In search of... at OSU's spring game

DON'T KNOW ABOUT you but when I get to Reser for Oregon State's spring game, there's one thing I'm going to be focused in on most. No, it's not quarterback, where Ryan Katz has produced a lot of buzz. It's not the defensive ends either, where the fast rising Taylor Henry has stepped up this spring. Nope, the position I'm going to tunnel vision in on Saturday, on every single play, is...

... the Oregon State offensive line.

I wouldn't say I'm worried about the 2010 o-line. But I'm a little concerned.

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And to think coming into this spring, I was pacing the floor thinking about the d-line. Well, they've done a bang-up job and allayed a lot of concerns. Guys like Stephen Paea, Gabe Miller, Kevin Frahm, Taylor Henry and many others have come to the line of scrimmage with healthy appetites and prepared to chow down.

Indeed, this spring, in reading the BF.C practice reports and everything else being written out there, it's become apparent the defensive line has won the a lopsided margin of the battles. True, the offense ran it up in the scrimmage the other day, but by and large, this spring in the trenches has belonged to the black shirts.

NOW, I'M A big believer in Mike Cavanaugh. He's taken guys no other Pac-10 team offered and turned them into all-conference picks and NFL players. He's taken walk-ons and turned them into solid, legit Pac-10 offensive linemen.

But I guess my expectations are set too high, and I've come to expect him to work miracles all the time. Because 2009 for me fell short in the expectation level department. And now this spring, the o-line doesn't seem to be opening up that proverbial can of woop-ass nearly enough.

Yes, to have been nonplussed over the o-line's '09 performance, some will ask if I'm crazy. Well, of course I am, but that has nothing to do with it.

YES, I AM aware Gregg Peat took home first team all-conference and Alex Linnenkohl was named honorable mention. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 1,440 yards, more than he did when he was named the Pac-10 MVP his freshman season (1,253). What's not to like?

Well, let's start with the Beavs allowing 29 sacks. It's not a truly horrible number, it placed OSU fifth in the Pac-10 and in a tie at No. 74 nationally out 120 teams. But it was still a few too many.

But the big thing to me was the run blocking. What made 2008 so damned fun to watch was that Quizz got through the line unfettered, through that first wave, and then he either busted off some moves or lowered his shoulder and drove through someone.

That didn't happen as much in 2009. There were far, far fewer of those 7-, 8- and 10-yard gainers to thrill Beaver Nation.

Quizz was hit earlier in the dance, and the holes were fewer and more narrow. And keep in mind, Quizz ripped off 1,253 yards in 2009 but played only 10 games plus one quarter. In 2009, yes he gained 1,440 yards, but he amassed that over 13 full games.

MAYBE THIS IS just a fan's proverbial worry and kvetch -- it's only spring for crying out loud, there's a whole lot more work that will be done between now and Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 4.

Grant Johnson, the expected starter at left guard, sat out this entire spring rehabbing a shoulder. Michael Philipp, in my opinion a potential All-America candidate by the time his senior season rolls around, missed the majority of spring drills with a tweaked knee. Spring is also the time for trying different combinations, experimentation and getting the youth some work.

And no one, but no one, looks good in regularly going against Paea.

So maybe fall camp will look decidedly different, and on into the season as well. Maybe the running lanes will be wide and bounteous, maybe Quizz will once again bust off more of those circa-2008 runs. Maybe the pass protection will lbear a striking resemblance to steel reinforced concrete.

I'll be watching on Saturday, hoping for some early fall evidence of just those things.

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