Spring Practice Day 6 - Defense Controls First Scrimmage
April 8, 2011
The sun made a big appearance at today's football practice, along with Oregon State fans and former running back Jacquizz Rodgers, but the Beaver defense arrived in a bigger way.
In the first scrimmage of spring workouts, OSU's linebackers and defensive backs claimed Reser Stadium's field as their own. The entire defense started the day fired up and ready to take full advantage of their pads.
Sophomore outside linebacker Michael Doctor hurled himself at sophomore tailback Jovan Stevenson in the third series of the day, resulting in an explosion of cheers by the black-shirt defense. Two series before, Stevenson was stood up by senior outside linebacker Cameron Collins. Since his conversion from safety to linebacker in 2010, Collins has continued to grow both in strength and skill.
The hard-hitting Collins did his best to crush sophomore receiver Kevin Cummings, who took a few moments to recover from the blast. Just a few plays before, Collins broke up a 20-yard pass to senior tight end Joe Halahuni. The physical nature of this season's Beaver defense was evident nearly every play, and head coach Mike Riley was happy to see the energy.
"Those were legal, hard, good hits," Riley said. "That's exactly who we want to be. We want to be the toughest team around, and we want to be good hitters. In a game, not only the players get excited, everybody does."
The quarterback group suffered from a potent defensive secondary. Sophomore Cody Vaz ran the first-team offense, as he has this spring while junior Ryan Katz finishes his wrist rehabilitation. Vaz, thanks in part to a 56-yard pass to senior Darrell Catchings, completed 7-of-13 passes for 137 yards. On his opening series, senior safety Lance Mitchell capitalized on a slow read by Vaz and intercepted the ball, But Vaz didn't let the mistake lower his confidence.
Freshman Sean Mannion (7-of-13 for 62 yards) directed the second-team offense and showcased some of his pocket awareness. It was a rough outing for him, however, as he fumbled the center exchange three times and threw two interceptions. Sophomore cornerback Sean Martin robbed the pass and brought it back for a would-be score. Mannion's second interception came at the end of practice, with sophomore safety Levi Levasa as the ball hawk.
The tailback battle was in full force today, as well. Four rushers pushed and cut and squeezed for every yard, but Stevenson came ended with the best stats--seven carries for 48 yards, including a 13-yard play. Senior Ryan McCants was quiet today with just four carries for 14 yards.
Perhaps those making the most noise, performance wise, on the field, next to the defense, were two young rushers: freshmen Malcolm Marable and Terron Ward. Each had his impressive bursts and jukes; Marable has an ability to escape through small seams, and Ward is built a lot like Jacquizz Rodgers--minus the enormous calves. Marable had seven carries for 29 yards, while Ward made the biggest splash with nine carries for 40 yards. Ward tied for the longest single-play gain (13 yards) with Stevenson.
"I think they both have some stuff," Riley said of the two small tailbacks. "I think they made some good cuts. I think they probably learned some things out there. Terron Ward is very, very football savvy, very aware. Malcolm Marable has good quickness and great cutting ability."
Today's scrimmage was for first-down execution only. Fridays will usually be scrimmage days during the spring session.
For up-close gridiron action this fall, season tickets for the 2011 schedule go on sale Monday morning.
And tomorrow evening in legendary Gill Coliseum, members of the Oregon State football team will face off against the Oregon State volleyball team in the second annual "Digging for Dylan" match at 5:00 p.m., benefiting the Sparrow Clubs. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth and students with OSU ID. Cash and check only.