CORVALLIS News, notes and quotes from Oregon State's Monday practice session in preparation for Saturday's 1 p.m. season opener against Portland State at Reser Stadium.
Isaac Seumalo is out for at least the first two games following a pair of foot surgeries that have left the Beavers' co-captain unable to practice.
"It's progressing," Seumalo said Monday as he iced his left foot, which underwent surgeries in January and April. "But I really don't have a timetable."
Neither do the OSU coaches, who know they will be without their second-team all-Pac-12 center of a year ago until at least a Sept. 20 date with San Diego State.
Seumalo has a doctor's appointment Tuesday that will let him know more how rehabilitation is going and when he might expect to be able to begin practicing. The hope is that the 6-4, 295-pound Corvallis High grad will at least be back for the Sept. 27 Pac-12 opener at Southern Cal.
"We're not looking to redshirt Isaac," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "I'd only do that if he came to me. This guy has a real big place on this team. We're going to be careful about his foot. We want him very comfortable and healthy when he does return. "He has been out of it since the (Hawaii) bowl game. Just because he gets healthy, doesn't mean he's ready to play."
Oregon State's starting interior five Saturday will be 6-3, 290-pound junior Josh Mitchell at center, 6-6, 310-pound sophomore Garrett Weinreich at left guard, 6-3, 290-pound sophomore Grant Bays at right guard, 6-5, 340-pound junior Gavin Andrews at left tackle and 6-4, 295-pound sophomore Sean Harlow at right tackle.
"I like that group," Riley said.
Key backups are 6-2, 275-pound senior center/guard Roman Sapolu, 6-4, 270-pound sophomore tackle Dustin Stanton and 6-4, 310-pound redshirt freshman guard Fred Lauina.
"Dustin (ankle) missed almost a week and is building his confidence back," Riley said. "Roman can back up at three positions. Lauina will one day be a player. He has all the athletic ability. He just has to learn more about what to do.
"If our guys can stay healthy and Isaac comes back, we'll actually have depth all across the line."
If Seumalo comes back, where will he play? Center? Left tackle?
"We'll look at the first games and see how everybody does, because Isaac can play anywhere," Riley said. "First of all, we have to feel good about the left tackle position in protection of the quarterback. Gavin has a lot of ability. We'll see how he does there."
Gary Beck, Oregon State's coordinator of support services, helped Kyle Peko file papers Monday intended to gain full eligibility for the junior college transfer defensive tackle.
The 6-1, 315-pound Peko passed his summer-school class to allow him to practice. Now he has a 45-day window (dating from Aug. 18) to get his grades, JC transcripts and other papers processed.
"We're hopeful it gets to us so we can send it to the NCAA and get Kyle on the playing field," Riley said. "You want to have confidence that it all gets done, but when it involves professors and summer time and getting grades in, it's hard."
Peko is good enough that he will be in the rotation at D-tackle once he gains his eligibility, OSU coaches say.
Oregon State may find out more Wednesday on the eligibility of senior placekicker Trevor Romaine, out with academic issues. Regardless of Romaine's status, 5-8, 170-pound redshirt freshman Garrett Owens will be the Beavers' kicker Saturday against Portland State. Owens was a high school teammate of OSU quarterback Brent VanderVeen in Arroyo Grande, Calif.
"I'm real excited about Garrett," Riley said. "He has been our most consistent kicker through spring and (training) camp. We have a lot of confidence in him. You're breaking in somebody who hasn't kicked in a game yet, but the talent is there.
"And he's a competitor. He was Brent's No. 1 receiver (at Arroyo Grande) and played on the basketball team. The kid's an athlete."
Special teams coach Bruce Read said Owens' only liability is he doesn't kick off as deep as Romaine.
"We probably won't have any touchbacks," Read said, "so we'll have to cover well."
Read said sophomores Rahmel Dockery and Chris Brown are likely to return kickoffs Saturday, while Dockery and sophomore Victor Bolden are the probable candidates to return punts.
Dockery, the 5-10, 180-pound transfer from Washington State, also figures into the mix at receiver.
"He's sudden, he's fast, he's good," Read said of Dockery's skills as a return specialist. "He's a natural catcher of the ball and real explosive. He makes people miss."
VanderVeen, a 6-4, 215-pound sophomore, and 6-1, 210-pound redshirt freshman Luke Del Rio remain in a competition to back up Sean Mannion at quarterback.
"We'll decide before the game," Riley said. "They'll get even turns this week. It's gone back and forth, which is probably good. There's real competition. Luke is very solid, and Brent has grown.
"One day, one guy will have a little better day than the other guy. The next day, it might flip. They're both really engaged. I'm proud of Brent and the progress he has made since the spring. He was kind of discouraged earlier, but kept going."
Del Rio has struggled, as do most first-year quarterbacks in Riley's pro-style offense.
"You assume a lot and sometimes forget Luke is a freshman," Riley said. "He is going to struggle with the volume of things. But the guy's a quarterback. He has a nice arm and all the qualities we want. We have high expectations of him. Right now, there's not much difference (between the two)."
The same is true at running back, where junior Storm Woods and senior Terron Ward will share duties. Behind them are Brown and redshirt freshman Damien Haskins, the latter still hobbled by a knee injury.
"Storm will probably take the first snap, but they'll rotate," Riley said. "They're both heavily involved with special teams, too. The rotation will be good for them."
Senior fullback Tyler Anderson (hamstring) will miss Saturday's game. Sophomore walk-on Ricky Ortiz will replace him when a fullback is used against the Vikings.
The Beavers are well-stocked and healthy at tight end/H-back, with senior Connor Hamlett, juniors Caleb Smith and Kellen Clute and senior Jacob Wark ticketed for duty at the two positions. Behind them is true freshman Ryan Nall, who is also taking turns at running back. OSU coaches would like to redshirt Nall, but if one of the four veteran tight ends is lost to injury, Nall could be activated.
"Ryan will eventually be a running back, but with our depth, it's going to be hard to find him time there this season," Riley said. "The most likely place for him to play this year is H-back. I told our coaches to practice him there but to also keep him up to speed at running back. As the season goes, we'll decide whether to play him or redshirt him."
OSU coaches envision the 6-2, 240-pound Central Catholic grad as a bruising, fast back, perhaps along the lines of ex-Beaver great Steven Jackson or former Stanford standout Toby Gerhart.
"Ryan is powerful, with good feet and a knack for running," Riley said. "He has the heart for it. He wants to do it, and we've liked what we've seen."
Nall, receiver Xavier Hawkins and cornerback Dwayne Williams remain the true freshmen most likely to play this season. OSU coaches will go into the season with the intention of redshirting all three, however.
Injuries throughout camp to Bolden, Dockery, Richard Mullaney and Hunter Jarmon have slowed the development of the receiver group. All are healthy now, though.
The Beavers will start with Mullaney at split end, Malik Gilmore at slotback and Bolden at flanker. Backups are 6-4, 240-pound redshirt freshman Jordan Villamin at split end, Jarmon at slot and Dockery and Hawkins at flanker.
The only place where Oregon State is thin on the defensive side is at cornerback opposite senior honors candidate Steven Nelson. Junior Larry Scott will start, backed up by redshirt freshman DaShon Hunt, who returned to practice Monday after missing all of camp with a strained hamstring. Senior Malcolm Marable or Williams is the likely candidate for the fourth corner spot.
"If the one corner holds up, I don't see any holes in our defense," Riley said.
There could be more depth in the defensive line than the Beavers have had since the 2009 season, when the D-line was led by eventual NFL players Stephen Paea, Victor Butler and Slade Norris.
Fourth-year starter Dylan Wynn and junior Jaswha James will start at end, backed up senior Obum Gwachum, junior Lavonte Barnett and redshirt freshmen Baker Pritchard and Titus Failauga. Junior Jalen Grimble will start at one tackle and seniors Bud Delva and Siale Hautau will share the other spot, with juniors Ali'i Robins and Brandon Bennett-Jackson in reserve. D-line coach Joe Seumalo will use at least eight and as many as 10 players in the four-man rotation.
The linebacking crew is set, with seniors Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander starting on the outside and Jabral Johnson in the middle. Sophomore Rommel Mageo will back up Johnson in the middle, with sophomores Caleb Saulo and Kyle Haley on the outside.
Seniors Ryan Murphy and Ty Zimmerman will start at safety, with sophomore Cyril Nolan-Lewis the key man in reserve.
Riley will call plays Saturday, "but I'll be ready, too," says new offensive coordinator John Garrett, who will be alongside Riley on the sidelines.
OSU officials are expecting a crowd of about 40,000 for Saturday's game.
Wynn is sporting a mohawk, with the hair down the middle of his head streaked orange.
"It was spur of the moment," Wynn said with a laugh. "I was getting my hair cut and (the barber) asked, 'Do you want to tint it orange?' I'm like, 'Why not?' A lot of people are looking for a reason, but it's not that the season's coming up, we're ready to go, that sort of thing.
"I normally do a mohawk or fade into it, but I just decided to turn it orange. I walk in front of a mirror and I'm like,
'Whoa.' Going to church, I've got to wear a hat and sit in back. I'm not an attention, look-at-me type of guy. I'm almost shy in public. I guess it's out of character."
So far, no teammates have joined him in the colorful hairstyle.
"I had a couple of teammates say they might do something like it," Wynn said. "We'll see."