Notebook: Oregon State Spring Practice - Day 9
Pitre pleased with the running backs
When OSU’s running backs coach Michael Pitre came to OSU, the Beavers still technically had Ryan Nall and had a great chance to keep Thomas Tyner as well.
Unfortunately for the Beavers, Nall turned pro and Tyner chose to start his profession. While the Beavers lost their two leading rushers from a year ago, the position really isn’t all that bleak.
The Beavers have depth with Artavis Pierce, Calvin Tyler, and BJ Baylor returning, plus the addition of Christian Wallace to the group. With those guys in the fold, Pitre is pleased with what his group has shown him through the first couple weeks of fall camp.
“I feel good about our situation,” Pitre said. “All those guys are coming in and working to get better on a daily basis. They are seeking the information and it’s been good. We’ve got to continue to have that thought process of improving on a daily basis and knowing and understanding we have to come in and compete because nothing is going to be given to anybody.”
Conor Blount emerging in QB competition
After being the second quarterback to take 11-on-11 reps in the Dam City Showcase scrimmage at Mountainside High School last Saturday, quarterback Conor Blount is starting to emerge as a candidate as the Beavers’ starter come fall.
Oregon State fans remember Blount as the true freshman walk-on quarterback who then head coach Gary Andersen mysteriously inserted while trailing 31-7 at the end of the first half to Boise State in Reser Stadium in 2016.
Blount nearly led the Beavers to a miraculous comeback against the Broncos as he went 11-of-18 for 138 yards while leading the Beavers to 17 second half points. After a dismal performance against Colorado the following week, Blount played sparingly for the rest of the season.
He redshirted in 2017 and is now a redshirt-sophomore heading into the 2018 campaign. Since his arrival, he’s been lauded for his maturity and ability to throw the deep ball all the while being one of the most respected players on the team.
Blount has his work cut out for him as he’s battling incumbent Jake Luton, while trying to fight off JuCo transfer Jack Colletto and redshirt-freshman Aidan Willard.
Even with the consistent competition and the uncertainty of whether or not he’ll play, Blount is loving every minute of it.
“I’ve been enjoying it for sure,” Blount said with a grin. “Jake has been here and he and I really have a good chemistry. We definitely feed off each other. If he makes a good throw I’m trying to do one better and the same goes for him. Those guys are all my friends and some competitions are a drag, but this one isn’t.”
Blount grabbed more headlines at the Dam City Showcase last week with a beautiful touchdown fade to Isaiah Hodgins but unfortunately, there wasn’t much celebrating as it was the play where Hodgins hurt his left shoulder. Despite Hodgins getting banged up on the play, it showed Blount has very nice touch on his deep throws.
As Blount continues to press on with OSU’s quarterback competition, he knows that a challenge remains in front of him to win the job, and that there are several good things he’s doing and some needs to still improve on.
“One thing I want to work on is staying in the pocket and trusting my reads,” Blount said. “Too much I’m relying on my feet but that’s definitely a strength of mine. But going against defenses like we’ll see everyday, you’ve gotta stay in the pocket too.”
Fitness is key
In the early stages of the Jonathan Smith era we’ve seen him and his staff have a standard on the field about doing everything 100 percent. Whether it’s running to the line in gassers or holding that block a little longer, the Beavers are giving all their effort into being the best football team that can be.
Today we saw that standard being upheld by offensive lineman Gus Lavaka as when he came over for interviews he was nearly out of breath. As the interview went on, he noted that the younger offensive lineman were pushing him to get into better playing shape and that offensive Jim Michalczik is placing a high emphasis on wanting to play fast which requires tremendous stamina and fitness.
“Whew. I’m dying out there,” Lavaka said in a laugh. “I need to get my butt in shape. That’s one thing I need to do is get my sea legs off of me and build on that muscle.”
This is just the most recent example of core values that Smith is implementing in his program piece by piece. There’s no doubt that Smith has a long rebuild ahead of him, but he’s building brick-by-brick a program with high character individuals that will always go the extra mile for their teammates.