Oregon State’s third and last public performance of the pre-season today was moved up an hour, to 9:30 AM, in order to beat the heat that is the current hotest heat wave of the summer in the mid-valley. The combination of the early hour, being on a work day, and the impending heat more befitting Tucson or Fresno kept attendance down, way down, the smallest of the season, or any other open practice in recent memory.
Those not present didn’t miss much however, as the 1s and most of the 2s were done well before practice officially ended. NFL teams are noted for not extending their starters in the last week before the season starts, and that was the feel for the practice Ryan Nall termed as “young guys day”. The difference though is its 2 weeks from tonight when the Beavers begin the season against the Gophers in Minnesota.
Those not participating at all of note included half the starting defensive backfield, with both Brandon Arnold and Dwayne Williams watching, as well as freshman Jay Irvine. Sean Harlow continued to not practice as well, making the prospect of Coach Andersen not playing him this season seem ever more likely.
There was more 1s vs 1s than we have seen previously though, and the defense brought good intensity, and got a couple of interceptions as well, They also gave up a touchdown to Hunter Jarmon on a twice tipped ball on a Hail-Mary drill too, though.
For those tracking the progress of Seth Collins, it was notable that he was splitting first team reps with Jarmon at WR. Collins also appears to be the best bet for kick returns, as he’s the only one who seems to understand “North-South”, and consistently gets upfield, and quickly.
(Bright Ugwoegbu closes in on Ryan Nall)
Besides getting the ball to Ryan Nall on passes out of the backfield as well as on the run, the other favored plays seemed to be throws that Collins and Noah Togiai could high-point. My main concern is if these passes become as common-place in games as they have been in practices, Collins, Togiai, and even Jordan Villamin are going to have some sore ribs, as they are exposed to serious hits post catch.
With the absences of Arnold and Williams, as well as the departure from the team earlier this week of both Gabe Ovgard and Cyril Noland-Lewis, we saw a lot of Xavier Crawford, Shawn Wilson with Treston Decoud and Devin Chappell in the secondary, with Landry Payne and Kendall Hill splitting time when the secondary was in nickel.
Payne in particular got a lot of work, both when the 1s & 2s were on the field, but also during the more extended action with subs, and it looks like the coaching staff is doing everything necessary to see if Payne can get up to game speed to help with all the holes that have suddenly opened up in what was the deepest unit on the defense.
Kyle White has also moved from running back to corner back to help address the secondary depth issues.
The best plays of the day by the defense, interceptions not withstanding, all came on quarterback pressures. But they came almost exclusively on blitzes. Chappell came from the secondary a couple of times, and Ugwoegbu also got after quarterback Darell Garretson pretty good. Had one of the blitzes not ended with a peel-off, the question about whether Marcus McMaryion or Mason Moran will be the backup quarterback would have quickly become a contest to determine a starter.
Freshman LB Shemar Smith also had his best sequence that I’ve seen so far, including a sack, albeit after a bad snap that set the play up for a disaster.
But the d-line, while relatively stout against the run, simply can’t get enough push to get to the quarterback. To the point I discounted one of the touchdown passes because it came about 7 seconds after the snap, and both lines had essentially given up and stood up. That won’t eventuate in a real game.
Garretson continues to opt to run at times, and both McMaryion and Moran are actual mobile quarterbacks, and are even more comfortable taking off, but what has struck me this fall is none of the Oregon State quarterbacks ever pitch after they start to run. Ever. This will lead to defenders disregarding the pitch, and just unloading on whichever Oregon State quarterback they can get in their sights, even if there is the odd chance that the pitch is made, and pursuit has to take care of it. With only 3 quarterbacks now getting reps, that’s scary.
The Beavers will continue to work most days until heading for the Twin Cities, and we get real football in 14 days!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)