The impressions from the first open practice of spring ball at Oregon State, coming after 1 week of work, won't be as meaningful as those from the spring game in 2 weeks, but they do form an important point of reference. How much the team progresses over the next 2 weeks can only be assessed relative to today. And will be more important.
The issue most fans are most interested in is the competition at quarterback, even though its anticipated that Coach Gary Andersen intends to go with transfer Darell Garretson, and nothing that happened today indicated otherwise.
The first thought that struck me was how small Garretson looks on the field. He just doesn't look like the 6' he's listed as, and that's going to pose some problems. I saw what Jonathan Smith was able to accomplish despite having a small stature, but there is a reason the prototype quarterback is somewhere between 6'3" & 6'5".
I was interested to get my first look at Garretson with something other than a scout team, and also freshman Mason Moran, and at this point, I'd bite the bullet and go with Moran.
Make no mistake, he's not ready, but starting from the experience driven premise that Marcus McMaryion is not a Pac-12 starting quarterback, now reconfirmed, then Oregon State may as well get on with getting Moran up to speed. He has the best arm and the best legs of the 3 quarterbacks, but then so did Seth Collins, and that didn't seem to matter.
Garretson's release is the slowest of the group, and he struggled with off target snaps, something that was more common than anyone wanted to see, but also something likely to be seen some more this fall. And there were more passes off the back foot, or no feet, a mechanics problem that plagued the departed NIck Mitchell all last year as well, than one would want to see.
Also, there's no option in the read option with a small, slow runner.
On the other hand, the player who most jumped out at me today was JC transfer running back Tim Cook. Ryan Nall appears well set as the starter, but Cook, above, looked faster, and is very similar to Nall in terms of being able to run over people.
Toward that end, there were a few plays where both Cook and Nall lined up flanking Garretson.
The apparent starting offensive line from left to right was Trent Moore, somewhat surprisingly ahead of Will Hopkins, Fred Lauina, Leo Fulmaouo, Gavin Andrews, and Dustin Stanton, with Kammy Delp spelling both Lauina and Andrews at guard, and the towering 6.8" Blake Brandel also seeing action at right tackle.
This because Sean Harlow is out indefinitely, with his right ankle wrapped, and him using a cart similar to what we grew used to seeing Isaac Seumalo wheel around on during his injury recovery.
Other players who saw little or no action Saturday included LB Ricky Ortiz, WR Jordan Villamin, who had a noticeable limp, WR Paul Lucas, and CB Treston Decoud, though Decoud absence was about getting reps for newcomers at corner than any issue with him. He's cemented at the right corner spot.
TE Caleb Smith appears fully recovered, but also appears to be a lost soul, as the current offense seems to have no clue how to utilize him.
And speaking of the offense, remind me who the offensive coordinator is? It sure looked like Dave Baldwin was still running the show.
With Villamin watching, the offense ran a lot with Victor Bolden and Hunter Jarmon at wideout (and this offense doesn't get beyond a 2nd read or receiving option), with Xavier Hawkins and freshman Trevon Bradford behind them.
The number one defensive front had Baker Pritchard and Sumner Houston flanking Kalani Vakameilalo. If the Beavers had to play a game tomorrow, the starting linebackers would be Jonathan Wlllis and Bright Ugwoebu on the flanks, with Manuse Hungalu and Kyle Haney in the middle, with Caleb Saulo and Elu Aydon backing them up.
Brandon Arnold is entrenched at the deep safety, and both Devin Chappell and Dwayne Williams saw extensive action at corner. Expect to see both in nickel situations.
Freshman Shemar Smith did look like he will be a factor at outside linebacker as well, but the interesting thing I noticed was Cyrill-Noland Lewis, normally the "up" safety, actually up in the area where an outside linebacker would normally be. This could be something being explored to try to find some speed on the edge rush, which doesn't otherwise have been successfully addressed from last year, where the lack thereof wrecked a defense that otherwise wasn't as bad as their stats would lead one to believe. That has to be a serious concern.
A new name that made a few plays in the secondary was freshman Omar Hicks-Onu.
That said, this year's defense is behind where last years was after the first few practices.
At this point, the offense seems to be get it to Bolden in the open, get it to Nall, above, with a seam, or get it to Cook on the edge, and start praying.
The 2 best plays of the day were completions to Bolden, one a seam route over the middle, and the other a go route up the numbers, above, for a touchdown.
But both came when Bolden got isolated on an inside cover DB, and with NO safety help anywhere over the top. Given that Bolden's speed and importance are no secret, its unlikely anyone will ever get caught in that kind of coverage.
The Beavers will next be on display next Saturday, in another open practice at Hillsboro Stadium, before a third and last look in 2 weeks in the spring game.
There's plenty of work to do in the meantime.