CORVALLIS – A collection of news on the injury front came out of the Beavs' first bowl practice. A defender will as expected sit for the duration of the season, while a formerly injured wide receiver might be healthy enough to step up in Hawaii. The defense shines against the run and Mike Riley talks the recruiting upside of a trip to the islands and more.
The Daily Riley
A quick injury update on D.J. Alexander
– as expected the junior linebacker will not be playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Alexander sat out of Saturdays practice with a neck brace on, having recently undergone surgery for a nerve issue.
"D.J. is out. D.J. had a surgery, so we elected to do that (sit him) now, so it gave him more time," Riley said. "We wanted to give him lot of time to get ready for next year.
"He has had repeated stingers forever. That's why he has gone in and out of games forever. We hope we repair that so he doesn't have any more problems."
Riley noted that it was not an issue that arose specifically as a result of the smash and bang nature of the Civil War, but rather an ongoing problem that Alexander has been fighting throughout his career.
"Every time you've seen him go out, that's been the deal." Riley said.
, Riley said he and the team are ecstatic about the upcoming trip to Hawaii. Not only do Beavs younger and older reap the benefits by continuing to practice and play, but the bowl game offers OSU a grand opportunity for recruiting a state they've long had a strong pipeline to –indeed, the OSU program's influence is already quite extensive on the islands.
"The options were coming up (for bowl games), and there was one other place that I thought was going to be good for recruiting, and of course this place (Hawaii)." Riley said. "This place has got a great history for us too – we've had coaches coach over there, lots of kids from there. Lots of kids that now that we have here, and are recruiting over there."
Riley didn't clarify if he was talking about the Heart of Dallas Bowl, something in California or what have you, but also shared his thoughts on the Beavs first bowl game practice ahead of the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.
"I thought the spirit and attitude for practice today was outstanding." Riley said.
There remains a slim chance that senior slotback Kevin Cummings (wrist) might play in the bowl game. Riley said that Cummings' wrist is healed - it is now just a matter of ensuring that his wrist, one that hasn't moved since the Stanford game, is ready for football contact. The decision will ultimately be up to Cummings, said Riley, although he would of course have to be cleared by the medical staff first.
"He's going to find out (more) Monday… But he's doing great…I told him today to just tell me if he feels comfortable playing as we go along here."
A lot of that spirited attitude Riley talked about could be seen with the play of the OSU offensive line Saturday, as first teamers like senior guard Josh Andrews and sophomore center Isaac Seumalo were all over the place setting blocks. It's not very often you see an O-lineman hauling butt the way Andrews did on a few plays, sometimes making his way close to 10 yards downfield to set a block. It was quite a bit of fun to watch.
It was a relatively sharp Beaver offense on Saturday. Junior QB Sean Mannion was making crisp, accurate throws, and he looked good on the deeper tosses. Brandin Cooks had an outstanding day, something that has of course been the norm this season.
Sophomore TE Caleb Smith dropped a pass when he was wide open without a defender in sight, but otherwise he performed well. Freshman wideout Victor Bolden was largely on point throughout Saturday's practice, but also had a few drops, some of which were balls that the youngster usually reels in with ease.
I saw a lot of positive things from redshirt freshman wideout Malik Gilmore Saturday. Gilmore ran some great routes and turned on the jets for a few plays and closed well on one or two of Mannion's less accurate tosses. Gilmore demonstrated some strong hands and good awareness of the field Saturday, a testament to his ability to thrive when given the opportunity for increased repetitions in practice.
Outside the starting ranks, Saturday marked one of the first days in recent memory I recall seeing redshirt freshman O-lineman Garret Weinreich, who injured his knee last year, actually participate for an entire practice session. Weinreich was slated at right tackle with the scout team, where he put up a good fight against a consistent D-end rotation of juniors Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton, as well as sophomore Lavonte Barnett.
It was a banner day for the OSU stop corps when it came to defending the run. Freshman running backs Damien Haskins and senior Jovan Stevenson rarely got more than a few yards while working against the starting defensive rotation. The black clad defenders really worked as a cohesive unit Saturday in my book, and were pretty energetic in finding the ball carrier and stopping them short of the invisible first down marker.
Wynn and Crichton were huge contributors to the starting defense's ability to stave off the scout team run game Saturday. Both juniors showed intense energy and Wynn in particular was very vocal when calling out adjustments and plays to his fellow teammates.
The success of Wynn and Crichton helped junior SAM linebacker Jabral Johnson make a couple of excellent stops on the afternoon. Johnson was often one of the first defenders into the backfield, and played a big role in hemming Haskins and Stevenson up in the backfield. Redshirt freshman Caleb Saulo – who looked to be the top choice for starting reps in practice and the bowl game in replacement of Alexander – also put together a well-rounded defensive outing, using his speed to alter the direction of multiple running attempts that went off tackle.
Senior defensive tackle Mana Rosa also looked sharp today, and succeeded in getting a swift pass rush going, despite the fact that he is still wearing and a brace on his left arm to account for an elbow injury incurred during the regular season.
Oregon State D-line coach Joe Seumalo took a good chunk of time out of practice to work one-on-one with his starting D-line when the scout team offense and starting secondary ran skeleton drills. He lined up his starting rotation of defensive linemen – guys like Wynn, Crichton, Rosa, and junior tackles Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva - against the scout team O-line and had them run minimal contact drills that emphasized identifying which Boise State formation they were seeing, and reacting properly.
Outside of the front four, some of the usual suspects had strong days. Junior corner Steven Nelson notched an interception off scout team QB Kyle Kempt about halfway through practice, and senior nickel corner Sean Martin put forth good effort on a few tipped passes. The ball didn't find its way to Ryan Murphy much on Saturday but when it did, he either sent the ball rolling to the turf or made sure that the offensive player didn't get very far.
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
DT – Mana Rosa
DE –Scott Crichton
WIL – Caleb Saulo
MIK – Rommel Mageo
SAM –Jabral Johnson
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson
CB-Sean Martin (Nickel)
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy