QB questions at Oregon State
CORVALLIS — Notes, quotes and observations from Monday's Oregon State practice session and availability with interim coach Cory Hall as the Beavers (1-6 overall, 0-4 in Pac-12 play) prepare for a 6 p.m. Thursday game with 20th-ranked Stanford (5-2, 4-1) at Reser Stadium …
• Oregon State's quarterback situation remains unsettled behind senior Darell Garretson, filling in as the starter for the injured Jake Luton.
Redshirt freshman Mason Moran — who three weeks ago was playing safety — was running with the second team at quarterback on Monday.
Sophomore Conor Blount — who hasn't played this season but was the backup through the first six games — was quarterbacking the scout team.
The problem is that former coach Gary Andersen — who resigned on Oct. 9 — had promised Blount a redshirt year unless in case of emergency.
After Luton went down with a thoracic spine fracture against Washington State on Sept. 16, that would seem to qualify as an emergency situation. Blount, in effect, was one play away from being the Beavers' signal-caller. Oregon State's other quarterback is true freshman Aiden Willard, who coaches intend to redshirt this season.
So Hall is walking the tightrope between honoring his predecessor's commitment to Blount and doing what's best for the team.
If it came down to one or two games left in the season and Blount — who played in four games a year ago and saw significant action against Boise State and Colorado — still hadn't played, preserving a redshirt year would make sense. But with five games remaining on the schedule?
"I'd want to use him," Hall said Monday. "But if Darell just went out with a cramp or something like that, I wouldn't want to burn (Blount's) redshirt year."
So Moran, a 6-3, 195-pound former all-stater from Gilbert, Arizona, who was converted to safety in the spring and has never played a snap at QB at OSU, is preparing to serve as backup to Garretson on Saturday.
Luton, meanwhile, continues to watch practice from the sidelines but isn't near a return to duty.
"Jake is on a really good course as far as healing," Hall said. "If you talk to Jake, he wants to play now. But he's progressing ahead of schedule."
Hall intends to err on the side of caution with Luton, though, which could mean he won't play again this season.
Meanwhile, you might ask, what about Seth Collins, the former quarterback now playing receiver?
Collins missed the Colorado game with an undisclosed illness, but sources say the junior has contracted mononucleosis and is unlikely to see the field this season. If that were the case, Collins — who has played only three games this season — would be eligible for a redshirt year.
Everyone in the Oregon State camp is hoping Garretson can stay healthy for the rest of the season.
"We can't just line up with Ryan Nall in wildcat the whole game," Hall said with a smile. "That wouldn't be pretty. I'd get booed out of Reser."
• Oregon State's run defense will need to be up to the ultimate challenge in facing Stanford's Bryce Love, who leads the nation by a wide margin in rushing with 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games. Hall gives Love his due, but inferred that a great defensive performance can contain any player.
"Love is a tremendous talent," Hall said. "(NFL teams) will require his services on Sunday. But there are a lot of backs (who thrive) in that system. I liken them to the running backs at Wisconsin. It's a pro-style system that features downhill runners.
"Love is very explosive. One guy can't tackle him. He's in the running for the Heisman, and that's great for him. You have to be assignment sound, but if you're ready to line up 11 on 11 and play good defense against that offense, it will sputter out.
"The challenge for us is to be (solid) against Bryce Love and everyone else on that offense. I'm not singling out any one player; they have 10 other guys on that offense you have to account for. It's what that offense produces, not just one player."
• Hall said the Beavers' reliance on the run — which produced 280 yards rushing in a 36-33 loss to Colorado — "was a start." He wants that to continue against the Cardinal.
"They have one running back; we have five," Hall said. "We have an O-line that can move people. You set the challenge, the bar, with the O-line and those running backs.
"I believe you establish the run. Third-and-1, run it. It's football. That's what I believe in. I like that. It's a gladiator's sport. The fun aspect of this game is, 'I'm tougher than you.' I'd like to keep building on that."
That said, Hall holds immense respect for Stanford's defense, long the Cardinals' calling card.
"They're long, they're smart, they're big and physical," he said. "They know where they're doing. It's what you expect from Stanford football. It hasn't changed. It's sound (defensive) football. That's exactly what it is."
• As cornerbacks coach, Hall has always focused on Oregon State players at the position he works with. Now he is watching video on the rest of the OSU defense, as well as the offense.
"I want to know what's going on," he said. "It's on me to familiarize myself with the offensive terminology … I still have to stay involved with the secondary, with the corners, but I need to know what's going on everywhere else (on both sides of the ball), too.
"Now, I ask questions. I am anything but a micro manager. I believe in the guys on our staff and their ability to be professional and put our guys in position to be successful. I just want to make sure on my watch I'm up to speed as far as everything going on offensively."
• Before the Colorado game, Hall met with members of the team's leadership committee — veterans such as Nall, Garretson, cornerback Xavier Crawford and O-linemen Fred Lauina and Gus Lavaka — and decided to honor in-game performances with a pro wrestling-style belt to wear. Nall was donning one on the sidelines during the Colorado game.
"They deemed Ryan 'the king of the belt,' or whatever they call it," Hall said. "It's fun, and I want our guys to have fun. I'd love to have one with a Beaver on it."
Nall, quipped Hall, "should have given it to his doggone O-linemen. As a running back, you do that. And in the NFL, you take them out to dinner."