With Spring Camp less than two weeks away, Coach Mike Riley met with members of the media on Wednesday to discuss offseason changes and players to watch when the Beavers hit the practice field on March 28. Riley, who underwent gallbladder surgery this past weekend, said that he was feeling better and was ready to get things kicked off.
"I'm actually thankful for what it ended up being and the new technology. This surgery a few years ago wouldn't have been much fun," he said. "I did not know (what was wrong), but I knew it was something bad. I knew I didn't have the flu, and I knew that it just wasn't an upset stomach. It just kept getting worse, and by the time I got to the banquet and got it started and made the introduction the people at my table said I should go. So Dee and I went to the hospital and that is where I had to spend the weekend."
While he is on the mend, he also discussed a few players who are working to get healthy. Quarterback Ryan Katz had surgery in January to repair a broken scaphoid bone in his wrist. More will be known about his progress after he see's the doctor next week, and while Riley expects to see Katz practicing with the team this spring, he may not be at 100% right off the bat.
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"He had a fracture in his wrist which is sensitive for a quarterback," Riley said. "It was the scaphoid, which is a slow healing bone; we'll be careful and won't rush him if he isn't ready. Our ultimate goal would be to get some reps in the spring but be ready to go 100% in the fall."
Wide receiver Jordan Bishop injured his foot in January playing basketball and will miss spring practice after surgery. There were several options, but surgery seemed to be the best option. Riley said that he was hopeful to have Bishop back at 100% for summer drills.
Star receiver James Rodgers seems to be full speed ahead and according to Riley he is determined to show everyone that he can return and play. He will return with a different look however, as he has opted to wear the #1 instead of #8 this season.
Maybe the biggest news from the meeting was the realignment of the offensive line. After losing center Alex Linnenkohl to graduation, Coach Cavanaugh and the rest of the offensive coaches have been busy formulating a plan to optimize performance for the team.
Heading into spring, the penciled in starters look to be: Mike Remmers at left tackle, Joshua Andrews at left guard, Grant Johnson at center, Burke Ellis at right guard and Michael Philipp at right tackle.
"Well, we thought that the Remmers deal, considering his experience playing and the fact that we have a right handed quarterback made sense," he said. "We talked about it last year and didn't do it, but we thought starting during the spring we could make it comfortable. Grant Johnson was initially a center and we think Josh Andrews will be a heck of a player, but we want to break him in so he doesn't have to worry about his blocking assignments and snapping the ball."
The other big question mark heading into spring is finding a tailback to take the place of departed Jacquizz Rodgers.
Riley is really excited about the possibilities and said on several occasions how the competition was wide open. While Ryan McCants and Jordan Jenkins may look to be the front runners due to their experience, Riley was quick to not discount younger guys like Jovan Stevenson, Malcolm Marable and Terron Ward.
The coaches will be keeping a keen eye on all of the running backs this spring as they look to nail down the depth chart. While Quizz was an every down player, Riley wasn't sure if they'd find that with the current group or if they would rely on running back by committee.
"[Ryan McCants] is in one of those positions with the most experience and has played in games so he's presumed one of the front runners. In fairness to all of them we're going to let them play," he said. "Jordan Jenkins is also in that mode too. Jovan Stevenson played a lot as a third down guy as a freshman and he's 10-15 pounds heavier and he may be that guy. We're going to hit it hard and so repetitions will be big."
"I'm also excited to see Malcolm (Marable) and Terron Ward," he continued. "It is an interesting time for that group with some experienced guys and we're just going to let them play."
Riley also announced that senior full back Will Darkins has left the program to concentrate on his studies.
Without Bishop and Rodgers in the mix at receiver some of the younger guys will get more reps. As of now it appears that Geno Munoz will be moving to slot with Kevin Cummings, Mitch Singler, Brett Ackerman and Will Storey.
At split end expect to see Markus Wheaton, Obum Gwacham and Danny Evans this spring and Darrell Catchings, Micah Hatfield and Garrett Hall at flanker. Rodgers will be waiting in the wings as an assistant coach this spring.
On the defensive front Riley is encouraged by the athletes he see's as ready to step up on the line. While the Beavers lost some incredible talent, the coach is excited about what the future may hold.
Newcomers Rusty Fernando and Blake Harrah have already caught Riley's eye. He said that Fernando has already gained 25 pounds since arriving on campus in early January.
With Dominic Glover, Taylor Henry, Andrew Seumalo and Kevin Frahm as the experienced returners, the coaches expect some big things from many of the fresh faces. Look for Devon Kell, Mana Rosa, Scott Crichton, John Braun, Fernando, Harrah, Mana Tuivailala and Fred Thompson to all receive plenty of reps.
"At defensive tackle there is little experience…but Kevin Frahm is a good one," Riley said. "Castro Masaniai won't play this spring, but will play in the fall as he continues to rest his shoulder. We're excited about Mana Tuivailala and Fred Thompson, a true freshman who will make some noise."
With the loss of Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey, the Beavers are looking to fill both outside linebacker positions, but Riley is excited about his options.
"Cameron Collins has become a veteran," he said. "Shiloah Te'o, I think will make some noise as an outside linebacker. I'm also very excited about Shaydon Akuna and his opportunity and Donell Welch who can run and is a perfect fit athletically for us."
Riley said that the inside linebacker position is filled with experience with Rueben Robinson, Tony Wilson and Feti Unga. He is also looking forward to seeing redshirt freshman Michael Bibbee in the mix.
At cornerback the Beavers will return two starters in Jordan Poyer and Brandon Hardin, but Riley said that he is also very interested to see how Sean Martin, Rashaad Reynolds, Ryan Handford, and Keynan Parker have progressed. Brian Watkins is another player that Riley pointed out as someone who has continued to improve.
Poyer is currently playing with the Oregon State baseball team, but will available for spring practice on Monday's and Wednesday's throughout April.
The safeties look solid with Lance Mitchell anchoring the group. Anthony Watkins is back and has the coaches excited and Dax Dilbeck returns from injury to compete for playing time. Another name that the coaches are excited to see is redshirt freshman Ryan Murphy, whom Riley called a "good athlete."
Riley said that the team responded well during winter conditioning and that he hoped that the disappointing season last year would act as motivation for the team going forward.
"You sure hope it does, you hope that it has made everyone take it up a notch," Riley said. "We've had an outstanding offseason program and you hope that the feeling of what we can do and how we can get there is all very motivating."
The Beavers will kick-off spring practice on March 28. They will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday's culminating with the annual Spring Game on Saturday April 30. Stay tuned to BeaverBlitz as we gear up for camp with breakdowns of each position starting on Monday.
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