Beavs show heart in penultimate home practice

SEAN MANNION

CORVALLIS – The second-to-last practice before the Beavs leave for San Antonio featured a lot of heart. On another front, it's not just the starting quarterback who remains (publicly anyway) in question for the Beavs. Also, a look at the o-line plus a pair of youngsters who impressed.

"I think we are where we want to be," Mike Riley said. "There is a full week plus tomorrow of what would be a normal week to get ready for a game, and I like what we have done so far."

Still, Riley refused to publicly unveil who his starting QB will be heading into the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, although he acknowledges that a decision has been made.

Both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz excelled today during drills, which focused primarily on first down looks and extended runs/play fakes. The QB's threw strike after strike over the middle, and had mild success in airing it out toward the end zone. Riley's vote of confidence appears to be leaning toward Mannion, but I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch.

And as the plot thickens, the questions grow in number. Is it just a question of Mannion/Vaz anymore? From this chair you can add an additional mark – one that begs the question…

Storm Woods or Terron Ward?

There have been hints of competition between the two running backs all week long – Woods and Ward have been sharing carries about 50/50, and both see equal looks when it comes to passing plays – and both Vaz and Mannion are very comfortable unloading the ball to Woods/Ward.

Friday's practice was perhaps the clearest indicator that while the pair can perform well as a dual threat, and Riley may already be doing a little forward thinking – 2013 anyone?

I know what you are thinking - a tailback battle, with only the bowl game to go? It's a legitimate question to ask the football part of your brain, at least when looking ahead to Texas, and more importantly the Texas defense. Who will get the first handoff?

Would the relative consistency, ball handling and more explosive characteristics of Woods be better suited against the Texas pressure and speed set to crash against the Beaver O-line?

Or does Riley go with the stockier, feistier Ward? Ward's height is a considerable advantage in this case. The average Texas defensive lineman stands at 6-3, 270-280. Ward presents himself as a shorter (5-7, 195), substantially evasive weapon with the ability to stiff arm just about anybody. In brief, he has a mountain of leverage he can use against taller defenders like Alex Okafor (6-4) and Cedric Reed (6-6) and especially when it comes to off-center hits.

Remembering of course that a tailback is virtually useless without an adept offensive line leading the way, the big guys up front played with a lot of heart on Friday.

On nearly every down, there was a tremendous push from the offensive line, and the epicenter of power was the interior crew. Grant Enger, Josh Andrews and Isaac Seumalo were on the warpath with the 1's - Josh Mitchell, Derek Nielsen and Gavin Andrews manhandled their assignments left and right. It opened up some big holes for Woods and Ward to fit through.

However, it wasn't like the defense was sitting on the sideline. While the 1's on defense practiced various scenarios near one end zone, the scout team focused on holding down the 1's/2's on offense as much as possible, and one player in particular stood out.

Larry Scott.

Wait, who?

Scott is a redshirt freshman the Beavs seem to be really high on. Scott's impact has been minimal, but he has improved greatly since the fall under the tutelage of Rod Perry and veterans like Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds. Scott tipped a number of passes from both Vaz and Mannion today and showed a lot of athleticism mixed with a strong presence in the redzone. With a little work on making proper and timely reads in the secondary, Scott has the potential to be dynamic in years to come.

Kendall Hill also had a big day on the scout team – Riley and Perry have both acknowledged that Hill is a talent who will get the chance to shine after he recuperates (fully) from being on the sideline for all of fall camp and a good portion of the regular season. Hill, a freshman safety standing at 6-1, 192 possesses solid tracking ability and a nose for where the QB will throw the ball. Hill can be a major ballhawk in the secondary if he continues along the path he is traveling.

Saturday will likely be the day that Riley announces a QB but, ever the elusive son of a gun…

"(Saturday) is kind of the plan," Riley said. "But don't hold me to it. If I don't say anything, don't get mad."

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