So on a scorching hot (mid 70’s) Wednesday morning, I took my mom to watch the OSU Beavers’ spring practice for my first look at a lot of new faces. Those that are familiar with my blog and my other online posting activities on various Oregon State publications, will no doubt know about my affinity for the line. As an ex-lineman myself, I tend to gravitate towards the big fellas as if they are carrying around cans of soda and sacks of spice drops to appeal to my most dominant sense. My stomach.
Today, I was especially interested to see how this revamped line would perform against a revamped defensive line. The first thing I did was watch some offensive line drills to see how the big guys looked. Outside of a few guys, most of the Beaver players looked so proportionate, that if they were 5’10” you wouldn’t think they were linemen. Fortunately for us, they are all around 6’5″ tall. The line looks lean, athletic and, to be honest, scruffy. But appearances aside, when they were doing one on one punch drills, my eyes, and ears, were immediately drawn to Sean Harlow and Bobby Keenan. The much ballyhooed JC transfer Keenan, looking like a character from a Dr. Pepper 10 commercial, was demonstrating quite a bit of pop in his punch. In fact, watching the two go at it, there was a huge amount of pad pop and heads snapping back. This is a good thing.
Overall, the line looked, big, aggressive and mean. They were also all business, staying after practice to run through some drills for another twenty minutes or so. In between the punch drill and the post practice training, was a lot of really good play. I saw Coach Cav blow a gasket or two, but even the bristly Cavanaugh had to like what he saw from Sean Harlow at guard and from Keenan and Andrews at tackle. While Gavin had a few miscues, overall I was impressed at the pad level for these big guys, the active hands and the way they stuck on their blocks. I will talk about the defensive line later, and there were a few jail breaks, but overall I was happy with the group that got up there to block and with the way they worked together.
On the flip side, I was a little glad it was Spring. I really hope that Dylan Wynn is the best defensive end out there, because he was pretty rough on the linemen he faced, often driving them back two or three yards. I am impressed with this groups ability to block in space, and I think the draw and screen games will be huge, but there still needs to be more authority between the five. If it was Portland State this Saturday, i would be confident they are more than up to the task. If it was USC this week, I would be concerned. But they are making progress and with Seumalo, Mitchell and Hopkins out, i felt that they did pretty well. I think that Keenan will be very good for us, but does need to get a little more size and strength before August.
Overall, I would give the line about a 6 today for their results, but an 8 or 9 in their work ethic and desire to improve. There were lots of guys getting after it, lots of little skirmishes and not a lot of quit out there. I liked the attitude and I think Harlow and Bays are definitely ready for game day. The rest of the guys are close and really just need to tighten things up a bit so they don’t have to think and just get out there and go.
I would definitely keep an eye on Keenan because if he can get just a little bit better in the weight room and add a few good pounds, that left side of the line will be as good as we have had in years.