SPRING BALL DAY 1: Beavs lose another starter

TAYLOR HENRY

CORVALLIS–The first OSU spring practice hadn't begun and yet the Beavs had already lost another starter. Matt LaGrone, who earned a starting DE job the second half of last season, is leaving school. Meanwhile, opportunity now comes knocking for Taylor Henry, could the QB job be a three-horse race, Obum Gwacham has some wicked athletic moves, Wilder McAndrews is a surprise participant and more..

Matt LaGrone is leaving the team and university due to personal reasons, head man Mike Riley said today. The defensive end wants to be closer to his family – LaGrone's wife and children have been in Reno, Nev. since LaGrone has been at Oregon State.

LaGrone told Riley about three hours before the first spring practice and it caught the Beavs' coach off guard. However, Riley said he believes the Beavs have depth at the position and will be able to overcome the loss. Still, it's a blow, and not only because LaGrone had given indications last year he was ready to take it up a few notches.

The Beavers have this offseason already seen starting MLB David Pa'aluhi, as well as WR Casey Kjos leave the team. LB Keith Pankey is out with a torn Achilles. Who takes LaGrone's place? Taylor Henry was second on the depth chart and now figures to get a whole lot more reps this spring and with it, opportunity.

Could Kevin Frahm move back to DE from DT? Riley said there are no plans to move the Portland native back to the edge. That likely means Dominic Glover, formerly with Oregon and coming in this fall from junior college, will have plenty of opportunities to battle for playing time.

OUT ON THE FIELD today, freshman split end Obum Gwachum is an absolute anomaly.

The true forsh is an absolute freak of an athlete and should be a lot of fun to watch in the future. Although this was the first practice I've had to see him live, his soft hands and route running abilities were apparent.

Mark it down -- this kid has quite the future ahead of him.

Weather sent the Beavs into Truax Indoor Field for their first day. The sidelines were flooded with fans, high school coaches, scouts and alumni to witness the beginning, perhaps, of an epic quarterback battle that could continue on late into the fall.

Sophomore Ryan Katz seems to be the leader in everybody's eyes, but junior Peter Lalich looks to push the youngster with his size and accuracy. Obviously the main question on everyone's mind, before the departure of LaGrone, is who will start at quarterback. So who's going to be the guy, Mike Riley?

"Cody Vaz," Riley said, jokingly.

But it might not be all that much of a joke. Riley said he DID like the freshman's performance this afternoon, and hinted that he may be the dark horse in the competition.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE looked as solid as could be expected on the first day of practices with no pads. The starters today, taking part in light contact drills in the late stages of practice, were LG Ryan Pohl (with junior Grant Johnson injured), LT Michael Philipp, RT Mike Remmers and RG Burke Ellis, along with senior center Alex Linnenkohl.

Junior tailback Jacquizz Rodgers took a bulk of the snaps with the first team, but sophomore Jovan Stevenson and junior Ryan McCants filled in here and there, just to give some fresh looks in the backfield.

Junior wide receiver Darrell Catchings, who played in only two games last season and was granted a medical hardship was back on the field and looked to be 100 percent – his routes were crisp routes and he made some nice catches.

AT LINEBACKER, sophomore Tony Wilson was in the middle, taking over for OSU standout and defensive leader Pa'aluhi. Keo Camat was at the "SAM" linebacker position, taking over for Pankey.

In the secondary, corners James Dockery and Brandon Hardin joined Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins. The safeties in particular today displayed some nifty footwork, and their positioning was spot-on.

THERE APPEARED TO be no rust on the leg of senior kicker Justin Kahut, as he connected from medium range in the early stages of practice. Junior punter Johnny Hekker was taking over the holding spot for departed receiver Taylor Kavanaugh, and looked flawless in getting the snaps down for his senior kicker.

PRACTICE NOTES:
As mentioned earlier, Vaz could be a dark-horse of sorts in the QB competition. Katz has a very strong arm and watching him today, Vaz has some arm strength of his own.

OSU previously released that tackle Wilder McAndrews would be sitting out of spring practices. Au contraire: The senior offensive lineman was seen in pads and working out with the first and second team offensive line.

Sophomore linebacker Zane Norris looks to have a lot of his brother, Slade, in him. Underrated size, great quickness and explosive off the line were all present today. Another you-heard-it-here -- Look for him to make a splash on the defensive side of the ball this spring and on into the season, particularly if Pankey isn't ready to go in fall camp and/or if other injuries arise.

The Watkins brothers missed practice due to their flight being delayed. They were visiting their father on the East Coast. Anthony and Brian are both expected to suit up Wednesday.

Another walk-on joined the team freshman longsnapper Michael Morovick out of Trabuco High in California.

Although Casey Kjos has retired from football he was on the sidelines helping out with the receivers. Other former Beavers seen on the sideline include Jeremy Perry and Shane Morales.

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