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O-line issues plague Beavers

Injuries make OSU thin up front, with makeshift starters


CORVALLIS — With his unit decimated by injuries, Oregon State offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh has had to make like a blackjack dealer.

“We’re having to shuffle a little bit,” OSU head coach Mike Riley says, “but I still feel pretty good about how it looks.”

Oregon State’s starting interior five in Saturday’s 7 p.m. Pac-12 opener at Utah looks like this: left tackle Michael Philipp, left guard Josh Andrews, center Josh Mitchell, guard Grant Bays, right tackle Isaac Seumalo.

When OSU began training camp a month ago, the inside quintet had Philipp at left tackle, Andrews at left guard, Seumalo at center, Grant Enger at right guard and Gavin Andrews at right tackle.

Gavin Andrews missed the first two games after contracting mononucleosis. In last Saturday’s 33-14 victory over Hawaii, Enger sprained a knee and Roman Seumalo — who took over the starting right guard spot in Gavin’s absence, with Enger sliding to tackle — suffered a season-ending foot injury.

This will be the first career start for Bays, a 6-1, 290-pound redshirt freshman from Oceanside, Calif.

“I’m excited,” Bays says. “It’s a big opportunity for me. It’s going to be fun.

“I’ll be ready. Coach Cav, he prepares everyone. He puts priority on the starters (during practice), but he lets the ‘2s’ get in there, so everyone is ready for the game.”

Seumalo, one of the best centers in the Pac-12 as a freshman a year ago, played tackle after Sapolu’s injury in the second half of the Hawaii game.

“I played tackle in high school, too,” Seumalo says. “It’s not too difficult, but it’s a change.”

Cavanaugh is taking on a brave face about the makeshift lineup.

“Isaac can play anywhere,” the O-line coach says. “He has great hands — he could probably play tight end, too. Josh went through all of spring at center, so he has experience there. Bays has great athletic ability. Once he gets focused, he could be a great player for us. He’s still young, but he’s gotten a lot of reps in practice, too.”

Without Seumalo at his natural position, “you lose quite a bit, but we’re putting the best five guys out there,” Cavanaugh says. “And I know one thing — Isaac can play tackle.”

Seumalo says the newcomers to the starting O-line will do fine.

“Josh and Grant are more than capable,” he says. “We’re a unit that’s been hit by the injury bug, but I’m confident and trusting in those guys.”

Seumalo, who missed OSU’s season-opening loss to Eastern Washington with a sprained knee, is just glad he’s not among the walking wounded.

“I realized when I went through the knee thing that I’d rather be out there if I’m dying than watching from the sidelines,” he said.

The O-line has been superlative in pass-blocking the first two games, but the run game against Hawaii was “terrible,” Cavanaugh says. “We didn’t run the ball worth a lick. That’s all on the O-line and the tight ends. We have to go back to the basics, keep grinding.”