VanderVeen shows progress for OSU
Various injuries nag Beavers
CORVALLIS A report from Oregon State's early Monday practice session at Tommy Prothro Field
The offense had good moments in both seven-on-seven and full team scrimmage sessions, with quarterbacks Sean Mannion, Luke Del Rio and Brent VanderVeen all making several on-target down-field completions.
While Del Rio, the redshirt freshman from Highland Ranch, Colo., continues to rank No. 2 on the depth chart behind Mannion, the progress of VanderVeen has become apparent. The 6-4, 215-pound sophomore from Arroyo Grande, Calif., has made strides in his throwing motion and looks more comfortable in the pocket than he was a year ago.
"Brent is a different player than he was a year ago," said one OSU receiver, who asked to remain unidentified. "I like Luke, too, but I think it's going to be a competition between the two through the rest of camp."
There are plenty of "minor" injuries -- the type that shouldn't keep a player from missing the Aug. 30 opener vs. Portland State, but are causing missed practice time, which is troubling at this time of year.
Among them: receiver Victor Bolden, linebacker D.J. Alexander and cornerback Dashon Hunt (all hamstring), tight end Caleb Smith (thigh) and receiver Richard Mullaney (hip).
Bolden, not in pads, served as unofficial coach to promising true freshman receiver Xavier Hawkins through practice.
Alexander said his strained hamstring "is getting better day by day," he said. "I think I'll be back soon."
Hunt thought he would return to full action Monday but watched the contact drills, apparently giving the hamstring more time to heal.
Smith took a knee to the thigh Friday and said it is still sore but that he would return to action "soon."
Mullaney's hip flexor is the result of taking a few hits since the beginning of camp. It's not serious.
Then there are starting offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo (foot) and Grant Bays (back). Seumalo continues to wear a boot over his surgically repaired left foot and Bays is being held out of scrimmage sessions. There is no guarantee either will be able to play in the opener against the Vikings at Reser Stadium.
Coach Mike Cavanaugh opened the first full-scale scrimmage Monday with this starting unit: 6-5, 340-pound junior Gavin Andrews at left tackle; 6-6, 310 sophomore Garrett Weinreich at left guard, 6-3, 290 junior Josh Mitchell at center; 6-4, 295 sophomore Sean Harlow at right guard and 6-4, 270 sophomore Dustin Stanton at right tackle.
"We'll probably make a decision by the end of the week if Stanton can be the guy," Cavanaugh said afterward.
Coach Mike Riley tries not to play favorites, but he admits grad assistant Yvenson Bernard -- a star tailback for the Beavers from 2004-07 -- is in a special class of those he has had in four decades of coaching.
"Ev knows our offense so well," Riley said. "He knows how to talk to those guys. Plus. he's just a great mentor. You shouldn't say this, but when you rank physical toughness through 40 years of coaching, he's right up there at the top. He knows what it's about. I'm so proud to have him back."
Two players who have gained notice on the defensive line weren't even playing actively at the position a year ago.
Jalen Grimble, starting at tackle, redshirted last season after transferring from Miami. Obum Gwachum, competing for playing time at end, was a receiver until this season.
Riley said he believes Grimble can have the type of impact on Oregon State's D-line that Scott Crichton had in 2013. Grimble likes the fact that coach Joe Seumalo isn't letting anybody on the front four take things for granted.
"You want it to be easy, but it's not supposed to be," the 6-2, 305-pound junior said. "Coach Joe has us on a good path. We're getting there. We can't look too far ahead. Have to take it day by day."
From a personal standpoint, Grimble said, "The first thing you have to focus on is dominate, and then dominate every play. With that comes conditioning and technique. Joe drills technique. What he teaches, if you do it every play, there's no reason why any offensive lineman in the country should be able to handle you. I believe in everything he tells us, because it works."
The Beavers' opener will be Grimble's first live action in nearly two years. Will he be rusty?
"I practiced all last year," he said. "The way they've been pushing us out here, if there is any rust, it's getting knocked off. I appreciate the coaches. They push us when you don't want to do it, and that's what you need."
The 6-5 Gwachum has gained 20 pounds since the end of last season and now weighs 240. At the least, he is ticketed as a third-down pass-rusher on the edge. At the best, he'll challenge junior Jaswha James for starting duty opposite Dylan Wynn.
"It's been a great change for me," Gwachum said. "It would have been nice to make the change a year earlier so I had a year under my belt and could really focus on my senior year. Even so, I'm trying to learn fast, and it's been fun.
"I just want us to have a great season. I'm looking forward to doing anything possible to help contribute to that."
Gwachum, who placed sixth in the high jump at 7-1 3/4 in the 2012 Pac-12 championships, concedes he is probably done as a high jumper.
"It's tough to carry all that weight over the bar," he said with a smile. "But I still think I could clear 7 feet."