CORVALLIS – It was the defense's day to shine on Day 12, as batted balls and interceptions from the defensive backs typified a good portion of Monday's practice. The linebackers made some noise too. Obum Gwacham – accepting the baton or simply having a good stretch? Isaac Seumalo makes progress as Week Four begins, and Mike Riley offers the inside scoop on who has improved during the spring.
on Monday took time to rattle off a few names Monday when asked where he has seen significant improvement since spring football began.
"I know a couple defensive linemen like Akeem Gonzales
and Lavonte (Barnett)
are better players," Riley said. "And there are corners that are better players – Larry Scott
is a better player and I think Sean Martin
is a better player through what's gone on during the spring. Cyril Noland
has grown a lot, Boomer has gotten better. And here is a whole bunch of offensive linemen that are better players."
Offensive line play is pretty hard to quantify during the spring when they're not cracking pads – so how is that pass protection coming along according to the guy in charge?
"Are we better in protection? We had a big blitz period today – 16 plays." Riley said. "And I thought we did a pretty nice job for the most part. We are probably going to be able to throw and catch pretty well but if you can't protect it doesn't matter. We made a little stride today in the protection."
Isaac Seumalo sported full pads on Monday. The sophomore is still limited in his capacity to completely run with the offensive 1's, but he did see time with the 2's when the team ran 11-on-11's.
The offensive line put forth a mediocre performance during Day 12 – defensive pass rushes saw a good amount of success against the 1's and 2's and the quarterbacks had significantly less time to throw the ball when compared to previous practices.
The receiving unit also had an overwhelmingly sub-par day. With the exception of Brandon Cooks and an array of bright spots from the ever-erratic Obum Gwacham, the Beavs struggled to bring in passes ranging in difficulty from incredibly simple to physically demanding.
Day 12 lent itself to Malik Gilmore being the subject of criticism courtesy of Brent Brennan - pass after pass slipped through the young wideout's fingers, and some poorly run routes did not make his coach any happier. But hey, everybody has got to have bad days – it makes it much easier to appreciate the good ones.
Micah Hatfield's performance on Monday was ambiguous. Some of his catches were gems, yet his drops/miscues were puzzling. He drew the ire of Danny Langsdorf when Hatfield failed to reel in an apparently simple reception along the sidelines. Hatfield may have made up for it later in the day though, as he a play geared around him went pylon.
It was another light day of running for the tailback corps, who were in a lot of formations but saw fewer handoffs than they received earlier this spring. The last couple practices have been characterized by the tailbacks (Storm Woods, Terron Ward and Chris Brown) being heavily incorporated into the passing and blocking game, with a focus on screens and pass protections.
Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz continue to battle it out for playing time. The wind was at work during Monday's practice, and it may have been a factor in some of the sporadic throws that shot out of the QB's hands – but one can't blame the elements for everything… some of their throws were just downright bad.
All-around, Monday was not what many would classify as a "good" practice for the offensive side of the ball.
The defense, however, was just the opposite. The secondary was the force of the day. There were interceptions, tipped passes and balls swatted right of receivers outstretched hands. This group is still developing and who goes where and who fits into what package still being determined. But they are playing at an impressive speed and know how to stop the ball from connecting with a wideout – in other words, they know how to do their job. On the whole, the corners and safeties have been the most consistent group of players throughout spring.
Frustrations boiled over late in the day when safety Ryan Murphy and tight end Caleb Smith got into a fight. Helmets went flying before the two were separated.
The secondary spent a solid 20 minutes learning the QB position today, and before you jump the gun, I don't mean they were throwing the ball. Rod Perry took the time to zero in on one of the most important weapons a good pass defender can have at their disposal – knowledge of the enemy - in this case, the QB. Perry helped his players in literally reading the quarterback – identifying how many steps his drop was going to be and what types of body movement indicated a certain pass. It paid big dividends on Day 12 – as the following three bullet points attest.
Jovan Stevenson grabbed a pick today when the defensive backs and receivers went head to head. Stevenson was running against Blair Cavanaugh and managed to get great position on the redshirt freshman and snatched the ball away from him.
Steven Nelson also had an INT – Vaz tossed the ball to Kevin Cummings, the ball was tipped and Nelson managed to gobble up the football before it hit the turf.
Notice a trend yet? Larry Scott also had an interception on Monday. Scott was going head to head against Gilmore, and the redshirt freshman receiver had good position on him. But Scott got aggressive, Gilmore undercut his route by a few short yards and the ball sailed right over his head. A beautiful diving catch made by Scott left Gilmore shaking his head, but it left Perry saying "That was one hell of a play, Larry."
Redshirt sophomore Brandon Bennett continues to play strong football and see time on the 1's in light of Siale Hautau's arm injury. Bennett ran with the 1's in addition to working with the "young guys" toward the end of practice. In both instances, Bennett displayed a knack for squeezing through blocks and making it into the backfield. He is disruptive, if anything – he may not always get to the QB and wrap up for a sack, or stop a runner for a loss. But he has some power and some speed and he manages to make guys move around in the backfield and leave their comfort zone. Bennett has had particular success against Vaz and Mannion, who are both pocket passers that kind of wilt under pressure.
The linebacker squad (1's and 2's) made some waves on Day 12. They showed up big when it came to shutting down the minimal amount of run plays they did get a look at, and showed improvement in their ability to hinder the success of short/quick shots over the middle of the field.
I mentioned the wind during practice today, which prompts the question – are they a'changin'? Starting MIK candidate Joel Skotte has been doing "a good job," said Riley. "But he is getting competition from Josh Williams, and that may carry right out into fall camp."
The Gwacham Grading System
If Monday would have been a winner-take-all competition between Gwacham and Gilmore, the victor of that competition would have been clear. Gwacham had (arguably) one of his most explosive and all-around positive days at the Split-End slot, whereas Gilmore had one of his worst. Gwacham, from this chair, has been steadily pulling away since the end of Week One, but now that spring ball is in its fourth and final week, the once indiscernible nuances have now developed a stark contrast when considering these two young receivers. Today marked a fine day of receiving for Gwacham, but three more sessions remain for Gilmore to get his swerve on.
Technique – 7
Hands – 8.5
YAC/Possession Capability – 8
Overall – 7.83
Running with the 1's
QB – Sean Mannion/Cody Vaz
TB – Storm Woods
FB – Michael Balfour
TE – Connor Hamlett (TE/H-Back), Caleb Smith (TE)
WR – Brandin Cooks (Flanker), Obum Gwacham (Split End), Kevin Cummings/Micah Hatfield (Slotback)
OL- Michael Philipp (LT), Josh Andrews (LG), Josh Mitchell (C), Grant Bays (RG), Gavin Andrews (RT)
Defensive Line – Dylan Wynn (DE), Edwin Delva (DT) Brandon Bennett (DT), John Braun/Devon Kell (DE)
Linebackers – Michael Doctor (Strong Side/WIL), Joel Skotte (MIK), D.J. Alexander (WIL/Strong Side)
Cornerbacks – Rashaad Reynolds, Sean Martin/Steven Nelson
Strong Safety – Ryan Murphy
Free Safety – Cyril Noland