CORVALLIS--With the Rodgers brothers back for their final season together and expectations smelling like Roses, it was clear by Mike Riley’s demeanor on Tuesday he’s ready to get this season underway. Having a stacked defense, a Heisman trophy candidate, all-American wide receiver candidate and first year quarterback are just a few of the many blessings, and pressures, facing Riley this season.
Riley addressed some of the media Tuesday, to answer questions about his team heading into fall camp, which starts Aug. 9.
For starters, there is the potential return of senior linebacker, Keith Pankey.
Pankey, who suffered a ruptured Achilles back in February, is on schedule and could start practicing during fall camp.
Is it likely Pankey could work through fall camp and start against TCU?
“I think that’s real. He could be our starter in the first game,” said Riley.
RILEY ALSO SAID senior linebacker Keo Camat and ‘Unga brothers – sophomores Devin and Kevin -- would be battling for the starting position at the strongside ‘backer if Pankey can’t go.
However, Riley is hoping for a veteran combination consisting of Pankey and WIL Dwight Roberson at those two outside spots.
“Pankey and Roberson is much more comforting,” said Riley.
RILEY ALSO SAID Burke Ellis and Colin Kelly are battling for the starting right guard spot. That figures to be the one starting position on the o-line truly yet to be settled.
The offseason talk about possibly moving Michael Philipp inside to guard and Wilder McAndrews to tackle was just that, with Philipp to hold down his customary left tackle spot when fall camp opens.
MEANWHILE, RILEY said both Fred Thompson and Donnell Welch of the 2010 recruiting class were not eligible, but things could change by Monday, pending their summer school results.
As far as other incoming players for OSU, Riley confirmed that three players are being grayshirted -- Trevor Romaine, Terron Ward and Will Storey.
Riley didn’t address it but The Gazette Times is reporting Thomas Molesi is also working on academics, and his status is not final. “However, reading between the lines it’s not good,” writes Cliff Kilpatrick.
On an up note, Riley said that sophomore walk-on running back Jordan Jenkins was officially awarded a scholarship for fall term, and Riley say’s that he is competing nicely for the back-up position behind Jacquizz Rodgers.
DEPTH IS SOMETHING Riley mentioned over and over, and specifically noted the need to find depth at the defensive end position this fall camp.
Gabe Miller and Taylor Henry were two cited by Riley as showing solid speed and pass rush ability during spring practice. The tandem is expected to start but Riley wasn't naming official starters on Tuesday.
HEADING INTO A hotly anticipated season at Oregon State, Riley said he was pleased with the team-wide commitment towards getting better. There were a record number of players that chose to stay in Corvallis and participate in the summer conditioning program.
“I think they were working with 84 guys.” Said Riley.
IN ADDITION TO the voluntary player participation, OSU’s proclivity of late for starting a season out slowly was the topic of conversation for Riley this offseason.
Asked if there were going to be any changes to fall camp to help prepare his team more and prevent those 2-3 and 3-2 type starts to the season, Riley answered in the affirmative.
“Scrimmaging. We’ll scrimmage a lot more,” he said.
With much riding on the 2010 campaign, and having the bar set as high as it is for the Beavers, Riley appeared calm as ever heading into a very important camp. With talk that the 2010 vintage could be a “special team” was brought up, Riley shrugged it off.
“Well, you’re talking to a very conservative person. I am glad though that they feel confident. I’m going to wait and see how the first practice goes, that’s as far as I’ll go,” said Riley.