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Oregon St.'s stable of big TEs & H-Backs should be a force in the red-zone this season.
Oregon St.'s stable of big TEs & H-Backs should be a force in the red-zone this season.
Photos by Andy Wooldridge

Oregon St. head coach Mike Riley answered the question of the season before anyone could even ask it today, heading off conversation about who will be the starting quarterback next week when the season starts against Eastern Washington.

"I thought they both did some good things, maybe not as much as some days," Riley said in reference to Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion, who are competing for the job, and also to a couple of interceptions, plus a couple of batted balls that were up for grabs. The defense had overall the best of it today, though a fair portion of practice was red-zone work, which is normally tougher going. The offense has less room to work with, and the defense less green space to defend.

Both Connor Hamlett, above, and Kellen Clute, below, continue to be sizable forces, in part because the TE/HBs are sizable, and they are using it well, and both should figure prominently in the offensive game plan for the Beavers this season. Obum Gwacham's length also is an apparent advantage in the red zone. Oregon St.'s big receivers might even be their best weapon other than Brandin Cooks in crowded coverage situations this season. Cooks did demonstrate [again] though that as long as he is still running, a Sportscenter highlight is always still a possibility, even with a QB 3/4 of the way onto the ground, and general chaos having broken out with the blocking.


On the injury front, C Isaac Seumalo didn't last long, but at least the volume of ice the trainers attached to his left knee was smaller than yesterday, and Riley thought he would be back practicing tomorrow, though it won't be a surprise if only in the day session of the last "double day" of the preseason, and he watches during the evening practice, or possibly vice versa, depending on what Riley decides to work on when. In the mean time, Josh Mitchell got a lot of reps today.

OLB D.J. Alexander continues to be "week to week", with a return for the Utah game still the most likely scenario the coaching staff is anticipating.

Micah Hatfield's absence at WR is becoming quite lengthy, but nothing was said about deciding to play Victor Bolden or not, but every day he gets reps with the regular offense makes it more likely he'll get some in games too, and Hatfield's absence is doing nothing to dissuade that.

The most notable development of the day was the first presence of officials, who made their annual visit to discuss rule changes for the season, but much of practice was run with anywhere from 3 to 5 officials, allowing for some false start flags in the red zone, and some useful input to the coaching staff on some details.

The major topic of discussion of course was the rule change to add an ejection to the 15 yards for targeting, hitting with the crown of the helmet, subject to video review. Jack Folliard, an Oregonian who is one of the most experienced referees in the Pac-12, led the crew, and the rules conversation, and also talked to the media afterwards, about the various rule changes, including also revisions to blocking rules, as well as timing rules related to spiking the ball (a minimum of 3 seconds is required to be able to stop the clock using this technique).

There seems to be an appreciation by at least most of the officials that the targeting rule is going to be a touchy matter, and one senses at least some will exercise some judgement in the matter. But we've already seen enough instances where most of a crew is doing a pretty good job, but only 1 or 2 with phantom flag itis can quickly escalate an average Saturday afternoon to the verge of a third world soccer event. It's safe to say its going to be a wait and see situation until we have a few weeks in the books before we know how the targeting rule is going to play out.