OSU football notes: JC tackle breaks hand, Beavers seek another QB recruit, Vanderveen progresses, and more
CORVALLIS -- Notes and quotes from Oregon State's fifth spring practice day
Siale Hautau, the JC transfer defensive tackle who had been running first string, broke a hand during Tuesday's practice session and will miss the remainder of spring drills.
Oregon State's first verbal commitment for the recruiting class of 2014 came from Nick Mitchell, a 6-2, 190-pound quarterback out of Snoqualmie, Wash., and younger brother of sophomore-to-be guard Josh Mitchell. The Beavers have scholarship offers to two other quarterbacks who will be prep seniors this fall, and it's likely they'll take at least two QBs with their next recruiting class.
There will be only four scholarship QBs with the team in the fall -- senior Cody Vaz, junior Sean Mannion, redshirt freshman Brent Vanderveen and incoming freshman Kyle Kempt, a 6-5, 200-pound Masillon, Ohio, native.
OSU coaches have noted progress with Vanderveen, the 6-4, 215-pound product of Arroyo Grande, Calif., who ran the scout team last season. Vanderveen worked hard on his throwing technique in the offseason.
"Brent took a step forward today," coach Mike Riley said after Tuesday's workout. "He has it in him. It's a matter of being comfortable, and then he has to strive for consistency. He'll probably not play this year, but he has made a lot of improvement from last fall."
The receiving corps will be a critical component of the 2013 Beavers with the loss of All-Pac-12 selection Markus Wheaton. Junior Brandin Cooks will be the marquis player among the wideouts.
"Brandin has taken a step up this spring," Riley said. "That's good, because he'll have to. We lose one of the best players I've ever been around."
With sophomore Richard Mullaney missing due to shoulder surgery, junior Obum Gwachum, seniors Kevin Cummings and Micah Hatfield and redshirt freshman Malik Gilmore have been the veteran receivers getting the most turns this spring.
"Obum stepped up today," Riley said. "If he can do that consistently and then transfer it to game performance, he can be a factor. Micah is much improved, Kevin is solid and in the last couple of days, Malik is playing more physically and looking more confident.
"The receiving group has to stay healthy and continue to improve for us to be even come close to what we were a year ago. And the tight ends have to step up, and I think they will."
Riley plans to use the tight end more in the passing game next season. Junior Connor Hamlett, who caught 32 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, leads a group that includes sophomore Caleb Smith, junior Tyler Perry, sophomore Kellen Clute and redshirt freshman Dustin Stanton.
"I've been very impressed with Connor and Caleb, and Perry and Clute aren't bad, either," Riley said. "Stanton is a ways away, but he's a worker and has a great body. It'll be a good group by the time we're through (August training) camp."
Coaches want the 6-7, 260-pound Hamlett to improve his blocking skills. Hamlett said he has been focusing on that this spring, with help from graduate assistant Kyle DeVan, the former NFL guard who played center at Oregon State.
"Kyle is working with all of us on the line, including the tight ends, on blocking responsibilities," Hamlett said. "I'm a pretty good receiver, but I have to get better at the blocking part of it. Kyle has been great to work with. He knows his stuff."
Special teams coach Bruce Read has several candidates to replace Jordan Poyer on punt returns, including Cooks, cornerbacks Steven Nelson, Tyler Hasty and Rashaad Reynolds and tailback Terron Ward.
"They all look pretty good, but they have big shoes to fill," Riley said.
Ward continues to get raves from Riley, who marvels that the 5-7, 200-pound junior was virtually unrecruited despite a stellar career at storied De La Salle High in Concord, Calif. As a senior, Ward rushed for 2,050 yards and 28 TDs. He grayshirted in 2010, then played as a true freshman in 2011.
"Terron was the Northern California Player of the Year," Riley said. "A lot of times, guys are victims of their high school program. People think they're good only because they're in a great program. With Terron, they said, 'He played at De La Salle; of course he's going to run for 2,000 yards.'
"Well, he's doing a heck of a job at tailback for us, and we're playing him a little bit at fullback the spring. He's a football player."
Ward is running second team behind sophomore incumbent Storm Woods. Redshirt freshman Chris Brown is the only other scholarship tailback on campus this spring.
"Chris has shown sparks of being pretty good," Riley said. "He'll get a lot of work by the time spring is over. We need him to be able to play. We need three guys" at tailback.
Coaches are feeling good about the progress of 6-5, 325-pound sophomore Gavin Andrews, who has taken over Colin Kelly's starting spot at offensive tackle.
"Gavin has good movement for a big kid," Riley said. "He just needs a ton of practice time. I would say we're going to be OK there."
There remains strong competition at middle linebacker, where 6-2, 230-pound sophomore Joel Skotte is running No. 1 ahead of 6-1, 230-pound junior Josh Williams, 6-2, 230-pound sophomore Jaswha James and 6-2, 240-pound redshirt freshman Rommel Mageo.
"We're excited about the improvement of all those kids," Riley said.
Three veterans drew plaudits from Riley on the defensive side -- safety Ryan Murphy and outside linebackers D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor.
"They're going to be leaders on our defense next season," the OSU mentor said. "Murphy is having a great spring. Doctor has really grown up through the years. He's an experienced, good football player, and a well-liked and respected guy among his teammates."
Five youngsters have caught the eye of secondary coach Rod Perry with their progress since the end of last season -- redshirt freshmen Zack Robinson, Cyril Noland-Lewis and Kendall Hill at safety and redshirt freshman Tyler Hasty and sophomore Larry Scott at cornerback.
Scott suffered a knee injury as a true freshman in 2011 that hindered his development a year ago.
"Larry never really ran fluently last season, but he looks recovered now," Perry said. "He's very instinctive and smart."