OSU Fall Camp Day 1: Beaver Football is back!

CORVALLIS -- On the first day of Oregon State’s fall camp, a few things became quite clear. Victor Bolden is fast. Former receiver and current defensive lineman Obum Gwacham is massive. Sean Mannion is accurate. The world turns.

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Also obvious during the first day of fall camp was that this Beaver team has work to do. But given that it’s day one, a day with helmets only and no hitting, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

“It was good,” said Mike Riley of practice. “It’s so funny, it was pretty short. We didn’t stay too long with the older guys, and then we kept the young guys out. We got a lot of work done, and I thought it was pretty good.”

This first day of camp featured a heavy dose of positional drills.

The quarterbacks did a few ball security drills, went over mechanics, and threw the ball a lot. Receivers worked on their hands with a few tennis ball drills, over-the-shoulder drills, and then worked through their routes.

Linebackers worked on tackling drills and communicating plays.

Defensive backs worked on running with receivers, defending routes, foot quickness and hip fluidity drills.

The offensive line worked on techniques and schemes, while the defensive line spent nearly the entire practice indoors at the Truax Center.

The offense and defense came together near the end of practice to run through plays.

“We’ve got a long way to go to look like football.” Riley said. “I think there’s talent, but we’re not a well-oiled machine right at this minute.”

In life without former OSU receiver and Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks, arguably the biggest question that needs to be answered is how the Beavers will replace the 128 catches, 1,730 receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns Cooks had last year. Returning at the position for the Beavers include Richard Mullaney and several unknowns.

Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore should figure prominently into the Beavers passing attack this year, with opportunities remaining for a group of freshmen that includes Xavier Hawkins, Datrin Guyton, Jordan Villamin, Gabe Ovgard and Drew Kell.

Of that group, Bolden easily had the best practice today.

The 5-foot-9 sophomore displayed his speed, quickness, and his hands. Indeed, Bolden had a number of impressive catches Monday, including a 30-yarder while being covered by junior corner Larry Scott. Bolden adjusted to an errant pass, ran under the ball, got around Scott and made a juggling catch all in a split second.

It was just one pass from one practice, but it didn’t look far from one of Brandin Cooks’ jump ball catches from last year.

Senior running back Storm Woods’ friendship with Brandin Cooks is well documented, as the two were roommates last season. He had this to say about his friend’s absence from the team:

“There’s no replacement for Brandin Cooks. I mean, not saying Vic can’t have a great year like that, but there’s no replacement. But Vic has speed just like Brandin, route savvy just like Brandin, he’s very explosive like Brandin. So maybe he’s on kickoff return and punt return,” said Woods.

Last season, Bolden was the primary kick returner who had 60 returns for 1198 yards (a 20 yard average) with one touchdown. Cooks was the punt returner, though, and the Beavers have to fill that vacancy as well.

Bolden figures to be in the mix there, although he may have to beat out corner Steven Nelson for the spot. When the special teams unit was running through punting formations, it was Nelson playing the return man.

Also from the receiving group, 5-foot-7 freshman Xavier Hawkins had a couple dropped balls. One drill in today’s camp was a long ball drill. With Sean Mannion throwing, Hawkins dropped consecutive passes that could have been caught with relative ease. Hawkins’ drops weren’t a problem all day, but time will tell if he cleans up his hands on the long ball.

Outside of the players, this was also the first day of fall camp for new offensive coordinator John Garrett. Mannion had developed a strong relationship with Danny Langsdorf, the former OSU offensive coordinator who now coaches for the Giants, but Mannion is happy with John Garrett’s new perspective.

“There aren’t a lot of differences,” Mannion said. “Coach Garrett came in and certainly made his critiques and we made some changes, but it’s coach Riley’s system. What was great about it was coach Garrett kind of came in and looked at what we did last season critically and said, ‘What were we best at? What were we worst at? What can we tweak to make it better?’ To have that fresh perspective on our whole offense… has been great.”

As for the offensive line, with Josh Mitchell is healthy and was practicing after missing spring camp with a shoulder injury. The first team O-line looked like this:

Dustin Stanton at LT
Sean Harlow at LG
Josh Mitchell at C
Grant Bays at RG
Gavin Andrews at RT

Keep in mind Riley has said that the left tackle competition is open, and might also be played by Will Hopkins or Bobby Keenan.

Also of note, Isaac Seumalo was still in a boot after breaking his foot last year. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is not concerned that his missed time in camp will be detrimental to his play, whenever it is that he returns.

“You never have to worry about Isaac,” Cavanaugh said, “He’s going to do everything the right way. When he’s ready to play he’ll let us know.”

Also, the offensive line rotation is never set in stone, says Cavanaugh, who values versatility from his linemen and they move around in case of injuries or whatever the case may be.

“The way we train o-line guys here is they learn both right side, left side,” Cavanaugh said. “I believe in that versatile training. If you’re a guard, you’ve got to train to play center if you can, and then center should be able to play guard. Then there’s those guys like Harlow or like (former OL Andy) Levitre who could be at tackle or at guard.”

On the other side of the field, Scott was with the first team at corner across from Steven Nelson, thus filling the spot left empty by Rashaad Reynolds.

Interestingly, Scott is the only junior of all the first team linebackers and defensive backs. Linebackers Michael Doctor, Jabral Johnson and D.J. Alexander, safeties Tyrequek Zimmerman and Ryan Murphy and Nelson at corner are all seniors. That experience should come in handy with the variety of offenses in the Pac-12.

“Defensively, it’s a mixed bag that we have to play against. The versatility has to be developed in camp so that you can play.” Riley said. “The diversity of style in college football is at an all-time high. Defensive coordinators have big, big jobs. So that’s what camp is about, it’s the overall preparation for the team, for all that.”

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