DAY 9 MORNING SESSION: In the trenches

CORVALLIS -- When team drills continued, Grant Johnson was running at left guard with the first team. Ryan Pohl was suited up and practicing, and Mike Cavanaugh must like Johnson's play on the inside a lot to move him from tackle to guard. Not to mention he's still the backup left tackle AND center. Meanwhile, Alex Linnenkohl shined bright -- and so did d-tackle Castro Masaniai.

Team Sessions/Skelly (cont.):
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker has, during his time in Corvallis, had his guys ready to play. On Wednesday, the defensive front seven looked stout and was flying around to the football.

Communication is a definite emphasis for Banker's Boys, the adept vocalizing of every movement, motion and set is impressive from a group with eight new pieces in place.

Another Sean Canfield highlight from Wednesday -- Kevin Frahm came unblocked off the edge (it was planned) and as Canfield play action rolled out, he found the scruffy d-end in his face.

Canfield stopped on a dime, jumped, and simultaneously delivered the ball to Jacquizz Rodgers. It was downright Tebow-esque. Sorry Beaver fans for an SEC reference, but good poise by Canfield. Offensive coordinator and QB's coach Danny Langsdorf agreed; "Atta way to play Sean!"

All-in-all, the improvement on the offensive front over the just the past few days is impressive. Coach Cav looks to be working his magic and has these guys believing they can be one of the best units in the conference.

Still, the defense got pressure up the middle and off the edges at times, just nowhere near the success rate of practices earlier last week.

1-on-1 Line Work:
Cavanaugh took his o-line and put 'em up against Coach Seumalo's front four. Players took turns against the defender, protecting a trainer who was assuming the role of quarterback.

The most impressive of the starters was clearly center Alex Linnenkohl -- as stated in interviews, he truly does have a mean streak on the field.

Linnenkohl's hands are active and always punching, and his leg drive is amazing. The junior out of Olympia, Washington is the anchor of the offensive line and is playing a high level of football in the trenches this camp.

There was a lot -- a lot -- of work from Michael Philipp in this drill. Going against Matt LaGrone, then Kevin Frahm and for good measure Taylor Henry.

Philipp is tremendous at engaging the defender and holding his ground. As expected, it's not too easy to move a such a powerful force. The spot where you could call his weakness, so far, has been on defending against speed moves. This is something he'll have to work on in the coming weeks, Pac-10 ends are fast and will expose the true freshman if his fundamentals aren't up to speed.

In the trenches, Castro Masaniai really impressed today. Many thought Sioeli Nau would be the penciled in starter alongside Stephen Paea at d-tackle, but Masaniai looked to be running with the first team today. Now, that could be just to get him some first team work -- Latu Moala has been getting a lot of first team reps and has seemingly performed well. Or, it could be Masaniai might be getting ready to make a run at playing time. It will bear watching..

While only a redshirt freshman, Masaniai has a great combination of quickness and strength.

Perhaps most importantly, the defensive line continues to build quality depth and looks more and more impressive as the days leading up to the opener on Sep. 5 are shed away.


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