The Oregon State football team has returned home to Reser Stadium, after spending the first week of summer camp in Bend, and showed Beaver fans where they stand in tonight’s scrimmage. And it was a warm one, as the Beavers and a sparse (compared to the turnout last Saturday in Bend) smattering of Beaver Nation sweated out the scrimmage on what turned out to be the hottest day so far this summer.
The first impression I took away from the evening’s efforts is, just like last year, Seth Collins in the best player on the team. And no one is in second place.
Coach Gary Andersen’s theme is “Players make plays,” and that’s what Collins does. He had a couple of key catches tonight, the one above to keep a drive alive, and another at the expense of Trestan Decoud that set up a score.
And he did it working with the second unit. Especially with Victor Bolden not participating in unit drills or the scrimmage (Bolden, who strained a led last week in Bend, did individual drills, but was without gear in the generally full pads practice), the only plausible reason for Collins continuing to be with the 2s is most of his reps came against the defensive starters.
Jordan Villamin had the biggest single play of the game, on a go route down the left sideline, above. But as was the case in the spring game, what it proved is he can beat a backup corner one on one, but its a coverage assignment he’ll never encounter in a real game.
The offense did have Noah Togiai, above, back, after he suffered an ankle injury early in the day last Saturday, and there were no signs of lingering ill effects. But the offensive line was without both Sean Harlow and Will Hopkins, both of whom watched everything from the bench tonight.
It was an underwhelming offensive showing overall. The tone for the evening was seemingly set when Ryan Nall fumbled on the first play of the scrimmage. Nall, above, would struggle to find running room all evening.
Darell Garretson, above, struggled as well, missing wide open receivers on check downs on multiple occasions. Garretson saw pressure on several occasions, and so too did Marcus McMaryion and Mason Moran on their limited series, though in a number of cases, they were coverage sacks of the worst kind, as multiple receivers were unable to run their way open.
Defensively, the first unit, though still the most vanilla defense this side of the Sun Belt Conference, did look much sharper, though their success came mostly at the expense of the second unit, as Andersen’s practice is generally not to put 1s against 1s for at least the majority of the series in practices and scrimmages. On a positive note, there was some “side-swapping” of alignment in the secondary, so that offenses can’t count on certain matchups.
There were some corner blitzes thrown in in the continuing effort to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Given how disastrously that worked out against UCLA and Josh Rosen last year, I have to wonder about the wisdom of that tactic.
The defense, which was already without Lamone Williams, still on crutches after suffering a knee injury in Bend (at this point, Williams’ injury isn’t evidently season ending, but it is a significant setback for him), absorbed the only apparent notable injury of the evening, as something happened to corner back Dwayne Williams early in the scrimmage. Williams appeared ok on the sideline, actively encouraging his teammates, but never returned to the field.
If you are looking for a bright newcomer, freshman running back Art Pierce, above, continues to impress. Pierce was the first newcomer to get his red “rookie” tape stripe removed from his helmet in Bend, and looks to have the inside track on the second running back spot, if performance is going to figure into the criteria in any way.
Overall, the offensive inconsistency was especially troubling, given the starters were working against not only the second unit, but in many cases, players who would be hard pressed to be the third string most places in the conference, other than Berkeley and maybe Tucson.
Even many of the positive plays must be weighed against the circumstances they were achieved against. Paul Lucas, for example, had an impressive play on a fly sweep, above, but it came on and as a result of the second string defense only getting the edge set 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage in their own red zone.
And there were some play-calling head scratchers as well. Coaches usually have certain things they want to try, for both units on the field, during practices, but scrimmages are simulations of games. Coach Andersen has on numerous occasions talked about the need to get ready for game day situations by practicing in game day mode.
Yet there were short out dump passes on 3rd and long that had no chance of picking up a first down, and a 4th and goal run from 2 yards out that predictably came up well short.
Andersen did debut one new thing, using defensive tackles Elu Aydon and Kalani Vakameilalo as blocking tight ends in a unique approach to a jumbo package.
The public will get one more glimpse at the team before the season opener on Sept. 1 at Minnesota, in next Thursday’s scrimmage practice, at least those who can get to Reser at 10:30 AM on a Thursday work day morning.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)