DAY 7: Defense surges, O delves into playbook

CORVALLIS -- The defense on Thursday registered their highest number of interceptions to date in camp, as the offense worked through installing several new plays. Al Afalava had a pair of picks, along with some solid stops while Brandon Hughes and Victor Butler turned in some highlight reel material. On the offensive line, meanwhile, Andy Levitre had yet another strong outing in the trenches.

After a relatively cool two-a-day session on Wednesday, the Beavers returned to practice under sunny skies and warmer temperatures. After practice, Mike Riley spoke into the mic for over nine minutes. Subscribers can listen to the wide ranging discussion here:

Part I --

Part II --

The punting was about middle of the road Thursday -- not poor but also not as solid as previous sessions. Sean Sehnem delivered the punt of the day. But Johnny Hekker and Ryan Allen were working with the first and second units, respectively.

It appears a pretty tight competition between all three. If taking the entire camp into account, if the season started tomorrow, and one were to weight the average consistency and distance, this reporter might tab Sehnem as the favorite, though by the slightest of margins.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the coaches, the only opinion that counts, slot the punter depth chart.

IN THE KICKING game, Ryan Allen connected on both 37 yard attempts. Matt Barker cleared the uprights with his 40 yard kick.

Barker could earn a role this season on kickoffs, he has a strong leg. Still, Justin Kahut remains the starter and has done nothing but inspire confidence in that role.

THE RUNNING BACKS worked on ball security early in the session. The tight ends practiced their blocking technique and were joined by a few offensive linemen. Wilder McAndrews has been performing well in camp and did so again when with the tight ends.

After the o-linemen went back to their group, Graduate Assistant Tim Euhus, who works closely with the tight ends, was overheard praising McAndrews' competitiveness.

O-line, TE & RB vs. D-line & Linebackers
The offense won a tightly contested battle, opening up some decent holes for the running backs. The offense did fumble the handoff twice, however, with Jeremy Francis and Ryan McCants each losing their purchase on the pigskin. Latu Moala made a pair of nice plays including one where he got good penetration against the o-line and would have likely tackled the running back for a loss had it been full speed.

O-line vs. D-line drill
Victor Butler got the better of Mike Remmers on a couple of occasions. But the o-line did have the last laugh, stopping the rest of the d-line attackers the majority of the time. Other d-linemen who found success on Thursday were Stephen Paea, Slade Norris and Moala. Keep an eye out for Moala -- he has some moves. Norris for the most part didn't gain a whole lot of real estate past the line of scrimmage because he was going up against Andy Levitre, who looked really strong on Thursday, but turned in a solid outing nonetheless. Some of Levitre's line-mates who managed to fend off the pressure were Gregg Peat, Brennan Olander, Burke Ellis, Wilder McAndrews & Una Smiley.

The stop corps got the better of the offense courtesy of some tenacious coverage. Isaiah Cook picked off a pass that was deflected off Kyle Brown's hands -- although Brown was trying to gather in a pass thrown slightly behind him. Justin Engstrom completed a long one to Gabe Miller, but David Pa'aluhi stole the thunder, punching it free from behind after Miller had taken just a couple of strides. It looked like a land rush as the defense pounced on the ball and recovered the fumble -- a heads up play by Pa'aluhi. Damola Adeniji had a nice catch for good yardage. The final play of the skelly drill saw Lyle Moevao picked off by Al Afalava, courtesy of a heady deflection by Brandon Hughes.

11 vs. 11
Moevao completed a couple of passes to Sammie Stroughter, and Keenan Lewis made a diving break up of an Justin Engstrom pass. Engstrom then managed to complete a couple of passes, one each to Adeniji and Aaron Nichols. It was good to see Nichols making some plays -- He looks to have potential and athleticism but there is, understandably, also a wealth of receiving playmakers on this team higher on the depth chart.

Red zone skelly
Both the first team and second team offenses had difficulty finding completions here, mostly because of all the new plays being introduced. To their credit, the defense seized the opportunity and had an excellent round of staying with the receivers. Shane Morales and Casey Kjos caught a TD pass each -- from Moevao and Engstrom, respectively. Kjos caught his with one hand, going up high in air and deftly coming down inside the margins. Spectacular catch. Afalava and Cameron Collins had a pair of great pass break-ups in the end zone.

11 vs. 11
The scrimmage started with a really pretty play turned in by Stroughter. More on that in a moment. There were a handful of running plays mixed in and on one, Jacquizz Rodgers got knocked down hard by Cameron Collins. The Beavs were in full pads but it was not a full contact day. That's something that might last throughout the camp -- other than possibly the formal scrimmage days, the Beavs might try to limit the full contact, and therefore injuries, before the Beavs open at Stanford on Aug. 28. And the other thing involved is the hit-ee is not expecting a tackle so he doesn't bodily prepare for it. Mike Riley immediately pulled Collins to his side after the hit on Rodgers and had a few words with him about the play. The coach didn't look happy at all with the play. The offense worked on another new play but with mixed success. Greg Laybourn then picked off Lyle Moevao, after he and Stroughter met in mid air with Laybourn taking it away from Stroughter -- a rare sight indeed this camp. Great concentration and pair of hands by Laybourn.

Red zone
Afalava made a spectacular pick in the end zone. Darrell Catchings had a great catch, but Cameron Collins pushed him out of bounds before he could come down in the end zone. Brady Camp and Jacquizz Rodgers both registered touchdowns.

Play of the day
Sammie Stroughter, mentioned earlier, gets the nod here. As is customary in fall camps around the country, the Beavs will be looking to keep things under wraps -- and especially with a Pac-10 road opener followed by a trip to Penn State the first two weeks of the season, so that's all we'll say about it.

Afalava had a strong outing today, the safety made some great defensive stops along with a couple of interceptions. The defense registered their most picks in a practice session to date.

The o-line looks to be slowly building up depth behind the starters. Andy Levitre is definitely this reporter's pick for the offensive line standout so far with seven days of camp under the belt.

The defense played a significant notch above their Wednesday night form, the first two-practice day of the fall camp. And the D has shown a penchant for making the pick off deflections thus far.

QB Sean Canfield didn't participate in any of the main drills and Riley sounded both confident and concerned about the situation after practice. Justin Engstrom has been running the second team offense ahead of Ryan Katz, who the coaches very much want to try and redshirt this year. Since Canfield experienced some soreness, Engstrom's reps have increased markedly while Katz' reps have been very limited the last few days as the coaches try to get Engstrom ready, comfortable and productive in the offense.

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