Spring Ball: What we’ve learned about OSU

OREGON STATE COMPLETED the first part of their spring drills on Saturday, and they’ll now take two weeks off to allow for finals and the school’s spring break before finishing up with three weeks more of spring drills. Through six practices and two weeks, what have we learned about first-year OSU coach Gary Andersen and the Beavs?

The defense is young (and it's showing most against the run).

It's a small sample size to be sure, six practices and one scrimmage. But the Beavers let RB Storm Woods and QB Seth Collins run for a combined 162 yards on 19 carries - and average of 8.5 yards. Woods had 92 yards on 11 touches, 75 yards on eight carries.

Sure, OSU stiffened up inside the 20-yard line and they didn't allow any TD passes in the scrimmage.

But the inability to stop the run on Saturday is a concern, to put it mildly, even at this early stage and even with a lot of different personnel shuffling in and out.

Spring is the time for experimentation and Gary Andersen might be doing that down the road, looking to decide between a 4-3 or 3-4 base. So far it's been all about the four-man front. That could change after the Beavs resume spring drills, or spring could be all about four down linemen -- Andersen hasn't decided yet (or if he has, he's not saying).

Whatever they go with over the final three weeks up front, Oregon State figures to be multiple up front this season, it's just a matter of how much.

The offense, in moving to the spread, has given hope that they can move the ball better than in recent years. At least that's the too-early-to-tell takeaway from the first spring practices.

Oregon State, painfully at times, used just about all of the play clock under former coach Mike Riley in recent years. It was particularly galling when OSU was behind late in the fourth quarter, as they seemed incapable of running a basic two-minute drill.

Andersen, he has shown, will go fast.

But not all the time.

Andersen likes to vary the tempo, just one more way he wants to keep the defense off balance and keeping his offense the one dictating the terms.

The QB battle is down to three: Collins, Luke Del Rio and Nick Mitchell. Chances are nothing will be decided by the end of spring - coaches like to foster competition and naming a starter by spring's end could diminish it at the most visible position on the team.

The timing between the Beaver receivers and quarterbacks is still coming, as is to be expected. But if OSU can run this year like they did on Saturday, that storyline won't get much play. What will, though, is the offensive line.

The Beaver offensive line is either further along than a unit usually is in the spring, the defense is further behind, or a combination of both. But even without Isaac Seumalo, and despite less proven depth up front, the early returns have been positive up front for Oregon State.

And that would be a welcome change for BeavFans if it continues on through the rest of the spring and on into fall camp. Recent years have felt like the o-line was being put together with a lot of bailing wire. Could that change in Andersen's first year?

On special teams, the question at punter is likely to be left unresolved until Nick Porebski arrives in the summer. Walk on Mitch Seeley is the only punter on the spring roster. Special teams work in spring ball used to come at the beginning of practice but Andersen is mixing it in during a practice session.

Kicker Garrett Owens is about as entrenched as someone can be this spring after going 11-of-13 last season. Walk ons Ian Crist, Ryan Cope and Zach Standish are also on the roster. Del Rio, along with Richard Mullaney, have been the primary holders.

Victor Bolden and Rahmel Dockery are the odds-on favorites for return men, with Chris Brown also an option. At long snapper, walk on Connor Kelsey looks to fill that role, with Sumner Houston, another walk on, looking to challenge.

Oregon State is firmly in teaching mode on their coverage and return teams, doing some drill work and working on fundamentals. The scheme part of it will probably come later, in fall camp, but for right now OSU is trying to get the Beavs' eyes in the right places.

Oregon State's spring game is April 18.

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