CORVALLIS -- Notes from Tuesday's Oregon State practice session in preparation for Saturday's noon game against Colorado at Reser Stadium.
The Beavers' offensive line situation remains dire. But that should be changing.
Center Josh Mitchell (ankle) did not practice and is not expected to play for Oregon State (3-1 overall, 1-0 in Pac-12 play) against the Buffaloes (2-0, 0-0). Guard Grant Enger (knee) remains out, and tackle Gavin Andrews (mononucleosis) has not yet been cleared for full duty but has taken part in each of the last two practice sessions on a limited basis.
That leaves a starting interior five featuring senior left tackle Michael Philipp, senior left guard Josh Andrews, sophomore center Andrew Seumalo, redshirt freshman right guard Grant Bays and true freshman right tackle Sean Harlow. Tackles Nolan Hansen, a sophomore, and Garrett Weinreich, a redshirt freshman, are next up.
After a bye weekend, though, Mitchell, Enger and Gavin Andrews should all be back for the Beavers' Oct. 5 visit to Washington State.
Harlow was thrust into the lineup -- burning a redshirt year -- after Mitchell's injury in the first half of OSU's 34-30 win at San Diego State last Saturday.
"Sean fought and battled," O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "Everything wasn't perfect, but it was a good sign, big time. Grant fought hard, too. They're getting better."
Almost as much a topic of conversation in OSU football circles this week as the identity of the Beavers' new starting middle linebacker, Rommel Mageo, is the pronunciation of his name. "It's ROE-mul Moon-YO."
"It's Samoan, so it's kind of hard to pronounce," said Mageo, a redshirt freshman from American Samoa. "In Samoa, they found it hard to pronounce my first name. Here, it's my last name."
The 6-2 Mageo came to training camp at 245, but has dropped to 235.
"I feel a lot better and quicker," he said.
Mageo made six tackles at San Diego State in the first extended action of his career, playing most of the game in place of the previous starter, sophomore Joel Skotte.
Mageo "did exactly what he was supposed to do, and then some," OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. "He was not only very physical, but he made good adjustments once the ball bounced out of the point of attack. He played physically off blocks and got to the ball."
Mageo reminds OSU coaches of David Pa'aluhi, the Beavers' middle 'backer in 2008 and '09.
"He's a big, physical kid who runs well," linebackers coach Trent Bray said. "He's powerful. The great thing is, he doesn't think too much, he just goes. That's something we needed in that game and something that needs to happen going forward."
Bray said outside linebacker D.J. Alexander, making his second start against the Aztecs after missing the first two games with a knee injury, "played a lot better," Bray said. "His first game back (at Utah) was a little up and down because he'd missed a month. To get him back and going was good to see."
The other outside 'backer, Jabral Johnson, "was solid again. He made some mistakes early, but the outside guys played well."
Overall, Bray said, the linebacking crew needs more consistency.
"We kind of give it a half here and a half there of what we could be," he said.
With long snapper Michael Morovick facing knee surgery and lost for the season, the duties against the Buffaloes will be split between a pair of redshirt freshman walk-ons, Harrison Linsky and Andrew Maughan. Linsky, 6-foot and 220 from Bakersfield, Calif., redshirted at OSU last season while Maughan, 6-4 and 205, graduated from LaSalle High and transferred to OSU from Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah.
"They are talented guys who have been working hard," head coach Mike Riley said. "Linsky has been with us awhile. Maughn, I wish we could wait a year for him. But he'll do our long snapping (punts) and Linsky will do our short snapping (on place-kicks)."
Steven Nelson is off to a great start in his career at Oregon State. The junior transfer from College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., is tied for the national lead with four interceptions and was named Monday as Pac-12 defensive player of the week after his game-winning pick-six at San Diego State.
The 5-10, 190-pound junior has beaten out senior Sean Martin for the starting cornerback spot adjacent to senior Rashaad Reynolds. But Banker wants Nelson to play more consistently and with more toughness.
"Steven needs to pick up the physical portion of the game," OSU's D-coordinator said. "He's not playing as physical as we'd like him to play."