Riley says MIK battle still too close to call

CORVALLIS -- The offense and defense butted heads throughout the afternoon, with neither definitively coming out on top throughout the drills. A senior receiver got dinged up, and the position battles continue to take shape.

Thursday afternoon's practice was significantly shorter than those in the previous weeks, but that meant less time to jam-pack everything normally practiced into that shorter window of time.

Senior wideout James Rodgers was pulled mid-way through the last team session of the afternoon with a bruised shoulder. The medical staff checked him out right away and announced the injury, the same injury that hampered sophomore wide receiver Markus Wheaton for a good two weeks. But Beavers head man Mike Riley said after practice it was not known whether or not Rodgers will miss any playing time.

The defensive line won most of their battles, much to the chagrin of O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh. Sophomore defensive end Taylor Henry played well, besting left tackle Wilder McAndrews on a few plays throughout the team session.

On a particular play late in the team session Henry made a great move to the inside of McAndrews, one in which he could not pick up, allowing Henry easy access to Ryan Katz to shut the play down.

Quarterbacks are not allowed to be touched, but Katz might have needed a spatula to pick himself off the grass had Henry been allowed to go full-speed into him.

A few plays later the combination of Dwight Roberson and Kevin Frahm demolished the offensive line, allowing the senior linebacker easy access into the backfield for a "sack" on Katz.

A key position battle that has grabbed the attention of camp watchers has been the middle linebacker spot, where sophomores Rueben Robinson and Tony Wilson continue to battle it out.

Both shared time throughout the afternoon with the first string defense, and Riley was adamant after practice that neither player has won the starter's job for TCU.

"We are still sitting on those guys. It's a difficult thing to pick and say right now who it's going to be -- whatever way it is these guys have developed. I would imagine that both will find ways to be on the field with special teams, middle linebacker, different parts of the team because they are both good football players," said Riley.

Although neither the first or second string offenses and defenses were clear winners today, per se, it was the second string offense that made the biggest impression on the afternoon.

Freshman quarterback Cody Vaz continued throwing to his favorite target, junior wideout Darrell Catchings, beating the secondary deep a couple of times, and had a couple more near hookups deep downfield.

Catchings has been plagued by injuries over his career but has come on strong the last few practices, and is making a great case for playing time.

One of his best grabs came when he used his body to get in front of freshman cornerback Keynan Parker. The Vaz/Catchings connection later beat freshman safety Dax Dilbeck en route to a big gainer. Vaz' pass was dead on.

Vaz and Catchings were joined by running back Jordan Jenkins, H-Back Joe Halahuni and wide receivers Jordan Bishop and Markus Wheaton throughout the session.

Speaking of Halahuni, the big junior showed some speed as he burned through the secondary after making an athletic grab of a Vaz pass. Halahuni got behind safeties Dilbeck and Anthony Watkins on the play.

After that, assistant Keith Hayward pulled aside Dilbeck for an extra coaching session.

After practice when all of the upper classmen had stretched and headed into Valley the freshman and the youngsters had their own team session, with freshman quarterbacks Jack Lomax and Sean Mannion leading the offenses.

It was a very light scrimmage, but more time than they're able to get on a day to day basis.

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