Beavers ratchet up intensity, fine-tune for season opener
Academic clearance for four players boosts defense, receiving corps
CORVALLIS Ñ Oregon State moves into its second week of training camp today with its first full-gear scrimmage and a more serious eye toward its Aug. 28 opener against Sacramento State at Reser Stadium.
Coach Mike Riley and his staff will send the Beavers through a series of situational scrimmage plays at Prothro Field. It will start at around 2 p.m. and will last about 45 minutes.
'We might not move the ball upfield,' Riley says. 'We will just go first-and-10 for a while, and then go into some third-down and red-zone situations. The main thing is to get in some full-speed tackling.'
Last week, Oregon State practiced the first two days in helmets and shorts, the next two days in 'shells' Ñ shoulder pads but not padded pants Ñ and the final two days in full gear.
'When we practice in shells, you can hardly tell we're not in full gear,' Riley says. 'We have a pretty good idea of the intensity and physical part. The first week was mostly installation of our offensive and defensive systems, setting the foundation. Now we'll detail and practice and fine-tune and get ready for the opener.'
The Beavers got academic clearance on four key players who were held out of the first three days of practice Ñ starting linebacker Seth Lacey, defensive tackles Alvin Smith and Henry Anderson, and receiver Cole Clasen.
'Having those guys back changes our look,' Riley says. 'We were really thin on the defensive line without Alvin and Henry. I've been impressed with Cole. He will help us. I don't know where he'll fit into the rotation, but he'll add to our receiving corps, which is relatively thin.'
Some changes have been made in the offensive line, with mammoth redshirt junior Brandon Lockheart moving into the starting left tackle position. Lockheart, a 6-6, 330-pound transfer from Santa Monica (Calif.) Junior College, 'came back into camp in great shape and showed he is ready to play,' Riley says.
Senior Brian Kilkenny (6-5, 295) will move from tackle to left guard, with juniors Matt Brock
(6-2, 300) at center, Kanan Sanchez (6-3, 345) at right guard and Doug Nienhuis (6-6, 320) at right tackle. Senior David Lose (6-2, 305), who started eight games last season, will back up at both guard spots, while sophomore Jason Fyda (6-3, 280) will spell Brock at center.
'One of our top two or three concerns in camp is developing and finding the depth in the offensive line,' Riley says. 'It looks like we have some players.'
The battle between junior George Gillett and sophomore Josh Hawkins for the starting flanker spot 'is hot and heavy,' the coach says.
Riley has spent much of his time working with the quarterbacks, including veterans Derek Anderson and Adam Rothenfluh and freshmen Ryan Gunderson and Danny Southwick.
'Derek is doing a nice job of learning, and made some really nice plays during the week,' Riley says. 'For him right now it's about getting more and more comfortable with and consistent in our offense. Adam has done an excellent job, and I like Ryan. He's a cool customer. We try to get him some turns, and when he goes in, he's pretty comfortable.'
Tailback Steven Jackson was limited by what Riley termed a stiff back, and sat out one practice.
'When he was in, we put in a few things for him, a couple of pass patterns out of the backfield,' Riley says. 'Everything he does, he does pretty easily.'
It hasn't taken OSU's coaches long to identify the leaders on the defense Ñ ends Bill Swancutt and Dan Rothwell, tackle Dwan Edwards, linebacker Richard Seigler and safety Mitch Meeuwsen.
'All the stuff we think about the defense has showed up Ñ the speed, the intensity,' Riley says. 'Our system is not much different (from that of predecessor Dennis Erickson), so the comfort level is high. I have been impressed with how they have played. The safety position is a good one for us. Our cornerbacks just have to keep playing. I think they are going to be good.'
Junior Aric Williams, the Beavers' 'most confident and competent' cornerback, according to Riley, turned an ankle Saturday and is questionable for today's scrimmage.
Rothwell, a 6-7, 260-pound senior from Lake Oswego who missed last season due to a knee injury, has caught Riley's eye.
'He has a knack for making plays,' the Beaver mentor says. 'He is a very solid player who takes it very seriously.'