April is over, and so is Oregon St.'s spring drills, with only Saturday's Spring Football Showcase left. Activities get underway at 10 AM, with the all-player autograph session commencing at 10:45, and the scrimmage in Reser, which will be televised by the Pac-12 network, to follow at 1 PM.
WR Richard Mullaney and TE Connor Hamlett were the most notable spectators at today's practice, and whether either take the field Saturday will be a Saturday decision.
Hamlett's absence will be more of a disappointment than a problem going forward, and the tight end position group is a deep and talented as any on the field, including the linebackers. But Mullaney's spring, which began with him battling illness, and ended with a sprained ankle, has cost valuable reps as Oregon St. looks to sharpen up the wide receiver group, which needs to replace the production of not only Brandin Cooks, but also Kevin Cummings.
Speaking of the linebackers, this week also brought news that MLB Joel Skotte, who underwent neck surgery this spring to address a ruptured and a protruding disk, and is rehabbing related concussion issues, will not play this fall.
Skotte, who will be a junior this fall, remains on the team, and on scholarship, but will either red-shirt this coming season, or possibly work with the team in an off-field capacity, while his neck recovers.
"He's not having any more pain after the surgery, which is good," linebackers coach Trent Bray said. "We're not really sure what the future holds. You don't want to rush anything with a neck injury, so we'll just have to wait and see."
With Skotte on the shelf, the backup at middle linebacker for Jabral Johnson will be sophomore Rommel Mageo, who made several starts after Skotte suffered injuries and struggled to regain starting form last year.
The linebacker group is easily the deepest unit on the defense, with sophomores Darrell Songy and Caleb Saulo backing up D.J. Alexander, who has had zero residual ill effects after surgery right before Christmas that caused him to miss the Hawaii Bowl to correct bone spurs in his neck, and Michael Doctor on the outside.
Freshman Michael Greer, who grayshirted last year to correct a problem with a single class he retook in high school that the NCAA didn't approve, and incoming 3 star recruit Ricky Liuchan will provide additional depth at LB, which as a position group appears to have returned to the leadership of the defense role it once held in the Mike Riley system.
Coming out of camp, the other main concern besides how wide receiver will shake out, and possibly a bigger concern, is the offensive line, and specifically left tackle, where JC transfer Bobby Keenan appeared to be adapting well early in spring practice, only to fall out of favor with Riley and/or offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, who have tried Will Hopkins of late, and even moved Dustin Stanton from tight end to tackle in their search for a primary protector for quarterback Sean Mannion.
The problem with both Hopkins and Stanton are their overall weight, as both are undersized for the position, which isn't one that's got a returning injured player to plug in. And while Oregon St. could move Sean Harlow out to left tackle, that will mean he won't be at guard, where he's been working all spring to good effect.
Keenan could recover his position with a good summer, and it will be one of the main things to watch for come August's drills.
With at least some full speed series in the playbook for Saturday, how the somewhat banged up offensive line that's missing center Isaac Seumalo as well as replacing 3 graduated seniors holds up will be one of the most important things to watch, and the factor that's most likely to prompt Riley to cut the action short.