CORVALLIS- Looking ahead to Utah, most would probably agree the three biggest areas facing the Beavs are the offensive line, linebackers and secondary. So how did they look in Thursday's practice? First, though, BF.C had a few questions for Mike Riley.
The Daily Riley
BF.C asked Mike Riley
if Utah presented any challenges in particular that the Beavers have yet to face in 2013.
"They are just a solid football team and they've always been tough defensively, (Utah is) physical and well coached," Riley said. "Offensively, they appear to be playing at a higher level than they have for a couple of years – so they have complemented their team pretty well."
Riley quickly mentioned Utah's starting QB Travis Wilson
, a 6-7, 240 pound sophomore who OSU faced last season. Wilson's newfound legs and throwing maturity have juiced Utah's offense. And yes, they've added Wilson as a running threat of sorts, something that OSU has struggled to prevent, both earlier this season when Eastern Washington came to Corvallis and in recent seasons past.
"The quarterback is a year older, and that is so valuable for (Wilson)," Riley said. "I thought he was pretty good last year, (but) he is playing at a higher level. And they've been in a tough game- Utah State had them going, and (Utah) had to respond – so they have been through some growing type things, but regardless of all that, Utah is always good."
Where has Wilson grown most, as seen by the OSU staff watching film of last year compared to 2013? Confidence, Riley said.
"I don't know how to really say this any differently, not does it explain it as well as it should, but playing (time) for a quarterback makes all the difference in the world. Being in the games where they actually get tackled and have a lot of things to deal with – there is no substitute experience for it. You can practice all you want, but playing in a game is such a good thing," said Riley.
Riley closed out the media huddle by saying that D.J. Alexander
will indeed be playing against Utah on Saturday night.
There are a lot of questions headed into the Pac-12 opener for the Beavs. Among them, how is the O-line shaping up in the throes injured veteran talent and the threat of a tough D-line bearing the Utah colors? What will the OSU linebacker group throw at Wilson, and how is D.J. Alexander? And what about that secondary -- are they ready for a semi-dual threat QB and a Utah team with some skilled receivers?
BF.C yesterday made the decision not to report where offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo was lining up but with so many other media sources reporting that he's been primarily at right tackle, there's no longer any reason not to note that here. On Thursday, Seumalo looked good and never quit on a block. And really, Seumalo could play anywhere on Saturday – Mike Cavanaugh could plug him back in at center or put him at guard. What is known is that Seumalo looked just as comfortable on the outside on Thursday as he is anchoring the middle.
But Seumalo's performance was one of only a few bright spots on the O-line. During Thursday's practice, Riley and Cavanaugh both expressed their displeasure with the OL performances. Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf offered some choice words following a bad center-quarterback exchange. The projected starting line for the Beavs' Pac-12 opener looks like this: LT Michael Philipp, LG Josh Andrews, C Josh Mitchell, RG Grant Bays and RT Isaac Seumalo.
The coaches' watchful eyes weren't only on the line. Sophomore tight end Caleb Smith missed a blocking assignment in drills on Thursday, and immediately heard about if from both Cavanaugh and GA Kyle DeVan. When Smith has an off-day the past few weeks, he generally tends to follow it up with a good one, though. It's clear he still needs to polish up a few things, though here in his second year.
Sean Mannion tossed an interception on Thursday when he slightly overthrew an open Brandin Cooks – the ball sailed over the head of the junior wideout and into the hands of an awaiting defender. Otherwise, Mannion was as sharp as ever.
I devoted an extra-long time today and zeroed in exclusively on the Oregon State linebacker corps.
With Alexander once again in the fold, the ‘backer unit certainly seemed rejuvenated, despite the loss of Michael Doctor. The junior was sharp in his reads and quick to get into position to help "stop" various runs and passes in short yardage scenarios.
Alexander's field awareness aided junior ‘backer Jabral Johnson and sophomore MIK Joel Skotte, who were both loud and attentive for the better portion of OSU's first team defensive drills.
However, OSU is still prone to taking some bad angles on occasion and did so again on Thursday. Trent Bray gave his vocal cords a workout, wanting faster, more precise work from his LBs.
Behind Alexander, Skotte and Johnson, sit second team ‘backers Caleb Saulo, Rommel Mageo and newly anointed LB Cyril Noland, who is subbing in for true freshman linebacker Darrell Songy (concussion).
Mageo and Saulo were relatively on point for the entirety of Thursday's practice session, but struggled in consistently stopping the scout offense on some plays. The 2's were off and on all day, looking downright mean at times, and going too slow or being too anxious the next.
Noland - a converted safety – is raw but he's physically talented and has better pass skills than the average LB due to that safety background. Noland was very vocal and played with heart on Thursday.
The Oregon State secondary was hyped up on Thursday and locked down the scout team wideouts pretty easily.
Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman wrapped up a number of targets and were especially stingy in the red zone.
After these first two games, the unit as a whole cannot be considered a gang of stalwart defensive threats, but the collective of Murphy, Zimmerman, Rashaad Reynolds, Steven Nelson and Sean Martin are getting crisper by the day.
Martin batted a ball from Kyle Kempt that was then picked off by Zimmerman, and Steven Nelson was playing his targets much tighter.
Nelson had a so-so day in run support -- something that Mark Banker has really been trying to hammer home to not just Nelson but all his DBs.
Sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Bennett saw a brief stint with the first team D-line on Thursday.
Running with the 1's
QB – Sean Mannion
TB – Storm Woods
FB – Tyler Anderson
H-Back – Connor Hamlett
TE – Caleb Smith/Kellen Clute
LT- Michael Philipp
LG- Josh Andrews
C- Josh Mitchell
RG – Grant Bays
RT - Isaac Seumalo
FL –Brandin Cooks
SE – Richard Mullaney
SB –Kevin Cummings
DE – Dylan Wynn
DT – John Braun
DT – Mana Rosa
DE –Scott Crichton
LB –Jabral Johnson
MIK – Joel Skotte
LB – D.J. Alexander
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson
CB-Sean Martin (Nickel)
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy