CORVALLIS – Mike Riley enjoyed what he saw from the orange and black Tuesday and two key starters returned full-go on offense, but a few defenders remained questionable as the ASU tilt draws ever closer. A young linebacker made some noise but showed that he is also still a bit green, and a second team d-tackle took charge… literally.
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley
was enthusiastic about Tuesday's practice session, which from this chair was a mixed bag on offense but also highlighted by some impressive plays on both sides of the ball.
"We're getting some good energy, the scout teams were particularly good I thought," Riley said.
Energetic scout team members should be seen as a huge plus as Oregon State prepares to travel to Arizona to take on Pac-12 South leader Arizona State. When asked what it was Utah did last weekend that slowed down an explosive Sun Devil offense, and by implication if OSU could do some of the same things, Riley kept it simple.
"They have a good defense,' Riley said. "You can look at the stats now in the conference… the common denominator – if you have a good defense you can be in every game. And Utah has an outstanding defense."
But is the OSU defense healthy enough to keep pace with what ASU might throw at them by way of a mobile QB and a loaded backfield of skilled tailbacks?
"We're healthier. We've got some issues still. Zack Robinson
got hurt evidently on Thursday's practice and he's not practicing yet," Riley said. "So we will see if he can play this week. We've got some guys that are healthier for sure."
A little bit more of a hot button issue revolved around the fact that this tilt at ASU would be another night game (TV: Pac-12 Networks, 6:30 p.m.). It will be the seventh time this season where the Beavs have had a game start later than 5 p.m. Riley has sounded a little ticked off about back-to-back night games on the road in the past. How about today?
"I understand the night games, but two in a row on the road? I think that's what they've got to look at in the future," Riley said. "This is going to be our world for a long time, and it's going to get different. I think Thursday, Friday, Saturday games are all in the making for sure – we're already doing that… You guys might have to go to China with us one day."
Sophomore tight end Caleb Smith (back spasms) and senior guard Grant Enger (shoulder) both made a full return to the first team offense Tuesday without much visible rust accumulation on the pads. Smith displayed gazelle-like speed (for a tight end) when cruising around in the pattern, and he managed to set some strong blocks as well. Enger was his usual self – stout and very aware of his assignments.
Apart from some injury relief for Smith and Enger, Tuesday was a very mixed bag for the Oregon State offense. First the highlights -- junior quarterback Sean Mannion was largely on point and junior flanker Brandin Cooks continues to make being a human bullet seem effortless. Sophomore tailback Storm Woods made some nice grabs in the pattern and Terron Ward set strong blocks when protecting for Mannion.
However, there must have been either a wealth of miscues on Tuesday or offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf was unwilling to settle for anything short of perfection from his offense. Langsdorf had various installments of the 1's and 2's re-run plays that he was not satisfied with, and expressed his frustration with, among others, freshman wideout Victor Bolden and was less than pleased at times with the blocking up front.
Another coach to express his distaste with the hosses was offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, who started barking at the beginning of team drills and didn't seem to take a break for the duration of practice. He was especially tough on freshman tackle Sean Harlow, who was struggling to keep his edge contained.
Junior H-back Connor Hamlett, who played against USC before the bye but still clearly wasn't 100 percent (knee) and Cooks had the best days among the receivers from this chair. Senior wideout Micah Hatfield and redshirt freshman Malik Gilmore also got some looks and performed well. The run game looked very sharp and OSU worked with a more diverse playbook Tuesday, which may have been the catalyst for some of the miscues mentioned earlier.
Junior WIL D.J. Alexander was active for Tuesday's practice and was flying around the field without much of a hint of any nagging injury. He's dealt with shoulder and knee issues this season.
Sophomore linebacker Joel Skotte (concussion) was dressed but did not sport pads on Tuesday and remained on the sideline for practice. Senior defensive tackle Mana Rosa (arm) was in pads but was carrying his helmet around for the entirety of practice, he did not receive reps when the starting defense faced off with the scout team offense.
With Rosa's continued absence, junior d-tackles Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau remain the primaries in the middle of the defensive line. The day's session was a very strong one for Hautau, whom I witnessed smashing the center of the scout team O-line while generating a lot of pressure in the backfield throughout practice.
One particular play earned a star next to it in the BF.C notebook – Hautau was in as a nose tackle with the 1's and he bull-rushed two offensive linemen, getting leverage on one of them and pushing him back five plus yards. Take the term "bull-rushed" to heart, Hautau actually had his head lowered in a charge position and he practically steamrolled his mark.
Freshman linebacker Darrell Songy is doing a bit of a juggling act in football practice these days. Lately, Songy has been drifting between back-up duties for junior SAM Jabral Johnson and replacement MIK duties as a result of Skotte's absence. Songy still has a fair deal to learn at both positions, but he has tremendous energy on the field and that can be contagious. He can also be lightning quick to the ball when he makes an accurate read.
But even energetic young players can sometimes get lazy, and that's something that Songy and others were reminded of about halfway through the practice session. For about five minutes the scout offense and defense squared away with one another and two plays in particular made OSU's younger defenders look like they were made of tissue paper. One was a pass to redshirt freshman fullback Ricky Ortiz, which sailed right past a very nonchalant Songy and ultimately went for six. Senior linebacker Michael Doctor called Songy out and told him to pay attention afterward. Just a few plays later, the second team/scout defenders were thoroughly blasted by some nifty footwork a la redshirt freshman running back Chris Brown, who had what surely would have been about a 45-yard TD cut in half by some great pursuit speed from sophomore corner Naji Patrick.
Outside the realm of the front seven, OSU's secondary owned most of the day's practice routine on defense.
Junior safeties Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman tipped passes and closed gaps in their coverage easily, and sophomore Micah Audiss got in on a few plays, where he was a factor in stopping the run and pass.
Most impressive on the day were the shut-down capabilities of senior corner Rashaad Reynolds and junior Steven Nelson, who frequently made scout team quarterback Kyle Kempt look at second and third reads or just tuck and run with it, at which point the d-line and linebackers smothered the play.
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- Isaac Seumalo
RG- Grant Enger
RT- Sean Harlow
FL –Brandin Cooks
SE – Richard Mullaney
SB – Malik Gilmore
DE – Dylan Wynn
DT – Edwin Delva
DT – Siale Hautau
DE –Scott Crichton
WIL –D.J. Alexander
MIK – Rommel Mageo
SAM –Jabral Johnson
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson
CB-Sean Martin (Nickel)
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy