April 16, 2012

Day 8 rewind: Give and take

The rain cleared enough on Monday afternoon for the Oregon State Beavers to yet again practice outside in Reser Stadium. It was a spirited day of practice led by an outstanding defensive performance.

Today I focused more on the skelly drills as the offensive and defensive lines moved their work to the weight room and Truax for the second half of the session. That left a lot of time to focus on the skill positions.

"This was a good football day," Coach Riley said. "A lot of good give and take making plays on both sides of the ball."

One of the more impressive units on the field this spring has been the wide receivers. With Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks leading the way, many of the younger guys have stepped up in big ways this spring.

Obum Gwacham has always been a big target, but he's showing that he could be a formidable option down the field as well. He doesn't have burning speed, but he has the size needed to go up against defenders and he's shown a knack to come down with the ball.

Kevin Cummings spent much of the day with the first team at various receiver spots as he continues to show his versatility.

Richard Mullaney continues his progress and seems to be quietly going about his business on the field. While he continues to make big catches and has reliable hands, today we saw his youth on one play.

Playing with the first team, Mullaney went out midfield to make a catch. His effort was stopped by Michael Doctor who rushed in, hit the incoming ball causing it to sail high in the air. Doctor then reached up, plucked it from the air and returned it for a touchdown.

"In particular, besides Cooks and Wheaton, which we kind of had expectations for, I think Obum Gwacham has just made a ton of plays," Riley said. "Kevin Cummings is playing a ton of positions and I think Geno Munoz is doing well. Richard Mullaney is making some plays so we're developing these other guys and developing depth."

Micah Hatfield is another receiver who will see situational action this fall. Today he was running some fly sweep patterns, which may be a great use for him. He's a smart player, but lacks the size (bulk) to take too much of a pounding.

The stars of the day however were the secondary.

I counted four interceptions on the afternoon, and Malcolm Marable nearly had a fifth as the secondary seemed to be in the right place at the right time much of the day.

The Beavers worked on several third down packages today and we saw the return of a nickel back in Sean Martin.

Ryan Murphy continues to grow in his role at safety and sophomore Tyrequek Zimmerman looks to be a quick study as well. Both Zimmerman and Murphy recorded interceptions today and drew praise from Riley.

"Tyrequek and Ryan, those two safeties have a lot of football savvy and athleticism," Riley said. "Peter Ashton, he can make some great plays too."

Ashton is fun to watch. He has a motor that won't quit and he really looks like he just wants to level guys. Sometimes that is exactly what he did, which drew the ire of Riley.

On a few occasions Ashton just flat out hit the receiver. It was never malicious; he was just looking to make a play. He spent time today with the first and second team and I expect we see him contributing this fall. He may end up being a special teams all-star.

At cornerback, Rashaad Reynolds and Jordan Poyer have distanced themselves as the starters. Today Marable and Keynan Parker spent the day with the second team and while they weren't credited with any interceptions, the looked to do a good job in coverage.

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