SPRING BALL - What we've learned: Week 2

THE SECOND WEEK of practice saw the continued strong play of Darrell Catchings and the receiving group while a major battle for playing time is brewing between Brandon Hardin and James Dockery at cornerback. And that's just for starters. Here's ten things we learned from Week Two of spring drills at Oregon State.

There's a battle a brewin'. As expected, competition for the cornerback spot, on the opposite side of the field of Tim Clark, is starting to heat up. Clark is as close to a lock as you can get but at the other corner, Brandon Hardin and James Dockery are currently sharing first and second string duties as the coaches continue to evaluate the talent. Don't expect a decision to be made anytime soon though, this battle will most likely run deep into fall camp.

You can't be too careful. RB Jacquizz Rodgers suited up for the first time during the spring this week as he practiced against air and worked on handoffs with the quarterbacks. The reports from the doctor's office say he is well on his way to a full recovery, but coach Mike Riley is taking it extra slow. Quizz says he is no better than 80% healed, but is expected to don pads next week. There will be, however, no contact for Quizz this spring.

Stepping up. With defenses focusing on the Rodgers brothers Darrell Catchings could be in position to have a huge year -- and if spring practice is any indication, he is ready to grasp the bull by the horns. Last season, his energy and weight were zapped by type 2 diabetes. With his condition diagnosed and being managed, Catchings has turned in a solid camp displaying a gamebreaking ability to catch the pigskin in traffic or stretch the field. He's had a few drops this spring too, but the good had far, far outweighed the bad.

The experimentation continues. Mitchel Hunt is the most recent player to switch to another position. Hunt will be playing both defensive end and defensive tackle this year, says d-line coach Joe Seumalo. The coaches love Hunt's athleticism and size to counter act the numerous big, athletic tight ends in the Pac-10. Gabe Miller (TE to DE) and Will Darkins (LB to FB) moved positions prior to spring drills.

The tradition continues. LB Keaton Kristick was named to the 42 member Lott Trophy watch list. He is the third Beaver in a row to be named to the watch list which made its debut in 2004. Brandon Hughes made the list last season while Jeff Van Orsow was a candidate in 2007. The award is given annually to the top defensive player in college football. Kristick earned second team All-Pac-10 honors last year while racking up 14.5 tackles for loss.

Ryan Katz is improving. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound player is light years ahead of where he was last fall. He has one of the strongest, if not the strongest, arm on the team and he's now starting to put the ball on the money. What has really impressed the coaches and onlookers is his consistency -- the one thing coaches want most from any position.

Riley's happy with his team's progress. Let's not get carried away. Riley says about the same thing every year -- so take some of his quotes with a grain of salt. That said, the 55-year old coach seems extremely pleased with his team's progres to date. The practices have been smooth, productive and some players are already growing into their roles, which is pretty darn good considering all of the new players that the Beavs are breaking in.

There's nothing like a warm Corvallis day. With the first week bringing freezing temperatures, the team was greeted with warm weather to kickoff the second week. Temperatures were in the mid-70's Monday with clear, blue skies above Reser Stadium.

Kick return is still up in the air. There are plenty of players vying for kickoff return duties. Among those getting reps, Jordan Bishop, Geno Munoz, James Rodgers, Keynan Parker and David Ross have all taken a crack. Rodgers is the only one with return experience, and three of the five are redshirt freshmen.

Jovan Stevenson is turning heads. Despite sitting out football for a year after signing his Letter of Intent, grayshirt Jovan Stevenson has impressed the coaching staff with his agility plus his natural ability to find the running lanes. Quizz being on the mend is a blessing in disguise here, as Stevenson is receiving more carries then he normally would have if Quizz were healthy.

It's good to have Bruce Read back. Special teams has been one of the major focuses this spring as the punt, kickoff and field goal units all ranked in the lower half of the conference in '08. Riley says Read is one of the best special teams coaches in the country and he's very pleased with the progress the units are making, "A lot of special teams (work this spring). All the special teams are in. I feel good about that," Riley said.


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