CORVALLIS - The two obvious storylines going into Week 5 surround middle linebacker Rommel Mageo's first start as a Beaver and the dwindling in number, but ever persistent, offensive line. But first, we here at BF.C keep coming back to the same question – how effective will OSU's play action be if the Beavs cannot establish a consistent running threat? We asked Mike Riley exactly that.
"We do a lot of (play-action motions) regardless of the run fake," Mike Riley
said. "As you do pass routes you change up protections – different run actions give you different kinds of protections, and that's as valuable as the run action itself. We would like our run action to look like a run and make (opponents) honor the run – so (by extension) we would like to run the ball better."
Meanwhile, a member of Mike Cavanaugh
's front five is slowly working his way back into playing shape, the 1's had some new skelly dance partners and there was no shortage of exuberance today from the OSU coaches – on both sides of the ball.
The Daily Riley
On the topic of quarterbacking, Riley made mention of Colorado's QB Connor Wood
, a junior who has been sharp in his first two games leading the Buffs. Surprisingly, Riley said that as far as preparation for Wood has been concerned, the Beaver coaching staff is likening him to Travis Wilson
"We think (Wood) is a good player and a good thrower. He has been very productive throwing the ball in the two games they have had this year." Riley said.
Riley relating Wood to Wilson should beg the question – does the OSU staff anticipate Wood running as much as Wilson did two weeks ago?
"I don't know," Riley said. "They really like to throw it, I know that. (But) you really have to be prepared for it all."
Tuesday's practice was marked by successes and missteps, as well as a lot of hollering from the likes of offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh and linebackers coach Trent Bray
In a wholly different change of pace compared to the last four weeks, Sean Mannion and the first unit sans the o-line went head-to-head in skelly with the first team secondary and LB's Tuesday. It's critical to go against the scout team mimicking that week's opponent but this could help better prepare both squads for the game speed they encounter. The session lasted about 15 minutes, after which the offense and defense paired off to run against the scout teams.
It was a tough day for OSU's offensive line, particularly freshman right tackle Sean Harlow. He was the lightning rod for much of Cavanaugh's displeasure on Tuesday for reasons ranging from improper positioning to poorly executed blocks. Harlow also saw work at three different positions during practice, running at RG, RT and LT, though that might be just standard preparedness, making sure everyone can move about if needed should injuries strike. Harlow's redshirt was burned in San Diego last weekend after an injury to center Josh Mitchell.
On the upside, Gavin Andrews is slowly making his way back to seeing reps with the starting line in practice. Andrews was active Tuesday, albeit on a very small scale. Andrews has been out all season following a bout with mono.
As expected, Brandin Cooks (quad contusion) was inactive Monday, and a minimal participant Tuesday. He did get in some work but for the most part Cooks was planted either on the sidelines or close to Riley and Receivers Coach Brent Brennan when "thud" tackling and mild contact started. When Cooks was not directly involved in a play, the junior heartily encouraged freshman Victor Bolden to go faster, play harder and make the tough catches. Bolden is the primary flanker behind Cooks with the second team.
There were immediate benefits from the skelly -- 1s vs. 1s -- from what I could tell. Guys like Ryan Murphy, Rashaad Reynolds and Jabral Johnson were pumped up to see some action against Connor Hamlett, Kellen Clute and Richard Mullaney – all three of whom seemed to go through their motions a little faster than they have when pitted against the scout team D. The change of pace facilitated – briefly – a change in tempo that could be very beneficial to putting together two strong halves of football when Colorado comes to town.
I really enjoyed watching Reynolds defend his targets today. There is a reason why so little on Reynolds comes out of practice reporting and even game reporting – he is a bell cow in the secondary, but not necessarily in the same way Jordan Poyer was. He runs his assignment with near perfection, but is typically seen swatting passes down or out of a receiver's hands at practice as opposed to headline-grabbing interceptions.
Reynolds offers - in both practice and games – a level of consistency that has been lost for other members of OSU's pass defense squad. Reynolds will not generally make two or three huge plays a day, but he does provide a model of what good defense looks like in the secondary. In coverage on one play, a first-string pass catcher had what looked to be a sure reception but Reynolds punched it out at the last moment, forcing an incompletion.
For the last two weeks, I've noticed Bray become increasingly vocal with his starting linebackers – D.J. Alexander, Jabral Johnson and Joel Skotte / Rommel Mageo. Bray's amplified coaching, I thought, was directed toward the unit as a whole after a tough start to the season. But perhaps I was wrong…
More and more I'm realizing that the majority of his hollering is directed at Alexander. The junior - whom Bray indicated last week was the leader of the corps– had a rough Tuesday, and Bray made it very apparent. Alexander is the best OSU has with Michael Doctor out, and Bray wants him to be letter-perfect. Alexander's eyes were not in the place at the right time on Tuesday and it might be because of something typical when injuries force inexperienced players into the starting lineup -- trying to do too much on the field, overcompensating for others and not focusing in on his responsibilities enough.
The first team defensive linemen were sharp Tuesday. Defensive end Dylan Wynn and defensive tackle Mana Rosa stood out in getting upfield, and d-end Scott Crichton managed to use some of his acclaimed speed to shut down his edge. And DT John Braun has been improving steadily throughout these last four weeks and looked good today – the interior line had a strong outing against the run and pass, and it would have been a lot harder if Braun hadn't made a steady contribution.
It's not exactly new news, but Rommel Mageo can play football. Mageo, a redshirt freshman MIK, has been running with the 1s for the last two practice sessions after taking over for Joel Skotte vs. SDSU. Others have been impressed by his speed or his power, but I'm fond of his awareness on the field. Mageo doesn't over-anticipate often, he's deliberate before flinging himself at a target. That said, he's still trying to get a feel for the starting job and is trying hard not to make mistakes.
Mageo is a very modest athlete who will be the first to tell you he needs to get better at many aspects of his position but so far, the freshman from Pago Pago is looking solid enough.
Special Teams – Who takes over longsnapping duties?
Michael Morovick - OSU's underrated yet very talented line snapper – is out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury, and he'll have surgery soon. Next man up applies to every position for the Oregon State football team.
"We have two guys here that we think will do a good job," Riley said Tuesday. "Harrison Linsky and
have appeared consistent and sharp in practice. So we will go with those two guys."
Riley said Maughan is the most likely candidate to do the long snapping, and Linsky will do the short snaps for OSU. Riley didn't hesitate to explain the importance of the line snapper, and OSU's head man made a very good point:
"Nobody knows who that guy is until the ball sails over somebody's head, that's the reality of it, Riley said. "That's why they would like to kind of remain in the background (with) nobody talking about them, that means they are doing a good job.
Running with the 1's – Day
QB – Sean Mannion
TB – Terron Ward
FB – Ricky Ortiz
H-Back – Connor Hamlett
TE – Caleb Smith
LT- Michael Philipp
LG- Josh Andrews
C- Isaac Seumalo
RG- Grant Bays/Sean Harlow
RT- Sean Harlow
FL –Brandin Cooks (minimal), Victor Bolden
SE – Richard Mullaney
SB –Kevin Cummings
DE – Dylan Wynn
DT – John Braun
DT – Mana Rosa
DE –Scott Crichton
WIL –Jabral Johnson / D.J. Alexander
MIK – Rommel Mageo
SAM –D.J. Alexander / Jabral Johnson
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy