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OSU NOTES: QB decision due this week; other spots also taking shape

CORVALLIS -- Notes, quotes and observations following Oregon State's Monday practice session on Tommy Prothro Field …

• Coach Mike Riley said he hopes to have a decision made between junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz for OSU's starting quarterback job "by the end of the week."

The Beavers will have their first scrimmage Thursday, but Riley said "I probably won't scrimmage the older guys at all."

That means a QB decision will likely be made without benefit of any live play during training camp.

There's no indication which player will win the spot. Both players looked sharp throwing the ball and running the offense during Monday's session, but each missed throws, too.

I'm thinking the lack of separation to this point favors Vaz, who seems prone to fewer mistakes (despite the critical fumble in the fourth quarter of last year's 27-23 loss at Stanford). Vaz had three interceptions in 185 pass attempts last season, Mannion 13 in 309.

• It appears that JC transfer defensive end Charlie Tuaau will make it academically and be eligible to practice sometime soon -- though OSU coaches don't know exactly when that will be. JC transfer D-tackle Kyle Peko's status is more murky. It seems unlikely he will make it this season, though the possibility exists that he will grayshirt and preserve his three-years-to-play-two eligibility beginning with the 2014 season.

• The defense got the best of the offense more often than not during skeleton drills, but that's to be expected as Riley and offense coordinator Danny Langsdorf implement their system.

"We have about all the installation in," Riley said. "Now we just have to get better."

• Coach Mike Cavanaugh is pleased with his starting offensive line, including 6-5, 320-pound sophomore right tackle Gavin Andrews, who will make his first start in the Aug. 31 opener against Eastern Washington.

Depth, though, has taken a hit with the "retirement" of sophomore tackle David Keller due to concussion problems and aggravation of a knee injury by promising redshirt freshman Garrett Weinreich. Weinreich, who underwent surgery last August, hurt the same knee again and could wind up missing this season, too.

It leaves true 6-4, 285-pound true freshman Sean Harlow as the third tackle -- and Cavanaugh hopes to redshirt the Anaheim Hills, Calif. native. Should either Andrews or Michael Philipp get hurt, Cavanaugh might be forced to shift around his O-line and use sophomore Josh Mitchell at center or guard.

• Rommel Mageo is running No. 2 at middle linebacker behind sophomore starter Joel Skotte. The 6-2, 245-pound Mageo, out of American Samoa, has impressed Riley with his athleticism, toughness and instincts.

I'm thinking, though, that the Beavers will use their nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six DBs) packages even more often than they did when they implemented it on a regular basis for the first time last season.

Safety Ryan Murphy moves to the nickel position employed by Jordan Poyer a year ago.

With Rashaad Reynolds missing Monday's session and Sean Martin also sitting out most of the day -- both with undisclosed but presumably minor injuries -- Steven Nelson and Larry Scott got plenty of turns at cornerback. Nelson and Martin are running neck-and-neck for the starting job; whoever loses will be the third man in a three-corner rotation. One of them could be the extra back in the nickel. In the dime, it could be redshirt freshman safety Cyril Noland-Lewis or senior Steven Christian, who returned to practice after missing the first week with mononucleosis.

• Look for Brandin Cooks to return punts and Terron Ward to return kickoffs. But special-teams coach Bruce Read has also been looking at Murphy for the latter duty.

"Ryan played running back in high school, and he has some natural skills with the ball," Read said. "He is crazy aggressive, big and strong, and he can move."

• Oregon State's deepest position could be tight end/H-back, with 6-7, 265-pound junior Connor Hamlett, 6-6, 260-pound sophomore Caleb Smith, 6-5, 245-pound sophomore Kellen Clute, 6-4, 250-pound redshirt freshman Dustin Stanton and 6-5, 245-pound junior Tyler Perry. That doesn't include two walk-ons with some promise -- 6-3, 260-pound sophomore Hayden Craig and 6-6, 250-pound freshman Will Hopkins.

Hamlett, Smith, Clute and Stanton, incidentally, all hail from the state of Washington.

A year ago, OSU used a two-tight-end set 50 percent of the time and three tight ends on 10 percent of its plays. The latter number could increase this season, with Hamlett, Smith and Clute all employed in short-yardage situations.

• Seniors Mana Rosa and John Braun continue to hold down starting defensive tackle spots. But JC transfers Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau looked good in short-yardage drills Monday. The 6-1, 345-pound Hautau reminds me of Castro Masaniai. He's a load to move in the middle.

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