The Alamo Bowl And Comfort Zones

Oregon St. will be happy to get to San Antonio next week (the Beavers' football team files down Sunday, with the band and most others following on Wednesday, the day after Christmas), and that would probably be the case even if the game wasn't in the climate controlled Alamo Dome, given the winter weather in Corvallis (though the players are working out their arms with a snowball fight*).

But the real issue with comfort zones is with the team's quarterbacks. Rarely do top 25 bowl teams still have uncertainty at the game's most important position when an immediate injury isn't the cause, much less both teams, as is the case with the Alamo Bowl.

Texas coach Mack Brown has decided he's more comfortable with David Ash, the Longhorn's starter most of the season, naming Ash the starter over Case McCoy, who took over for an ineffective Ash against TCU, and started against Kansas St.

Oregon St. coach Mike Riley has expressed confidence in both Sean Mannion, who started the majority of the games this season, and Cody Vaz, who also won multiple games filling in for Mannion. But Riley hasn't found his comfort zone yet, and still hasn't chosen a starter, even though the initial depth chart for the Alamo Bowl shows Mannion first, and there's no "OR" beside Vaz's number.

One thing that will make all Beavers feel more comfortable is the return to practice of WR Brandin Cooks, who is again running drills during the final week of game preparation, though he's still being held out of contact. Cooks will gradually ramp up as the week goes on.

Beyond that, Oregon St. is mostly healthy, with safety Peter Ashton, who is still missing action with a sore hip, the notable exception. Ashton's hip has become too uncomfortable to practice or play with, and will require being rested until spring ball, so he, like Jordan Jenkins, who broke his ankle in the Nicholls St. game, will only be able to watch the Alamo Bowl.

WR Richard Mullaney has decided to play through pain in his shoulder, after suffering rotator cuff damage, and defer repair surgery until after the bowl game. Doctors have determined that Mullaney is in no greater danger of suffering damage than he otherwise would be by playing with the injury. And its a bowl game, something Mullaney doesn't want to miss out on.

Grades are complete for fall term, and as often the case, there are a few members of the program who won't be enjoying the bowl game. The good news is that while Riley didn't divulge names, he did state that none were starters.

One can't deduce a lot from the announced depth chart either, as defensive end Rudolph Fifita and defensive tackle Mana Rosa appear as reserves. Both, along with linebacker Dyllan Mafi, who hasn't cracked the depth chart anyway, were suspended indefinitely by Riley after being involved in a bar brawl at the end of finals week, and Riley hasn't announced any further disposition of their situations yet.

John Braun and Devon Kell have been shifted around to fill in gaps in the second string defensive line, though.

So not surprisingly, Riley's comfort zone is the one where he keeps as many options as possible open.

Bowl preparations continue through the week inside the Truax indoor facility.

* Riley reminded everyone that its against the rules (Coach actually does have rules of engagement for practically everything) to involve "civilians".

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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