Brandin Cooks had another good day on Saturday, highlighted by a couple of big catches of passes from Cody Vaz, as Oregon St. went through their first double day. But beyond Cooks, things are getting dicey, as injuries are piling up in the receiving corp. None are considered "serious", but there could be concern if any become "nagging".
WR Kevin Cummings was in sweats for the third day in a row, and today he was joined by fellow projected starter Richard Mullaney. Mullaney was on one crutch, trying to keep pressure off a hip-pointer. And WR Micah Hatfield was out Saturday as well, also with a hamstring pull.
Compounding the problem, 2 of the TEs had to take the day off as well, as both Caleb Smith and Tyler Perry didn't don their pads for the second full pad, full contact practice of the preseason. With the team taking Sunday off before another double set of practices on Monday, head coach Mike Riley did think Smith wouldn't be out long.
"I think he is going to be all right. I think he tweaked something," Riley said, "and he should be OK by Monday at least."
With so many of the 1s and 2s out, the offense wasn't as sharp as it has been earlier this week, with mishanled handoffs, and incorrect routes and dropped passes more prominent today.
RB Tyler Anderson continues to have to have his knee, rehabbing from ACL surgery, wrapped and iced before practice is even over on a daily basis as well. Anderson, who made a quiet but substantial contribution last season, may not be ready by the opener against Eastern Washington on Aug. 31.
Riley was riled up after the mid-day practice, over both sloppy play, and the fumbles that resulted, and also some of the rough stuff that's resulting now that the teams are banging each other pretty hard.
"It creates piles, piles create injuries," Riley said. "We try to have a drill to recover a fumble instead of having 12 guys on our team all diving after the ball in practice. There's a way to do this thing so that we can still practice."
Saturday evening's practice, in shells instead of full gear, was devoted primarily to 3rd down plays.
"When we do doubles, we devote the evening session to situationals," Riley explained. "Monday night will be red-zone stuff."
Observers may have noticed a lot of time this first week being devoted to the passing game, which some might not have expected, given that Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have both spoken several times about Oregon St. wanting to be more balanced offensively this year.
That's more a reflection of where the question marks are, though. Obviously, Riley wants as much data to evaluate the quarterback competition between Sean Mannion and Vaz, but there are also lots of questions about who is going to fill the gap left by Markus Wheaton at WR, and the recent injuries haven't helped that matter a bit.
Hopes of getting Obum Gwacham going hinge on reps, and lots of them, but there's also the question of whether freshman like Victor Bolden, Hunter Jarmon, and John Carroll should play or redshirt. Can they contribute enough to warrant using up a year's eligibility? WIll they need to? And which one(s)? Its likely they won't all play, and Riley had said he doesn't want to waste a season for a player if they would be better served with a year's seasoning.
Riley also pretty well already knows what he has in his running backs. Storm Woods and Terron Ward are well-established, and are entering their 3rd year in the program. And while those that didn't attend the spring and fall practices haven't seen red-shirt freshman Chris Brown, he's got a lot of reps in practice in over a year in Corvallis.
The likelihood is that there will still probably something on the order of a 60-40 split in favor of the pass over the long haul, but the run game will have a sizable role. One Riley already has a good idea as to what he can expect from.