SPRING BALL DAY 4: DL wins trench battle

CORVALLIS -- The injury bug took a little bite out of the OSU secondary on Monday, with safety Lance Mitchell sitting out practice with a sore hamstring. There were some ups and downs by the OSU offense on Monday, and some by the defense, but all in all the rust seems to be slowly shaking off - on both sides of the ball -- as Oregon State kicked off their second week of spring drills.

Then again, it could be the Beavs just need to get outdoors. Yet another dismal Corvallis afternoon sent the Beavers inside Truax Indoor Facility for the fourth straight practice – the Beavers have yet to practice outside this spring.

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The first 15 minutes of practice was solely dedicated to special teams on Monday -- kickoff and punt coverage, and field goal attempts were all on the menu. Although being indoors makes it a bit of a different special teams experience.

Senior kicker Justin Kahut was spot-on with all of his attempts, including field goal attempts of 35 and 40 yards that connected right inside of the faux-goal posts.

Kahut's leg strength is seemingly more powerful than last year -- three kickoff attempts hit the steel rafters on the ceiling, a fairly difficult feat with how tall the ceilings are in the facility.

SOPHOMORE WIDE RECEIVERS Markus Wheaton and Geno Munoz worked as the primary kick returners this afternoon, as senior James Rodgers got a rest from return duties. But he worked with the rest of the receivers in a drill on the sidelines.

With his speed, Wheaton could develop this year into quite a weapon on, perhaps, both kickoff and punt returns. Wheaton's turned on the jets a handful of times this spring, burning the secondary deep during skelly and team sessions. Imagining that speed on kick returns with a slight seam opening up. . BOOM.

SPLIT END Darrell Catchings returned to his first practice since last Monday after battling a case of pinkeye and showed no rust in his route running or catching ability.

The junior wide receiver was targeted numerous times in both the team and skelly sessions, and seemed to reel in every pass thrown his way. Catchings has soft hands and has shown solid concentration whe he's been out there this spring.

JUNIOR GUARD Burke Ellis was sitting out of practice Monday, and the first-string offensive line was shaken up a bit this afternoon with the d-line winning most of the battles.

Junior Michael Lamb joined sophomore Colin Kelly at left and right guard, respectively, and seniors Wilder McAndrews and Timi Oshinowo split time at the left tackle position, replacing injured tackle Michael Philipp who was seen limping up and down the sideline.

The first team offensive line was rounded out by senior Alex Linnenkohl at center and Mike Remmers at right tackle. Philipp will almost certainly be held out for the rest of spring, even if he's healthy enough to return in the final week off of his strained MCL.

SOMETHING THIS WRITER noticed Monday afternoon -- a big difference between the passes of senior Peter Lalich and sophomore Ryan Katz. Now, it's been this way throughout spring but Monday there was an even wider disparity.

While Lalich delivers a softer, more finesse pass into the receiver's hands, more often than not a Katz pass arrives with a violent slap into the receiver's hands.

While Katz may have all the tools to succeed in this Oregon State offense, a certain amount of touch needs to be added to his passes – short, midrange and long -- to make it easier on his receiving corps and increase the chances of a reception.

Numerous Katz passes have slipped through receivers' hands in the early going and while some of it is on the grabmasters, some if it is also due to the amount of zip he puts on the ball. It is only four practices into the spring, and the Beavs have been in the flat indoor light of Truax throughout, so things may change once OSU gets outdoors.

SOPHOMORE SAM linebacker Devin Unga stepped out of practice with an apparent knee injury early on in practice and returned to the field in street clothes. While head man Mike Riley noted it probably wasn't anything serious post-practice, the door was opened for senior Keo Camat to get some playing time with the first string defense.

Camat, third string on the current depth chart, did a good job of roaming around the field and stick with, and putting pressure on, the receivers in pass coverage.

Sophomore Reuben Robinson also saw time with the first string defense -- he split time with Camat and displayed good speed for a linebacker.

ALSO ROTATING IN with the first string defense were sophomores linebacker Zane Norris, CB Keynan Parker, safety Josh LaGrone and CB Brian Watkins.

After practice, Riley complimented Parker, saying that his speed could take him a long way over his Beaver career and turn him into quite the athlete in the secondary.

A FEW offensive linemen drew coach Mike Cavanaugh's ire on Monday -- freshman center Joshua Andrews and senior tackle McAndrews missed assignments in the team session and Coach Cav let them, and anyone outdoors and within a 20-mile radius, know about it. Note: Cavanaugh is a delight to watch coach.

On numerous plays on Monday, breakdowns on the o-line were evident -- Katz would have been eaten alive had it been a game situation.

That also meant the defensive line had a good day – Stephen Paea, Brennan Olander, Gabe Miller and Kevin Frahm, among others, had few problems breaking through the offensive front but, with quarterbacks of course being off-limits, pulled up in the backfield and waited for Katz to make an actual play.

ONE AREA WHERE Katz has had an advantage over Lalich in the early going this sping --n his elusiveness of the pass rush.

On one particular play, during a team session late in practice, Katz was under tremendous pressure from an oncoming defensive line. But he scrambled away and took it out of bounds for what actually turned out to be a short gain.

Good instincts, even better athleticism. While it may have been just a four or five yard gain, that's a sack for most other quarterbacks.

IN THE SECOND team session of the afternoon, junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers made the back seven look silly.

Coming out of the backfield, Quizz literally sprinted past junior linebacker Dwight Roberson and Katz delivered a beautiful touch pass right into the hands of his running back -- in stride and down the sideline went Quizz.

A couple of plays later, sophomore safety-turned-cornerback Jordan Poyer made a great play on the ball, nearly intercepting a Lalich pass intended for junior h-back Joe Halahuni.

"What went wrong?" defensive backs coach Keith Heyward asked Poyer after the play. "I tried to score before I had the ball," replied Poyer.

THE BEAVERS return to the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, and everyone is it will be the first outdoor practice of the spring season.

If Mother Nature remains stubborn, the April 14 and 16 practices will be outdoors no matter what falls from the sky, Oregon State SID Steve Fenk said today, with the Truax Center already booked with another event both days.

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