Oregon St.'s scrimmage Saturday was a lot like a week 1 NFL preseason game. Well, at least half of one, since it only lasted half as long.
Generally, the starters, as a group, got 1 series, and then 1 more late in the scrimmage in a red-zone situation. Some didn't see action at all, and a few were sprinkled into a few other situations, where there was a specific situation on the coaches' checklist, where they wanted video of a specific down/distance/package, or when it was necessary to create some semblance of a reasonable situation in which to evaluate someone else.
Victor Bolden only played 1 series. Jordan Villamin and Isaac Seumalo didn't even do warmups. Jaswha James didn't play either. And Gavin Andrews, whose' left foot is still in a boot, obviously didn't do anything either.
The second string saw some action, but the majority of the day's plays were devoted to third string and beyond players, ones who if we see them in a game, its not because something went wrong, its because a whole lot of things have gone wrong.
The exceptions to that are some of the regular rotation receivers, both at the wide out and tight end spots, where the Beavers are deep, and can run 2 or 3 deep and still not be out of guys who can and should play regularly.
The day's emphasis was on the rushing game, which really meant on rush blocking and tackling, since Storm Woods, though in uniform, worked only on holding onto a football. Chris Brown, still being limited while recovering from his off-season hip injury, worked in some drills, but didn't play in the scrimmage. As a result, Damien Haskins and Ryan Nall got a lot of work in between the tackles. Both will be serviceable as power backs, and both need to be worked into the rotation, but how well Woods and Brown can run the ball will determine whether Oregon St. can mount a rushing game up to coach Gary Andersen's standards or not.
"Most or all of them (players held out) could have played today", Andersen said post-practice, "but we just kept them out. It was precautionary, and also we wanted to put ourselves into a position to see the even younger kids, how they reacted to this environment and a gameday-like setting."
Besides the receivers, the only other starters who got a lot of work were the quarterbacks, since there are so few of them. About the only thing that might have been established is that Nick Mitchell appears to have locked up the 5th string qb spot.
Given that there are only 4 quarterbacks on the roster, and one of them isn't eligible to play, the fact that after multiple interceptions, Andersen stopped play to put red-shirting transfer Darrell Garretson into the rotation was telling.
As far as who will start on opening night against Weber St., nothing has been settled.
The offense is most dynamic, and most productive across the board, with freshman Seth Collins, above, running the plays. There isn't even any reasonable debate about that.
But Collins dropped some snaps, committed a couple of turnovers, and misread some plays too. red-shirt freshman Marcus McMaryion, relegated to scout team duty by Andersen after spring ball, continues to not make mistakes. He threw the better mid-range balls, which amount to Oregon St.'s "deep" game, today too.
Considering that Collins got the reps with the 1s, and McMaryion mostly had to work with 2's and mix and match combinations, that McMaryion continues to earn attention with sound execution is all the more notable.
His attention to details has resurrected his career, and right now, I'd bet Andersen would go with McMaryion, below, if he had a game to win next week.
The general impression after 2 open practices, and a week plus of work, is that the Beavers' starters and "regular" rotation players, their top 30 or so guys, might be good enough to surprise more than a few people this season. Maybe even make a bowl run.
But the dropoff after that is precipitous, akin to stepping off the roof of the Reser Stadium pressbox. If Oregon St. can't stay healthy, this could go way off the rails in a hurry. And with several of that top 30 already missing some of the work, that's concerning to say the least.
There are some promising prospects though, and one of them is freshman wide receiver Paul Lucas. Lucas, above, was the one newcomer I saw today that looks like he can and should see the field extensively. And given that there are 5 other quality wide receivers on the roster, and 4 tight ends that can play, the challenge might be to figure out how to get all that ability into a game plan.
Especially given that we saw tight ends split well out, not just a step or two, and effectively used from those spots. The Oregon St. offense looks like one that would work wonderfully in the Canadian Football League, where using 12 players would be to their advantage.
On the defensive side of the ball, today saw JC transfer Treston Decoud out with the 1s. But since the 1s, at least the secondary, got only 1 series, we didn't learn anything further. Dewayne Williams, who was the second starting corner, was back in uniform after suffering a shoulder injury in practice, and worked in drills, but did not participate in the scrimmage.
It was an important day, if not the most satisfying for the surprisingly small crowd that turned out to watch, because there are still unanswered questions, like "Should Devin Chappell start in the secondary?", "Should the nickel-back be a safety, or a corner?", and "What's the best role for wide receiver Xavier Hawkins?"
And the coaching staff has to decide who would benefit the most from red-shirting, and in some cases, who can they even afford to red-shirt. Those decisions have consequences that reach far beyond this year's W-L record, affecting retention, recruiting balance, and experience in the years to come. For a program needing to climb the Pac-12 ladder, mistakes, or even questionable decisions, in these matters can't be afforded, so the more the coaches have to look at, the better.
Oregon St. will have one more practice open to the public next Saturday before beginning the season.