CORVALLIS – We have notes galore on the O-line, and a wide receiver and linebacker return to practice on Wednesday. Mike Riley talked about two returning members to his backfield, and the secondary continued to roll against the scout team offense. Riley even offered some insight on why his team is having so much fun at the moment, both on and off the field. But first…
said that he and OSU coaches will be hitting the recruiting trail over the course of the next few days, utilizing OSU's bye week as a means of evaluating potential prospects for the 2014 class.
Riley took the media on a trip down memory lane and discussed some of the more interesting recruitments and evaluations he has been a part of in the past – specifically those involving quiet individuals such as Isaac Seumalo
and Tyrequek Zimmerman
and how hard it was to read them. Riley radiated enthusiasm when he discussed the process.
He was also enthusiastic about the return of sophomore tailback Storm Woods
this week to the ranks of active first team tailbacks, though Woods practiced sparingly with the 1s on Wednesday.
"He is fine," Riley said. "You know when a guy has a concussion and he starts feeling better and (the training staff) says he is okay – his body is fine, so he looks good."
Woods is one of many players for Oregon State who are using the bye week in order to get back into playing shape.
Riley also made mention of how much fun some of his players are having with one another outside of practice, games and classes. But what is the real secret behind the fun that Oregon State players are having right now?
"One of the things that I think helps everybody – obviously in sports – is winning." Riley said with a smile.
After taking Tuesday off from the normal practice regimen, junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks returned to action as the first team flanker. Cooks had a string of clean receptions in the early swing of practice and was very energetic whether running routes or not. Cooks is constantly giving advice to freshman receiver Victor Bolden – a youngster who is starting to come into his own despite not having the benefit of a redshirt year to assimilate OSU's schemes. Both Cooks and Bolden were on point Wednesday, with junior QB Sean Mannion throwing ropes for most of practice.
Junior fullback and starter Tyler Anderson was back and practicing at a normal speed with the first team offense Wednesday. Anderson set blocks and ran through his other responsibilities with authority, and it was not hard to tell that he was happy to be back and practicing at full speed with his teammates. "Ty is just a very good football player" said Riley. "And he is all over the place on special teams – it's good to have him back."
Sophomore O-lineman Gavin Andrews for the second day in a row received a few repetitions with the starting offensive line Wednesday, and seemed to do relatively well. Andrews is seeing most of his practice reps as a secondary option at the RT slot currently, where freshman Sean Harlow has been seeing the bulk of the starting reps on the edge during the rehabilitations of Andrews and senior lineman Grant Enger.
A question exists now as to whether or not Andrews or Harlow will start against WSU. Andrews was at one point the primary option at tackle, but his illness (mono) and subsequent recovery led to Harlow seeing more action – both in practice and later when more injuries struck, in games. How it will all shuffle out probably won't be determined until sometime next week.
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh made a point of verbally digging into his offensive line corps during the first half of Wednesday's practice session. He could be heard halfway across the Merritt Truax Indoor Practice Field after one play went – apparently - horribly wrong by his standards. I've long held that the best measure of the Beaver offensive line's success to failure ratio in practice is how much Cavanaugh yells at his troops. Even the ever-dependable Seumalo got a hearty bark directed at him but after that point, the OL seemed to gather itself and execute at a level Cavanaugh preferred.
The starting OL on Wednesday was senior left tackle Michael Philipp, senior left guard Josh Andrews, Seumalo at center, sophomore Grant Bays at right guard and Harlow/Andrews at right tackle. Enger and Andrews are making slow but sure recoveries in an attempt to garner more reps. G/C Josh Mitchell is still recovering too, but seemingly at a pace slightly quicker than that of Enger/Andrews. Will OSU have a reinforced cast of characters ready in time for the road trip to Pullman? Or will Bays and Harlow again see the lion's share of playing time for the Beavs third road game? We'll have to wait and see.
Senior quarterback Cody Vaz sat out Wednesday due to a foot injury apparently the result of the signal caller dropping a weight on his foot the other day. He is expected to be ready against WSU as the No. 2 behind Mannion, should the need arise.
Sophomore tight end Caleb Smith looked sharper in practice today than I have seen him all week. He played with speed, soft hands and ran some very crisp routes that even drew the praise of Riley. Kellen Clute and Tyler Perry did well too, but their impact on practice was minimal compared to Smith.
He may have been out there but I didn't see Conner Hamlett today. However, I am not 100 percent positive that he did not see a few quick reps -- I spent a good portion of my time focusing in on some aspects of the Beaver D and it's possible he was out there during that time and I missed him.
It was a great day for the starting cornerbacks and safeties. Junior corner Steven Nelson was all over the ball and his assignments, as was junior safety Tyrequek Zimmerman. Senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds was (as always) a quiet force in practice that did his job nearly to a T and anchored the secondary. Second string corner Malcolm Marable continued to make small waves throughout the day, and senior cornerback Sean Martin had a multitude of stout reads against the scout offense, managing to stop a few short passes for negative yardage.
Linebackers coach Trent Bray was swift to get on the case of starting linebacker Jabral Johnson on Wednesday afternoon. Johnson missed an assignment against the scout team offense and the error seemed to be due to a lack of awareness and confusion as to what the coverage the Beavers were in. After that, Johnson really zeroed in on his coverages and reads, and the junior had a much better second half of practice.
OSU mostly worked on one of their nickel for a good portion Wednesday's session. Junior ‘backers D.J. Alexander and Johnson were with the 1s, whereas Rommel Mageo and Cyril Noland frequented the 2's. For the most part, Noland had a good day but there is still significant room for improvement, most notably in Noland's ability to make proper reads. Remember that in addition to linebacker taking time because of all the read and react skills required, (it's not like playing corner), Noland is also converted safety. While his size is roughly adequate for linebacker, the fundamental components of the job are still fresh to him, and it shows in practice at times.
The defensive line was responsible for some excellent penetration against the scout team offense. Scott Crichton and Mana Rosa were particularly impressive – Crichton tipped a pass attempt form Kyle Kempt at the line, and Rosa got great leverage on opposing O-linemen and often maneuvered into the backfield with ease. However, Rosa took a tumble toward the tail end of practice and stayed down on the field briefly, favoring his knee. Rosa was attended to by members of the training staff promptly and walked off under his own steam.
Rosa's immediate replacement was Edwin Delva, as Siale Hautau is still rehabbing with a hefty brace on his right arm. Riley did mention that Hautau should be cleared to play in Pullman next weekend, despite the fact that he has been inactive for a while now.
Joel Skotte was back to taking reps with the second team defense Wednesday – he was absent from Tuesday' proceedings due to turf toe.
I will often report on how vocal a coach has been with a player or group of players, but rarely do I mention how loud the players can be with each other. Today was one of those days where the starting defense was incessantly loud, calling the formation shifts of the offense and yelling adjustments to one another. Communication is obviously integral to a defense's production, and they were very communicative and vocal with one another on Wednesday. From this chair, their collective performance benefitted from the hooting and hollering, and it even put a hush to some of the usual barking done by Bray and defensive coordinator Mark Banker.
Running with the 1's
QB – Sean Mannion
TB – Terron Ward/Storm Woods (minimal)
FB – Tyler Anderson
H-Back – Tyler Perry/Kellen Clute
TE – Caleb Smith
LT- Michael Philipp
LG- Josh Andrews
C- Isaac Seumalo
RG- Grant Bays
RT- Sean Harlow/ Gavin Andrews
FL –Brandin Cooks /Victor Bolden
SE – Richard Mullaney
SB –Kevin Cummings
DE – Dylan Wynn
DT – John Braun
DT – Mana Rosa
DE –Scott Crichton
WIL –D.J. Alexander
MIK – Joel Skotte
SAM –Jabral Johnson
CB- Rashaad Reynolds
CB- Steven Nelson
CB-Sean Martin (Nickel)
FS – Tyrequek Zimmerman
SS – Ryan Murphy