Notes from a Sunday night interview with Oregon State coach Mike Riley
After training camp, it seemed as if the Beavers might be most thin depth-wise at outside linebacker and the offensive line.
The situation in both areas has grown dire as Oregon State (1-1) prepares for its opening road test of the season at 2-0 Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.
Senior co-captain outside 'backer Michael Doctor had surgery on his left foot Sunday after being injured late in the first half of Saturday's 33-14 victory over Hawaii. Doctor, OSU's leading tackler a year ago, will be out six to eight weeks, which would leave him a maximum of four regular-season games.
The hope is that Doctor, who is scheduled to graduate next spring, will choose to redshirt.
"He'd be our best recruit next season," Riley said.
But coach and player haven't yet discussed that possibility.
Junior D.J. Alexander, who has missed the first two games with a knee injury, returns to full practice mode Monday. Riley said Alexander hasn't yet been cleared for duty, but the hope is he can start alongside junior Jabral Johnson, who has started in Alexander's absence.
OSU's third outside 'backer is redshirt freshman Caleb Saulo, who "did a nice job" in the Hawaii game, according to Riley, recording five tackles.
"It's next man up at that position," Riley said.
The ranks are severely depleted in the O-line. Junior Roman Sapolu -- who stepped in at starting guard when tackle Gavin Andrews contracted mononucleosis during training camp -- suffered a "Lisfranc" bone separation in a foot. He may need surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Grant Enger, who moved from guard to tackle in Andrews' absence, sprained a knee against Hawaii and will miss at least two games.
Andrews will see a doctor Monday for a physical. The doctor will test his spleen. If it has returned to normal size, he will be allowed to return to action. "We're hoping for the best," Riley said.
If O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh had to put together a starting O-line today, he would move sophomore Isaac Seumalo from center to right tackle and place sophomore Josh Mitchell at center. Senior Michael Philipp would start at left tackle, senior Josh Andrews at left guard and Grant Bays, a 6-3, 305-pound redshirt freshman, at right guard.
"Bays has ability," Riley said. "I think he can be a good player. He hasn't shown it yet."
If Gavin Andrews were available Saturday, the Beavers would likely move Seumalo back to center and use Mitchell at right guard.
The instability on the O-line is the biggest reason why Oregon State's rushing offense ranks 117th of 123 FBS teams after two games with an 81.0-yard average.
"It's everything," Riley said. "The consistency we've lost from our original starting line has made it much more difficult for us."
OSU coaches had hoped to redshirt Sean Harlow, a 6-4, 285-pound true freshman tackle who hasn't played the first two games.
"That's a point of discussion we'll cross this week," Riley said. "Where we are right now, I don't know how we can (redshirt Harlow). He's not really ready to play, but we might have to get him going."
As for the problems with the run game, Riley had this to say:
"The key is sustaining the block until the ball gets past the blocker. We're losing (the defender) too early. We're not sustaining blocks. Our blocker is usually on the right guy, but the (defender) is coming off the block to make a tackle. That goes across the board, from the tight ends to the tackles. We have to do a better job that way."
Oregon State will face its toughest opponent yet in Utah, which obliterated FCS opponent Weber State 70-7 on Saturday.
Quarterback Travis Wilson had a tremendous game. The 6-6, 240-pound sophomore ran for touchdowns of 38 and 51 yards and completed 14 of 19 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns before leaving early in the second half. He had TD passes of 80 and 57 yards.
"Wilson was pretty good as a freshman, and he's even better now," Riley said. "They have much more confidence offensively, and they always play tough, physical defense. They're going to be a very confident team going into our game."
NOTES: After giving up 31 plays of eight yards or longer in its opening 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington, Oregon State yielded plays of eight yards or more 12 times against Hawaii. The Warriors' longest play from scrimmage was a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. "That was the single best thing about our defensive performance," Riley said. "We were so much more sound." Oregon State ranks third nationally in passing yardage at 436.5 per game. California ranks No. 1 at 472.5 and Texas Tech is second at 453.5. Quarterback Sean Mannion ranks second in passing yardage at 397.0 per game, behind Cal's Jared Goff (467.5). Mannion is fourth in completions per game (34.0) and 16th in pass efficiency (181.2). Utah's Wilson is eighth nationally in pass efficiency (202.2) and third in passing yards per completion (18.3). OSU's Brandin Cooks ranks fourth in both receiving yards per game (144.0) and receptions per game (10.0).
Riley was pleased with the performance of junior punter Keith Kostol, who had missed the opener with a sprained ankle. Kostol punted six times for a 38.8-yard average, dropping four punts inside the 20-yard line. "He was unbelievably good for his first game," Riley said. Defensive line coach Joe Seumalo used 10 players in his rotation against Hawaii, including ends Scott Crichton, Dylan Wynn, Devon Kell, Lavonte Barnett, Jaswha James and Dyllon Maffi and tackles Mana Rosa, John Braun, Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva. Wynn spent a good part of the game lining up at tackle. The most consistent performer on the D-line in the first two games has been Rosa. Sophomore middle linebacker Joel Skotte saw much more action than he did in the opener against Eastern Washington, "and he played pretty well," Riley said. "He missed a tackle in space, but he made some big hits and played physically and soundly for the most part."