In a last minute change of plans, I was able to attend today’s practice at Oregon State. What started out as a chilly overcast morning turned in to a nice sunny event, though a bit windy.
Since last week’s reports were pretty sunny, I thought today I would focus on the receivers to see if they had made any strides since last Friday. I feel that this group has the least amount of experience and the biggest loss of any of the other positions. So below are a few items I noticed today, and by a few I mean a lot.
1. Richard Mullaney is most certainly feeling better. The Beavers started off with some blocking practice involving the receivers in kind of a skeleton drill without the defense. The coaches were really trying to hammer home the technique required to block in space. You could hear them yelling “belly to belly” to get the players to work on staying engaged and in front of the defender. Mullaney had this down, bringing his hips perfectly and engaging the ‘defender’ in perfect position.
Later they would do a GREAT drill where the receivers, tight ends and full backs were blocking man on man against the corners, safeties and linebackers. Again, Mullaney looked pretty good in terms of technique on those blocks. The most epic battle of the drill was Richard on Steven Nelson. Both of them were really aggressive and it was pretty violent at the point of attack.
2. More on that fun drill. The defense across the board was very active with their hands and feet and really proved difficult for the offensive players to manage. Not may player running the ball were able to get past the defenders untouched. Sometimes it was a yard or two down the field but often the defenders were able to shed their blockers and get to the runner. One play that stood out to me along with the Nelson and Mullaney battle was one with Victor Bolden.
Victor is not a big guy or super violent, but he was trying to block and was losing, so he sold out and just lunged in one direction. The move worked as the runner was able to just go around him. It wasn’t good form, but Bolden didn’t give up and just did what he could to block his guy. You don’t always get a chance to load up and block with perfect form, but the effort you give can still yield results. This was one of those cases. I am sure he got talked to about his form, but I definitely was happy with his heart on that one.
3. The defense wants to hit. The whole practice, it felt like the defense was getting tired of letting up all spring. There were some huge hits, some scuffles and some very physical play. In one of the team drills, there was really not much room for OSU to run or pass in because it felt like players were coming from nowhere. I saw about four real tackles and a few receivers that got banged up by big hits. You don’t necessarily want your defense beating up your offense in the spring, but at the same time, there is a certain amount of aggressiveness you want to see in your defense. I feel that despite their size, Nelson, Hunt and Patrick are not afraid to mix it up. And I saw huge hits by Noland-Lewis, Songy and Saolu on anyone going across the middle.
4. Tight ends will be the focus. Now having seen 3 practice and getting to see how much time they spend on it, I can say with some confidence that Tight End is going to be a focus this year. Lots of drills set up for getting the ball to the big guys.
5. Mullaney and Jarmon battle for catch of the day. Mullaney came down with a huge pass from Vanderveen deep in the secondary. He was being blanketed well by Hunt, but was able to punch the ball up and then come down with it after Hunt had fallen for what would have probably been about a 60+ yard TD. Pretty amazing play. Jarmon had the short catch of the day on a throw that was behind him that he dove backwards to pull in.
To be honest though, Mullaney should have had two as he had beaten his man on a deep post play and was wide open, but the ball was a little far away. Had the throw been on, it would have been another huge play, if not a TD.
6. The linebackers this year are fast and aggressive. I don’t like to compare them with players I don’t know, so I am not going to say that they are better than everyone else in the conference, but if we had this group in 2009 we would have already had at least one Rose Bowl game under our belts in the Riley era. It is not just that they are fast, but that guys like Mageao, Saulo and Songy would be starting most years. This is good as I think all three starters will be gone after this year, but for now, this is a very talented and very deep group.
7. The offensive line had a really hard time dealing with the defensive front seven today. Not a lot of time for the Quarterbacks and not a lot to work with through the air or on the ground. Some really good plays were made by Del Rio and Vanderveen. Brent avoided the rush and was able to roll out and hit Mullaney on that long pass. Del Rio scrambled out of the back field and hit his receiver about ten yards down the field while on the run in a throw that really showcased his arm strength.
I think Vanderveen has really stepped up this year and he and Del Rio can really get the ball out there on those deep outs to the wide side, which is an NFL caliber throw.
8. Lots of great coaching out there. Everyone was very active and there were a few times that Brennan and Garrett were really trying to hammer in the details of what players need to be done. Precision of routes and blocking with good form were constantly being critiqued. The coaches were very vocal trying to get the players to do the little things.
Overall it was a great day and a fun time.