STEVENSON: IN A DIFFERENT KIND OF BACKFIELD NOW
CORVALLIS -- The first day of OSU’s fall camp ushered in a “tweaked” coaching philosophy for Mike Riley and staff. Across the board, the focus was this – teaching and reinforcing the fundamentals while allowing players to transition slowly into what is bound to be a strenuous fall camp. Another major difference was the almost complete separation of the offensive and defensive units.
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Position Changes/ Tweaks:
In a fairly surprising move on behalf of Mike Riley and Mark Banker, former Beaver tailback Jovan Stevenson moved to the other side of the line and adorned a black defensive practice jersey on Day 1. Riley said the considerable depth and potential that already exists at the tailback position in the way of Malcolm Agnew, Chris Brown, Storm Woods and others facilitated Stevenson’s departure from the offense.
Despite the fact that Stevenson hasn’t played as a defensive back since high school, Riley seemed confident that the former Beaver tailback would be a better fit at defensive back.
“We are thin, and we need to find guys that can go over there and play. He (Stevenson) ran a 4.4, has good size and good instincts,” said Riley.
Riley even went as far to say that Stevenson, with a lot of work over the fall, could find himself in the running as one of the top four cornerbacks for the Beavers come Sept. 1. Only time will really tell – yet an interesting side note is that in his first practice as a Beaver corner, Stevenson had three tipped passes and an interception against Harrington in practice.
It's an interesting position move that could pay dividends for Riley and the Beavs.
RILEY HAS MADE it very public that Isaac Seumalo was a likely candidate to start at center, despite predominantly playing as a guard or tackle and fresh out of high school. This was demonstrated with frequency on Day 1, as a lot of the snaps Mannion received during a mock scrimmage came from the freshman.
“I’ve never done it exactly like this,” Riley said. “We have always had some interaction between offense and defense - every practice of our lives. I like the fact that they stayed focused. They got a lot of stuff done.”
Riley appeared composed despite the news that his father recently passed away. He commended his players for their performance and reiterated that they appear fit and ready to head into the fall with a head full of steam.
“I don't think that I could pick a standout (player),” Riley said. “We are all obligated to do our best every time we walk out there.”
Despite the obligatory jesting and side conversations amongst players and coaches alike on Day 1, each group – from the tight ends to the cornerbacks – looked very focused and prepared. And it wasn’t just coaches teaching the players new tools for the future – Collin Kelly was seen working with the tight ends and demonstrating blocking strategies while Sean Mannion took time aside after many routes to give some pointers to the redshirt Richie Harrington.
Injury Report/ Hiccups:
Two players (unnamed by Riley) were late – one for personal reasons - the other apparently due to a late plane.
Freshman Chase Eldredge was present for practice but did not adorn cleats and spent most of practice doing basic endurance exercise on the sideline alongside Mike Cavanaugh and his teammates. No obvious injury was apparent.
Grant Enger missed spring ball due to shoulder surgery in the offseason, but returned today looking spry and ready to fill any one of the gaps on the OSU offensive line. He kept good pace in his drills even with Cavanaugh barking at the line in his usual fashion, (assuming that it was all out of love).
Anthony Watkins returned with confidence, despite saying that he doesn’t quite feel 100 percent at this juncture – a slightly worrisome tidbit that could turn into a major concern for Rod Perry’s secondary as fall camp transpires.
“I feel pretty good though,” Watkins said. “We will just have to see how I feel from day to day. But for right now, I feel pretty good.”
Hamstring injury? What hamstring injury? Agnew on the first day at least had shaken off a troublesome past blotched with hamstring woes -- he moved with precision today when the O-Line and tailback squads ran maneuvers together.
Quarterbacks: Riley says it best --“Sean is our number one guy right now.” Mannion looked solid and threw very consistently during Day 1. Riley maintains that Vaz represents a very necessary second string whom players and coaches both have faith in.
On the Receivers: Overall it was a decent start for the receiving corps under Brent Brennan. If anything, they seemed to be knocking off a little remaining rust coming out of the brief dry spell between Day 1 and spring ball.
Kevin Cummings - Dropped a pass from Cody Vaz and showed less closing speed than his fellow teammates on a few deep passes form Mannion (thusly resulting in missed opportunities).
Brandin Cooks - Boy, this guy is fast. But he still struggled with route running and it affected the timing on a handful of passes from both Vaz and Mannion. However, when Cooks did gather in the ball, it was explosive.
Obum Gwacham - Displayed good agility and much improved hands during Day 1. One of the primary concerns surrounding Gwacham (regardless of the accolades he’s received from Riley) are his hands and ability to reel in a catch. But Gwacham impressed today, receiving cheers from his teammates on two plays, one of which was a smooth sideline grab.
Markus Wheaton - Wheaton looked mostly top-notch during Day 1. He dropped two passes, both of which are typically easy grabs for him. Apart from that he stayed swift on his feet and had some sharp reads.
On the Running Backs: Riley has no reason to worry about “running as a committee” if his committee of tailbacks maintains the type of performance seen out of them today.
Malcolm Agnew and Storm Woods got the bulk of the snaps from Mannion, Vaz, and Brent Vanderveen – and both almost looked ready to start the regular season at tailback. Agnew has a lot of agility, and a keen eye for how his blocks are developing in front of him.
Woods, well he is just downright fast, there is no other way to slice it. Consider this when thinking about Riley’s ultimate decision about who will start - you may not have to worry about blocking as much (currently a big red flag) if you have a guy who can just blow past opponents with ease. Anticipate an ever growing battle between Woods and Agnew as fall camp progresses.
The whole group looked good, including Jordan Jenkins, Terron Ward and the newcomer Chris Brown.
Brown saw at least six snaps and showed some serious potential when making his cuts.
On The Offensive Line: The pads aren’t on and won’t be for a few more days. So it’s hard to make sweeping conclusions. That said, Cavanaugh’s group looked a bit lackluster this afternoon. But with the return of Enger and the expedited incorporation of Seumalo into the offensive line schemes, rough patches are to be expected at the onset.
Cavanaugh and Riley are sure to juggle offensive line players around for the majority of fall camp to see who is best in what kind of situation in order to better play to individual strengths on an offensive line that lacks players that are considerably well rounded at every slot on the line.
On the Defensive Line: Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton and Castro Masaniai all looked impressive in drills today.
It was really easy to tell when defensive players are pumped, and with the little bit of a chip that Wynn and Crichton have on their shoulders from last year (and being labeled “too young”) they had some heat under their cleats on Day 1.
Aided by a year of growth within a strong defense under Banker, the two defensive ends crashed hard into every mock-block and shield in sight during Day 1.
Seumalo looked strong, though he might still be physically small for a defensive tackle, one who plans to start and win battles in the Pac-12.
On the Linebackers: The guys who saw the most time on field were Michael Doctor, Feti Unga, and D.J. Welch. Forget the fact that the overall size of the potential corps of starting ‘backers leaves a little to be desired - it had little effect on their performance today.
The whole group was exceptionally speedy.
On the Secondary: How about we let Rod Perry tell you how they did?
“I like to reiterate what Coach Riley is doing – the basics,” Perry said. “I’m going to be focusing on stance, alignment, and technique.”
Perry noted that a lapse in the fundamentals almost always results in corners getting beat, and that is what he is trying to avoid throughout fall camp and especially early on. Aside from Poyer, Perry commended Rashaad Reynolds for having a good first day.
“They all really work hard, and they want to improve,” Perry said. “They give you the work ethic, and that gives us the chance (to win).”
Any depth chart in the early going of fall camp is almost always going to see some subbing here and there, and is tenuous by definition. With that in mind, here was the rough depth chart on Day 1.
OT Michael Phillip – OG Josh Andrews – C Isaac Seumalo – OG Grant Enger – OT Colin Kelly
QB - Sean Mannion - Cody Vaz - Richie Harrington
RB - Malcom Agnew - Storm Woods - Terron Ward
FB - Clayton York
WR - Markus Wheaton - Obum Gwacham/Brandin Cooks - Kevin Cummings
TE - Colby Prince - Connor Hamlett
DE Dylan Wynn – DT Castro Mansanai – DT Andrew Seumalo - DE Scott Crichton
OLB - Michael Doctor (Strongside) – D.J Welch (Weakside)
ILB - Feti Unga
CB - Jordan Poyer – Rashaad Reynolds – Sean Martin/Ryan Handford
S- Anthony Watkins (Free) – Ryan Murphy (Strong)