arnold alternated behind Ryan Murphy, with Audiss and Robinson switching things up behind Zimmerman. Rod Perry mentioned to BF.C that a lot of fall camp is about evaluation and even though the games start Saturday, getting a lot of different looks on a guy is instrumental to making the right decision down the road.
Malcolm Marable once again earned his fair share of scribbles in the notebook. Marable was sturdy in pass defense and an energetic contributor to every play he was a part of. Larry Scott and Dashon Hunt posted equally impressive days. As far as I can tell, this set of corners (Scott, Marable and Hunt) would be the reserves for Reynolds, Nelson and Martin. Hunt has been seeing work aplenty as a nickel option, with Marable and Scott the first to hear their numbers called when the 2's replace the starting order.
I got a chance to really zero in on freshman Manase Hungalu for the first time on Monday. The young linebacker was operating with the scout team defense and showed some intense hustle and a good eye for the football on more than one play. Hungalu was quick to scamper to the outermost regions of his zone to make a play, and equally quick when working against the run and short pass when facing the 1's. The starting offense typically grinds away at the scout D, no surprise there. But Hungalu made a few plays down near the line of scrimmage that gave the veterans a run for their money.
Ali'i Robins, a sophomore and defensive tackle by trade, spent time as a defensive end with the scout team while Jalen Grimble and Devan Filipe staffed the interior of the line. Robins appears to be assuming a versatile role. Robins is a third-year sophomore who went from being one of the go-to-guys at DT with the scout team to having to compete for the spot within a week. Grimble and Filipe showed up in the middle of week three, and they could spice things up considerably on the inside, so Robins playing multiple roles may serve him well in the future.
There was a lot more in my notebook for the day on defense but it could be construed as too much information so we'll keep a lid on it, lest Riley give me a Darth Vader choke hold in the media huddle tomorrow instead of answering my questions.
Running with the 1's Defense
DE – Dylan Wynn
DT – John Braun
DT – Mana Rosa
DE –Scott Crichton
WIL –Jabral Johnson
MIK – Joel Skotte
SAM –Michael Doctor
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson
CB-Sean Martin (Nickel)
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy