Obum Gwacham (86) at 6'5" and 225 lbs., is difficult to handle in the secondary. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
That was the reminder Oregon St. head football coach Mike Riley had for nervous Beaver fans late last week as worries (and injuries) mounted as pre-season practice for the 2011 season reached the mid-way mark.
Riley, of course, was referring to when WR James Rodgers gets up to speed after off-season knee surgery, TE Joe Halahuni finishes re-habbing his shoulder, DT Kevin Frahm, who had surgery to clean up a meniscus tear in his left knee today, and the chipped bone in CB Brandon Hardin's shoulder is healed.
Beaver fans are getting a taste of that this week as well, though. In addition to QB Ryan Katz, who rested his arm Saturday, backup QB Cody Vaz was back to work today as well, after being out a week with back spasms. That's important when you consider that 11 of the 12 Pac-12 teams, Oregon St. included, had to make unplanned quarterback changes under duress at some point last season.
Outside LB Cameron Collins, who has been doing only limited work during the first two weeks of practice, after abdominal surgery 5 weeks ago, also went full speed in Monday's practice sessions, and will participate in the full scrimmage in tomorrow's 2 PM practice.
Freshman WR Brandon Cooks, one of the pleasant surprises so far for the Beavers, was also back to work Monday, sporting a sizable tape job on the ankle he sprained last week, but showing little effect otherwise of the injury.
"Ask any football player, and they will tell you that having to play spectator is the worst feeling,’’ Collins said.
"He’s pushing the envelope a little bit,’’ Riley added. "But that’s what his doctor told him he needed to do."
"It's a good sign to see an athlete come back so quickly, after just four and a half days, from an injury that should have kept him out a week," Riley noted.
Cooks' return, along with some progress by redshirt freshman Obum Gwachum, could be critical if Rodgers' return is delayed for some time to come, a possibility Riley is managing expectations for.
"We have a pretty good picture of where he is right now,'' Riley told the Oregonian's John Hunt Monday. "And that is 'not ready' at this particular time. The fact that he still can, when running fast, sink his hips and come out of the break, which is how he really made a living at his position, those are good signs. It’s not there yet, but maybe it’s coming.''
Gwachum, at 6'5" and 225 lbs., a full 10" and 35 lbs. bigger than Rodgers, couldn't be a bigger contrast to Rodgers, but is certainly an imposing challenge for any secondary.
Katz doesn't seem to mind the difference though, noting "With 'Boom', I just have to throw it in the vicinity."
Halahuni hopes to get clearance for full contact this week when he visits the doctor, and RB Jordan Jenkins could get his contact clearance after shoulder surgery this spring by next week.
DT Castro Masaniai, who got off to a late start to fall practice until he cleared up his legal issues, and safety Tyrequek Zimmerman, who switched positions from wide receiver just a week ago, both have worked their way quickly up to #2 in the depth chart as the third week of preparations for the 2011 season began as well.
But for all that good news, there were some new concerns Monday as well, as TE Tyler Perry turned an ankle, and WR Danny Evans hurt a knee. Perry's concern if of greatest concern because of the lack of depth at his position until Halahuni is back in action, and may play into Riley's decision about which weekend he will have Connor Hamlett take off as a result of the party that Hamlett co-hosted that got out of hand just over a week ago.