Oregon State is well into their second week of spring practice, and the process is a "churning" of a lot of experiments, and a lot of disconnected bits of information.
Media coverage and access in general, except for the Saturday open practices, was non-existent, though its now open again to some hand-picked onlookers for only the last 20 minutes, which spawns reports of some random big plays, often hit at the expense of some mish-mash of defensive reserves, or on some play unlikely to see the light of day come the regular season.
Some outlets aren't bothering anymore with the format, and the leading stories seem to be about who is new that is walking on. (Personally, if Andersen, or anyone, thinks preferred walkons are going to be the turnaround of the program, I think you should rewatch a replay of the most recent Stanford, Washington, and UCLA games.)
Being spring ball, its the time to try all sorts of combinations, and to also work on specific things with certain players, and not necessarily with an overall game-plan in mind. Especially when there are so many new faces still trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
Still, there was hope for a clearer version of where the Beavers are headed, and more importantly, how they are going to get there, than the series of fire drills that passed for last season.
Random bits of information and observations of late include:
Safety Devin Chappell, selected one of the captains for spring ball, is now out for the rest of spring, with some injury the details of which aren't clear.
CB Treston Decoud has accumulated enough of a ding (of some sort) to now acquire a red jersey.
(My concern is how is Oregon State managing to get such key players hurt in spring ball?)
Kendall Hill seems, once again, to have started buried on the depth chart, but he's now climbing his way into the regular rotation, as he did last season. Why he didn't start higher on the depth chart confuses me.
Redshirt freshman Omar Hicks-Onu also seems to be capitalizing on the opportunity. At this point, he's one of the players I'll be watching closely, and would suggest others might want to too.
At running back, Damien Haskins has also accumulated some injury, the latest hurdle he's encountered. A detailed injury on some regular basis would help us gauge the duration and significance of this, but that seems to be beyond the current capability at the VFC.
Tim Cook might not be a one year wonder either; Oregon State is appealing to the NCAA to get another year of eligibility for Cook.
Meanwhile, JC transfer Kyle White made a comment that caught me off guard, on the subject of his adaptation to the Oregon State system.
"There's so much to it that they want me to know immediately," White said. "We had simple run schemes at my junior college. But now there's so many motions and formations and ... steps. It's a lot different."
It makes me wonder what the Orange Coast College offense must have looked like; the Oregon State offense under Dave Baldwin and Kevin McGiven was the simplest one in the Pac-12 last year, and so far this year appears to remain so.
Another concerning apparent injury, to an offensive line that's already without Sean Harlow, has befallen Leo Fuimaono (again, no confirmation of details), who was the heir-apparent to the center position last Saturday. Brayden Kearsley and Miki Fifita get their shot as a result, but the effort to get a settled first unit at the position group the offense most needs one isn't reaching fruition very fast.
The anticipation for some of the JC transfers continues to be the talk around campus, and in some articles, and no name seems to come up more often than D-lineman Phillip Napoleon. Yet I read comments like "is likely to start immediately in the fall" and don't see him even rotating in with the apparent first string.
Where, and when, does the story and what coach Gary Andersen, who is personally coaching the d-line this year, is doing, come together?
Defensive Coordinator Kevin Clune said "We definitely don't have a starting 11, or a traveling team, or anything yet. There's a lot of new guys who have to get things done. And then we maybe get a group a little bit solidified, and somebody goes down with an injury, and another guy's got to go in there. That's gonna happen all fall, so we just gotta be able to fight through it all."
Injuries will indeed continue to happen; this is football.
But I continue to have the Arizona, Stanford, Washington State, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon games (Cal doesn't count, because all the involved Bears are gone), replay in my mind, and crowd-funding doesn't seem like an effective defensive strategy.
I'd be more optimistic if Jordan Villamin and Rahmel Dockery were working on timing with the offense as well. Or if I knew how long they might not.
Oregon State is running longer individual sessions this spring than they have in recent years, and longer than what seems to be the new norm in college football, and with no imminent game to get ready for, that's not necessarily an immediate issue. But while a lot of work is getting put in, it also seems to be counter to getting cohesion.
Perhaps some of that will begin to emerge over the second half of spring.