It always happens at some point, pre-season practices with the first game action still a ways over the horizon transition from initial enthusiasm to something of a grind. That's about where things are at Oregon St., midweek in week 2, and in the middle of another double day, on a humid day that tires you before you even realize it.
Wednesday's first session saw a lot of work on red-zone offense, and the more compressed space that allows the defense to use the back line to advantage led to a less than sharp overall performance by the offense.
And injury news continues to be be a bigger part of the days' news than head coach Mike Riley would like.
WR Richard Mullaney didn't make it through through practice before the pads came off, and CB Rashaad Reynolds missed another day as well. But the concerning event of the day was OLB D.J. Alexander going down with a right knee injury. Fortunately, Alexander was able to hobble off under his own power for further treatment and evaluation in the Valley Football Center. Riley didn't have an update post practice, but hopes to know more either by the conclusion of this evening's practice, or possibly tomorrow.
There's still no word on either of the JC defensive line transfers Kyle Peko and Charlie Tuaau, and though they aren't ruled out, there is talk of grey-shirting them if much more time elapses, as they would now have a tremendous amount of ground to make up. If they get cleared academically, it will probably depend on a coaching decision about depth.
"Absolutely it would add depth," defensive coordinator Mark Banker said, "but then its a matter of them earning that spot physically, and they have to learn our defense. It wouldn't be the whole volume of what we do, but we would have to find them a spot."
The Beavers did pick up a reinforcement at LB though, as freshman Manase Hungalu was cleared yesterday afternoon. Hungalu is a 6'2" 235 pounder from Kealakehe High was the Big Island D1 Player of the Year last year.
Hungalu left the Honolulu airport at 9 PM last night, and landed at Portland by 7:30 this morning. He was on campus by 9:30, and watched practice today.
"He flew all night to get here," Banker said. "He has to go through the acclimation process, and he made sure today counted as one of those days."
A scrimmage that won't include most of the veterans, even those that are healthy, is on tap for tomorrow, and as such, won't contribute clarity to the question about who will be the starting quarterback, though Riley said he hopes to announce a decision by the end of the week.
Another thing that would be good to see is some emphasis on special teams, something so far left largely on the shelf. And that's concerning this far into pre-season preparation, given that this was an area that could stand some improvement.
Oregon St. was just awful at punt returns last season, with the inability to block anyone in coverage a big part of why Jordan Poyer had to make so many fair catches. Kickoff returns were inconsistent as well, with a number of poor decisions in light of modified touchback rules.
Keith Kostol is regarded as one of the top punters in the country, never mind the conference, but a lot of his great gross-to-net numbers and deep staring position for opponents was a product of Poyer downing punts dropped deeply. Both kicking and covering can't get too many reps. And is anyone ever really comfortable when Trevor Romaine lines up either an extra point of a field goal?
And while its more an issue for the offense, clock management, which had some good moments, like the end of the first half against Arizona St., had degenerated to being inexcusably inept by the Alamo Bowl.
Most football coaches hate special teams work, but its been the deciding factor in a number of games in recent seasons, and as such, needs increased attention its not yet getting.