Fresh start for competitive Beavers
CORVALLIS -- Everything was fresh Monday at Tommy Prothro Field. Oregon State's new Nike-issued practice jerseys, a replenished roster of players and the attitude of 60-year-old head coach Mike Riley on the first day of training camp in preparation for the Aug. 31 season opener against Eastern Washington.
"I feel like a rookie -- always do," said Riley, the dean of Pac-12 coaches as he begins his 13th year at the OSU helm. "New team, new dynamics, new identity -- who are we going to be? I feel really fresh about the start of every year. The kids demand that. This is so important for them. So much has been committed to being in this program, on this team, getting ready to win. It's exciting."
Riley spends most of the month of July at the family vacation home near San Antonio, part of it watching video and drawing up plays and offensive sets that he envisions helping the Beavers win games. Some of that work was put into motion on the practice field for the first time Monday.
"I want to see if it looks as good on the field as it did when I put it on paper in Texas," Riley said. "That's fun for me. I'm thankful for every minute.
"There's an anxiety about entering into a season. It's a grind. There's no way to get around that. But I love what we do."
Almost immediately, there was bad news at Oregon State's weakest position -- defensive tackle. JC transfer Siale Hautau, who missed most of spring practice with a broken hand, was carted off the field with a foot injury.
"I don't know if it was just that I taped it too tight or what, but I couldn't run on it," said the 6-1, 320-pound Hautau, who was on crutches with his right foot in a boot after practice, awaiting an afternoon MRI.
Is the injury serious?
"I don't think so," he said.
There was no word on the academic eligibility of two more JC transfer D-tackles, Kyle Peko and Charlie Tuaau. Both had been working to pass summer-school classes that would allow them to get on the practice field. Neither is in Corvallis yet.
"They're out there in that never-never land," Riley said. "We don't know (about their status) for sure. We're hoping for the best. I don't want to try to give you what I think about that. it's out of our control. We hope it happens this afternoon, but I doubt it."
Quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz took most of the repetitions during passing drills as they began the final stage of their battle for the starting job.
"I knew they'd come out here and both look good," Riley said. "They know the offense. They know what to do with the ball. They're good players. The answer (to who wins the job) will come as we go and define the way we want to do it."
There are high expectations from the players after last year's 9-4 season.
"We're going to be dangerous this year," sophomore receiver Richard Mullaney said. "We're going to be competing."
Competing for what?
"For the national championship," he said, smiling. "Our goal is to make the Rose Bowl and to do the best we can out there."
"Last year, we had an OK season, but we're looking to expand on that," seconded junior receiver Brandin Cooks, the Beavers' top honors candidate along with sophomore center Isaac Seumalo. "We want to get to 10 wins at least. To do that, we have to come out fast, hungry and ready to go."
NOTES -- With the dismissal of junior Josh Williams for violation of team rules, Oregon State is thin at middle linebacker. The starter almost by default is sophomore Joel Skotte, with redshirt freshman Rommel Mageo backing him up. Jaswha James, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore, has been moved to defensive end. Oregon State's receiver corps is strong, with veterans Cooks, Mullaney, Obum Gwachum, Micah Hatfield, Kevin Cummings and Malik Gilmore leading the way. Mullaney, Gwachum and Gilmore are listed at split end. "They're bigger guys who can bang around and block those boundary corners," receivers coach Brent Brennan said. "They're all on the fringe of being ready to go. We'll let that play out the next couple of weeks and see if any of them step to the front of the line and say, 'This is my job.' " A quartet of true freshmen -- 5-9, 160-pound Victor Bolden, 5-10, 200-pound Hunter Jarmon, 6-4, 240-pound Jordan Villamin and 5-11, 175-pound Walter Jones -- are looming. Bolden looked particularly impressive Monday. "He's fast -- reminds me a lot of Brandin," Vaz said. "Hunter had a couple of really nice catches today. He's athletic. I was joking around, saying, 'There's Markus Wheaton over there, wearing No. 2.' From the back, he looked like Markus. And Jordan is a big body who should be a good possession guy. It's going to be fun to watch those guys develop over the years." The Beavers also have a plethora of capable tight ends, including Connor Hamlett, Caleb Smith, Kellen Clute, Tyler Perry and Dustin Stanton. They used three tight ends on the same side -- two as blockers in the backfield -- on several sweep plays during Monday's practice. OSU has a number of young offensive linemen who may not be game ready but are getting there, including sophomores Josh Mitchell and David Keller and freshmen Garrett Weinreich, Grant Bays and Sean Harlow. "We're not where we want to be depth-wise (on the O-line), but we're getting better through the years," Riley said. "It's never been easy to keep 10 guys who you know are ready for Pac-12 play. Linemen are like gold. We want to continue to develop our depth where we have lots of guys ready to play in the games and win in our league."