Oregon State has kicked off their preparations for the 2016 football season. The Beavers took the field today at Summit High School in Bend, OR, just a few blocks from the Central Oregon CC/Oregon State Cascades campus (until the expansion of the OSU facility is completed) where they are staying until late next week. The true camp approach comes as work continues on the remodel and expansion of the Valley Football Center and northwest end zone of Reser Stadium, including the locker rooms.
Next Friday evening’s open scrimmage, which will be back at Reser, starting at 5 PM, will tell us much more about the team, but today served to set a starting point; something to make comparisons with going forward, for coaches and the interested members of Beaver Nation (and there were hundreds of them in Bend, at least until the heat began to increase and the shade shrink!) alike.
The first and main impressions I took from today was that the offense already has an identity, and for the most part, a clear depth chart and rotation of players, at least the 1s and 2s. This is something Oregon State struggled to establish all season last year.
The Garretson And McGiven Show
We knew this would be Darell Garretson’s team, and the transfer quarterback is clearly both the #1 and #2 guy at the position. But I was also interested to see that QB coach and now co-offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven is now clearly running the offense. That wasn’t readily apparent last spring, but over the summer, the transition has been made.
The identity of that offense is generally still going to be one of first and second read, short to medium passes, with (Ryan) Nall-ball for the running game, and probably only a few deep balls.
But while there was eventually a deep ball to Jordan Villamin, above, in front of Treston Decoud, Villamin was used much more on intermediate and come back routes. So too was Victor Bolden, up to the point where he left with a pulled right hamstring or quad that required icing.
The surprise of the day to me was that Hunter Jarmon, below, was the receiver most used to stretch the field, playing off and opposite of the attention Villamin and Bolden command.
The reality of the matter is while Garretson is a clear upgrade at quarterback, he lacks the arm-strength, or the height to have the vision, to get the ball deep quickly, or on the move, and the offense will be built around the short dump passing game, whether anyone likes it or not. But at least there’s no question about the matter.
While Bolden’s strain didn’t appear too severe, it will bear watching as next week unfolds. The good news is that while depth ranges from a concern to terrifyingly scary at many positions, Oregon State has a wealth of talent at receiver. True Freshman Trevon Bradford lags behind Bolden in experience, but not in speed or raw talent, and again showed reasons to believe he will see the field a lot this season in his opportunity with the 1s while Bolden was packing ice in his pants.
Bradford’s exploits didn’t attract the amount of interest from Beaver Nation onlookers that another of the 2s did; specifically Seth Collins, who now wears 22 instead of 4. It remains clear that Collins needs to see the field; he’s got play-breaking-open skills most players just don’t possess. But there is a lot of work to be done on handwork and hauling in balls in the next month.
The other notable injury of the day could be a bigger concern, as Noah Togiai, who, though listed as an “H-back”, saw some number of plays in the slot, had to leave before the midway point in practice, with a left ankle injury. Togiai did eventually get his shoe back on, and got on a bike for a while, and it appeared that he could have returned had this been a real game, and one with the outcome in doubt. Whether it becomes a persisting issue will be something to watch.
The biggest concerns at the start of camp on offense have to do with the return to health of Gavin Andrews, who red-shirted last season, and Sean Harlow, who only got cleared about a week ago by the doctor for full football action.
Andrews appears to be 100%, which is great news for all things associated with orange football.
Harlow had my attention all day, and though he was held out of scrimmage type action, in drills he appears to be one of the more quick and sure-footed of the offensive linemen. I didn’t detect any signs for concern, and I’m not sure what prompted coach Gary Andersen to bring up the possibility of red-shirting Harlow at media day. Nothing I saw today fit with that narrative, and it does appear that it should be a matter of getting Harlow in football shape. I do wonder how holding a player out of portions practice accomplishes that though.
The other major question about the offensive line is whether Yanni Demogerontas is up to the job of being the starting center. That remains a question, one of the main ones to watch next Friday night. Based on today, I can’t conclude that he is, but I also can’t conclude that he isn’t.
Behind Nall, early indications are that a sprinkling of Paul Lucas, a total change up, will be the plan at running back. There appears to be a clear line on the depth chart behind that pair and the competition between Tim Cook and Kyle White, which has no apparent front runner from what I saw, for the 3rd string job.
Lucas will see a variety of action, bouncing between the backfield and the receivers, similar to Collins, I’d expect, in the quest to get speed and elusiveness onto the field in the absence of a clear every down position for either one.
— GoBeavs (@BeaverAthletics) August 7, 2016
On the lighter side, Lucas did provide the loudest crowd reaction of the day. Coach Andersen decided to try and play some DB for some considerable portion of the practice, and didn’t do too bad overall. But in a reminder that this is D-I football in a Power-5 conference, Andersen zigged when he should have zagged on one route, and got in the way of, of all people, Lucas. Though one of the smallest players on the field, Lucas blew up the head coach, and planted him squarely on his shoulder blades, to a round of applause. This was supposed to be a non-contact practice, but if Coach Andersen is going continue to take the field, he might want to check out a helmet and shoulder pads from the equipment truck!
If the offense is relatively settled already, the defense isn’t, other than the starters on the back side.
Decoud and Dwayne Williams at the corners, and Devin Chappell and Brandon Arnold look set, and actually should have a good season. Probably a better one than the numbers will tend to bear out, as they are going to be on islands a lot, and for a long time. I expect Arnold to be “picked on” a lot, but mostlu out of respect for the other 3, and his ability to hold up will be crucial.
In front of them, however, I have a lot of concern, and based on the observations of others on hand, I’m not alone.
So far, I’ve seen no evidence that Oregon State has addressed the issue of the defensive line and edge rush from last year, as the Beavers struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Also, I do know a little bit about defense, but I don’t know what the Oregon State linebackers are doing, or are supposed to be doing, much of the time. Of greater concern, they don’t appear to be sure of what they are supposed to be doing either.
For this reason, I found the contrast between how the defense is working and the offense stark. As noted, McGiven appears to be clearly in charge of the offense, and their identity already appears clear. But it’s equally unclear as to what the identity of the defense is, or who is running the show.
Coach Andersen is clearly the D-Coordinator, regardless of what the team website says, at least part of the time. But he’s focused elsewhere, as the head coach, part of the time as well. And given the need for improvement by the d-line, which he’s the position coach for, the amount of time Andersen spent working in the secondary, and against the receivers, was surprising.
At least the Beavers have a punter in Nick Podebsky that can consistently air it out for more than 50 yards of field position change, and apparently 50 yard range for field goals.
But while there is much work to be done, particularly on defense, it was the beginning of football, which will kick off Sept. 1 at Minnesota, and it was still a great day to be a Beaver. Benny said so!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)