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Rodgers back with new number, same old verve

Beavers begin to answer numerous questions at first practice
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT JAMES RODGERS

CORVALLIS - James Rodgers looked fast and remarkably healthy.

Joe Halahuni, Jordan Bishop and Jordan Jenkins didn't appear to skip a beat, either.

That doesn't mean all of Oregon State's running wounded will be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Sacramento State, but indications were promising following the Beavers' opening day of training camp.

Six months after a second surgery on his left knee, Rodgers moved crisply in limited duty, running pass patterns, catching balls with his typical verve and flair and running his patented fly sweep.

'It went pretty good, getting back out here, working back into things,' said the 5-7, 190-pound senior flanker, who missed a good portion of last season due to injury. 'I didn't feel too much soreness. Just out there trying to focus on my technique. It felt real good to be out there with my teammates.

'The leg is feeling real good. We're taking it slow. They told me I'm doing a certain amount of things, so that's exactly what I'm going to do.'

Mike Riley thought Rodgers looked good, too, as he went through the individual period of a practice that stretched two hours and 15 minutes for veterans.

'He got a good hour's work in,' the 11th-year OSU coach said. 'I was impressed. He's in great shape, and he looked quick.'

Rodgers had changed jersey numbers, from No. 8 to No. 1 - the same number younger brother Jacquizz, now with the Atlanta Falcons, wore his last three seasons at Oregon State.

'He looked like James Rodgers with the wrong number to me,' Riley said. 'From the back, he really looked like Quizz.'

James said the move wasn't made in tribute to his brother.

'I just wanted to switch my number,' he said. 'No reason behind it.'

Rodgers wore no brace to protect the knee, but Riley said one has been ordered for when Rodgers takes part in full contact.

'The doctor thought it was absolutely fine for him to be out there today doing what he did,' Riley said.

Riley wouldn't commit, however, to when he will allow Rodgers to participate in contact drills.

'We're not even going to go there yet,' the OSU coach said.

That's fine with Rodgers.

'I'll stick with the plan the coaches and doctor comes up with,' he said. 'That's something they have to decide.'

Halahuni and Jenkins (both shoulder) and Bishop (ankle) are all coming off offseason surgeries, too. Bishop is probably the furthest along of the three, but he's not at full strength yet, either.

'He looks a little bit behind, but he ran the routes, caught balls,' Riley said of the junior slotback. 'You can tell he hasn't had a ton of work lately, running and catching, but overall, he looked pretty darn good.'

'There's some soreness, but it felt good for the first day,' Bishop said. 'Hopefully it will feel even better (Tuesday). I'll be ready (for the opener), there's no doubt.'

Halahuni, the senior tight end, took part in individual drills.

'Joe looks great, but there's some biology to this,' Riley said. 'It will only heal so fast. Joe is a good healer, but we have to keep him out for a while yet. It's going to be a couple of weeks at least before we can get him into contact.'

Same for Jenkins, the junior tailback who was limited in his action, too.

'Jordan is healthy and feels good, but they're not going to clear him for contact for awhile,' Riley said. 'It's too bad, because I think he could compete with those guys for that starting position.'

• Riley said he can't remember going into a season with so many questions marks at so many positions, in no small part due to injury.

'I've been at this 36 years now,' he said. 'I thought it would be business as usual, but that's the beauty of it. The game evolves. Our team has to evolve, too. ... it's a new world. This is the 2011 team. They have to forge their identity.

'This team is going to have to really execute to win. We lost two of the best players in the history of our school in Quizz and (defensive tackle) Stephen Paea. In order to pick up the slack, everybody has to step it up. We have to be at our best in all areas. There is very little margin for error.'

• Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is optimistic about his newly formed group, with senior Grant Johnson moving from guard to center, sophomore Josh Andrews moving from center to guard and senior Mike Remmers moving from right to left tackle.

The starting O-line, from left to right, is bigger across the board. Remmers is now 6-4, 305. Andrews is 6-2, 295. Johnson is 6-3, 295. Competing at right guard are seniors Burke Ellis (6-4, 290) and Michael Lamb (6-3, 290). Junior Colin Kelly (6-4, 295) will battle Michael Philipp (6-3, 310) at right tackle, and the loser will back up Remmers on the left side.

'Overall, we're bigger and stronger,' Cavanaugh said. 'We needed to get there.'

Cavanaugh's other observations:

'Grant came into camp in great shape. He's a smart guy who will control the middle. He played a year and a half at center, so it won't be a major adjustment. I think Josh will be great at guard. He doesn't have to think quite as much as you do at center.

'Remmers is our best guy right now. He's going to have to be a leader for us out there.

'Colin had a great spring. He is ready to compete. Burke and Lamb will fight it out at right guard. Philipp improved this summer. Now he has to play the way he can. He was too inconsistent last season.'

• The major questions on defense come at the line positions.

Dominic Glover practiced Monday, but the senior tackle - ticketed to be a starter - still has academic hurdles to clear. Riley is optimistic they'll be taken care of, but said it won't be known until late this week or early next week.

Masaniai, probably the No. 3 tackle behind Glover and senior Kevin Frahm, faces a court appearance Thursday for multiple charges, including second-degree kidnapping and criminal mischief, after a incident with his girlfriend last spring. He was not at practice Monday.

If the charges aren't downgraded from a felony, Masaniai probably won't play this season. Riley said his fate won't be known until late this week or early next week, too.

Without those two, it leaves Frahm, walk-ons Andrew Seumalo and Ben Motter and redshirt freshman Manu Tuivailala to battle for time at tackle. Junior Taylor Henry and redshirt freshman Scott Crichton are the starters for now at end, backed by juniors Rudolf Fifita and Rusty Fernando and sophomores Mana Rosa and Devon Kell.

'You wish you knew exactly what you were going to get, but we've always gone with the philosophy, 'Who's next?' ' defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. 'Frahm is ready to line up. Seumalo is, too. Motter has thrown his hat in the ring. Hopefully we can get some work out of him.

'Henry had a great offseason. Critchton is a guy I've been waiting to see play for a whole year. I thought he could have played last year. Rosa could play outside or inside. I'm looking forward to seeing what Fifita can do. Fernando made strides in the spring, and Kell is a grinder who is in position to compete.'

• Wide receiver appears to be a team strength, especially if Rodgers is able to regain his old form. Rodgers, Bishop and junior Markus Wheaton form what would be one of the top receiver corps in the Pac-12 this fall.

Obum Gwachum, a 6-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman, is backing up Wheaton and will see plenty of time, and senior Darrell Catchings, junior Geno Munoz and sophomores Micah Hatfield and Kevin Cummings are in the thick of the battle for playing time.

' I just lay in bed at night wishing they could all be healthy at one time,' Riley said. 'That would be an awesome picture.'

The OSU coach got his first look at four touted true freshman receivers Monday - Richard Mullaney, Brandin Cooks, Tyreque Zimmerman and Tyler Trosin.

'We've added four really fine freshmen,' Riley said. 'It's possible that any or all of them could play right away. Everything will be dependent on how they do in camp and how they stack up with the veterans.

'The ones we don't redshirt will playing in the games. We won't activate them and not play them. They're talented, good players, and we're going to let them compete.'

NOTES - The Beavers won't scrimmage until next week, Riley said. The first practice with full pads is Saturday. ... true freshman Malcolm Agnew, one of seven players in competition for playing time at tailback, twisted an ankle early in practice and sat out the rest of the drills. ... OSU seems deep at linebacker, with junior Feti Unga starting at middle LB and sophomore Michael Doctor and senior Cameron Collins on the outside. Rueben Robinson, who started seven games last season in the middle, has moved outside. Junior Tony Wilson will back up Unga at middle LB. Also in strong positions to play on the outside are true freshman D.J. Welch, junior Shiloah Te'o and redshirt freshman Shaydon Akuna.