CORVALLIS -- With Oregon State on Sunday enjoying their first off day since fall camp began on Aug. 1, it seems the perfect time to take a step back and to really put the first 11 practice sessions into context -- from the offense to the defense, a detailed look at each position group and everything in between. A rundown on the early returns on offense.
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Overall -- and keeping in mind there's plenty of fall camp still to come -- but based on the early returns in sum, a slight nod goes to the offense over the defense from this chair thus far in fall camp.
Lyle Moevao has solidified his starter position with his play on the field all while exhibiting leadership qualities coaches look for in a field general. Moevao understands the OSU offensive system to a much greater degree than last year and it's showing up in practice -- he's been making good reads and decisions.
Sean Canfield has missed the majority of live reps with soreness on his surgically repaired shoulder. Justin Engstrom has been getting the second string reps in Canfield's absence and has shown steady improvement. Ryan Katz impressed during the first couple of days of camp, but Mike Riley fully plans on redshirting him, unless disaster strikes, and his reps have been limited as the Beavs concentrate on getting Engstrom time under center.
Moevao has shown good patience in the pocket and has improved on his ability to throw on the run. Katz shows great promise for the future, but Riley doesn't want to lose out on a year of eligibility with him, since Canfield expected at some point to get back into the rotation -- the case of former OSU quarterback's Derek Anderson comes to mind.
Overall, arguably the best performing unit on the offense so far, though a strong case could also be made for the receivers and tight ends. Ryan McCants, Jeremy Francis and Jacquizz Rodgers have consistently performed well.
McCants is strong, runs through tackles, has surprising speed for his size plus good hands as a receiver. He also has the ability to plant and make strong cuts. Francis is a power runner with moves. After an injury scare he's rounding back towards a full go. If he can stay healthy, he can definitely help the offense this season.
Rodgers has lots of quick moves in his arsenal, with the ability change directions without losing virtually any forward momentum. Plus, he is adept and bouncing off tackles -- his ability to run inside is impressive.
This unit has the most depth. Sammie Stroughter, James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings man the starting split end, slot back and flanker positions, respectively, and all are having a solid fall camp.
Stroughter has been lights out, demonstrating excellent route running and a soft pair of hands.
The depth is impressive. Chris Johnson has been good, but is facing heavier competition from Damola Adeniji. Experience is definitely helping Johnson at this point, with Adeniji showing flashes, but lacking consistency.
The depth is especially evident in the slot with Rodgers, Shane Morales and Casey Kjos. All three have been consistently reeled in tough catches. Morales' ability to block down the field is notable here -- drawing praise from Riley.
At the flanker position, Kyle Brown and Taylor Kavanaugh are locked in a battle for a backup spot. Brown has size and hands, but more intensity and focus might be needed. Kavanaugh has been slowly and steadily improving -- he has shown some great moves after the catch. Aaron Nichols has shown some sparks but there's a lot of talent ahead of him at this stage to contend with..
This unit has seen the most improvement -- and dramatically so. Picking the two best performances to date is a difficult task, but it would be hard to go wrong with Howard Croom and Brady Camp . Croom has shown some great blocking, and he has solid pass catching skills. And don't forget about Gabe Miller -- he has also been catching the ball very well. John Reese is still in the mix, but will have to improve his blocking a notch.
How the Beavs are going to use their big grabmasters/blockers here, how much h-back they run, all of those things will be most interesting to see this coming year -- and a big point to be made here is that the coaches have a lot of flexibility and options to pick and choose from in crafting how the tight ends/h-backs will be employed. That's invaluable.
The o-line hasn't yet produced a completely solid starting five.
Marcus Henderson has been challenged by Alex Linnenkohl at the starting center spot. While Henderson was out sick, Linnenkohl fully took advantage of his opportunity. He has since been working his tail off in scrimmages and drills and has earned praise from the coaches. But Henderson remains the starter.
The starting five based on the early going looks to be LT Andy Levitre, LG Gregg Peat, C Henderson, RG Adam Speer and RT Mike Remmers.
Wilder McAndrews and Grant Johnson also have been performing quite well of late. Keep an eye out for McAndrews. He suffered a small crack on his thumb, but chances look good he might be able to play with a cast. He has earned notice for his competitive attitude on the field by the staff