CORVALLIS – I couldn't help but let my eyes drift over to the defensive practice field Tuesday, it looked and sounded like so much was going on. Linebacker coach Trent Bray and defensive coordinator Mark Banker were very vocal, stressing the importance of pursuit angles, identifying and closing out a play with a good wrap or even tackle. Yes. You read that right. There were tackles in practice.
That hasn't been the case all year. The Beavs generally just don't tackle in the practice week during the season. Now, don't get me wrong – the team was not flying at one another with the intent of knocking the rock loose or intent on delivering crushing blows to a scout team offensive player.
Most of the tackling that occurred was simply a matter of defensive linemen in the middle being encouraged to finish a play a little more aggressively.
Still, it was unusual. My guess? You're looking at the final regular season game of the year and the defense is coming off a rough outing, as is the whole team. Why not tackle at this point, why not get something different going on and shake things up. The Beaver defense must prove their ability to tackle aggressive running backs with Friday's Civil War right around the corner. No better time to get that going.
Here's more on the day's happenings...
In particular, scout team running back Damien Haskins was taken to the ground more than once by Beaver D-lineman.
Despite the emphasis allocated to defending a variety of simulated Oregon running plays the Ducks have shown all year, the unit that stood out the most on the day from this chair was the Beaver secondary.
At corner, senior nickel Sean Martin grabbed an interception, and it ended up being a pick-six as he charged down the field. Junior Malcolm Marable also made an interception.
Tuesday played host to a mixed performance from the linebacker group. Freshman MIK Rommel Mageo looked sharp when the 1's took to defending the red zone toward the end of practice. Junior SAM linebacker Jabral Johnson had an interception and delivered the top performance among the linebackers on Tuesday, as he not only fared well against the pass but also helped to cut certain run plays short.
However, not everyone was clicking in the same way Johnson was – junior WIL D.J. Alexander was on the receiving end of some vibrant criticism from Bray about halfway through practice. It is worth noting that all signs point toward Bray having a higher expectations of Alexander's performance in both practice and games than the other linebackers. And whenever Alexander fails to perform up to the standards set by both Bray, and those implied by Alexander's designation as a defensive leader, the junior sure as hell hears about it, as he did today.
It's also worth noting is that Alexander had an interception right before practiced closed out for the day. The junior grabbed a ball that had been tipped by a fellow teammate.
The Daily Riley, with a dash of Langsdorf
My top question for Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf heading into the week's preparations for the Civil War revolved around heart, and what each coach sees as the key to keeping their players motivated after an earth shattering loss to UW last Saturday.
"I think the fact that it is the Civil War should be worth something to us," Langsdorf said. "We've got to rally the troops and get back to execution. I think we've had good work already, and like we've always talked about – good or bad, we've got to move on. If we win, it should be the same as if we lose - we've got to just keep on plugging away."
"I think they get fired up wanting to do well," Riley said. "Our job is then to help them do well, give them all the tools we possibly can. I think that preparation fuels fire, and the more you invest in your preparation, hopefully the more (fuel/fire) you will get on the field."
Both Riley and Langsdorf were adamant about wanting to come away from Autzen Stadium victorious, not just for the sake of beating the Ducks and tacking a win to potentially make them eligible for a better bowl game, but because both coaches want to be able to continue playing football over the holidays with a group of players they hold near and dear, some of whom are seniors who will be playing their last game and for whom this game means so much.
Will Oregon State get fired up enough come Friday to make one last tremendous statement prior to the end of the 2013 regular season? Can they once again call upon the ghosts of Lunchpail U and play a brutal head-spinner of a football game? We'll see.
Did the UW loss suck all the energy out of the Beaver offense? Monday's practice was spirited, so you'd have to say no. But Tuesday's session, at least the starting offensive rotation for about half of the practice session, was both quiet and at times, lifeless. The exception to this rule, and there should be no surprise here, is that Brandin Cooks was electric and made a play on just about every ball that entered his vicinity.
I'm just guessing here but I wonder if the offense intending to be focused -- no joking around or talking, just determined to get the job done. Again, that's just a guess. But whatever it was, it didn't seem to work. There were, however, some offensive moments…
The Oregon State passing attack, led by Mannion, Cooks and junior H-back Connor Hamlett was very effective in the red zone. Mannion was responsible for some sharp throws to Cooks as well as sophomore tight end Caleb Smith, and Hamlett's big body always is a factor down near the goal line for both blocking and receiving purposes.
The O-line was, again, blocking well in practice against the scouts. Recently, I've questioned writing this into practice reports because A.) They do well in practice, sure, but it is practice after all and much of what the O-line does, by design, is less aggressive than a game, and B.) The Beaver blocking corps has proven lately to be as transparent as Cellophane wrap on Saturdays, and it makes me wonder if seeing them block well in practice will actually equate to visible results on the field.
Regardless, they were a strong group Tuesday, with sophomore Isaac Seumalo and senior Grant Enger leading the charge.
Running with the 1's
QB – Sean Mannion
TB – Storm Woods/Terron Ward
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/Siale Hautau/ Brandon Bennett
DT – Mana Rosa
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