By Andy / PNW Sports
The Oregon State football team capped off their week of practice in Bend, Oregon with a Friday night scrimmage at Summit High School. Below are some notes and observations I recorded while taking in the 90 min workout.
Great crowd: I was shocked at the number of people that showed up for the scrimmage. It’s obviously not the numbers you would see in Corvallis for an open scrimmage, but it was still pretty impressive. The grandstands were completely full and quite a few people lined the fence around the track.
To make a comparison, last year when the Beavers held an open scrimmage it was well attended but open seats were plentiful. This year, there weren’t even spaces to park in Summit’s lot. I had to park at the North end of the school out on the street. So well done Beaver Nation, and well done Oregon State Athletics Department. It also helped that rather than opening up a standard a practice, the team staged a full scrimmage.
Luton is an upgrade: I realize it’s just one scrimmage, but Jake Luton looked like he was in command from the start. He had tremendous poise in the pocket and showed the ability to make all of the throws. He does have room to improve as he missed on a couple shots that should have been big gains. But as I told my buddies here at PNW, at least throwing a slant route is no longer an adventure.
Aside from his throwing capabilities, Luton seems to have no problem taking command and keeping everyone sharp. For a second week scrimmage communication and execution seemed to be fairly sharp. Again, room to improve, but it looks better than in years past.
I also wanted to make clear that Luton isn’t necessarily the most mobile QB but he’s also not a wooden, cigar store indian (This is how Danny O’Neill describes Carson Palmer’s mobility). Jake can move around enough to buy a little time and he isn’t afraid to get what he can running. It also helps that he showed the ability to get the ball out pretty quick. I’m in agreement with Con that he has a little bit of a Luke Falk presence in the pocket. If he turns out to be half of what Luke Falk is, Beaver Nation should be thrilled.
O-Line needs work: The offensive line struggled with getting a push up front. The run blocking was serviceable, but the pass protection must get better. I have a cautious optimism that they will get much better in the coming weeks. This unit lost three guys to the NFL, so they are obviously going through some growing pains. It’s also worth noting that Gus Lavaka sat out of the scrimmage. Although, Gary Anderson did say if this had been a game he could’ve gone.
I think the best medicine for the offensive line will be repetition. They need to get experience together to form some chemistry. I won’t hit the panic button on this group yet, but they need to get better quick.
Receiving Corps could be special: In my opinion, the receivers stole the show last night. I’m going to group Noah Togiai in with the receivers to make things easier. When the starters were announced earlier this week I was giddy about the size of this group. Jordan Villaman 6’5”, Seth Collins 6’3″, Isaiah Hodgins 6’4″, and Noah Togiai 6’4″ make up the starting pass catchers. That is fantastic size and something that should create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.
So let’s break down the receivers performances. True freshman and gem of the 2017 class, Isaiah Hodgins wasted no time making his prescience felt. The physically imposing newcomer went up and made what was almost a fantastic sideline grab to start the scrimmage. The pass was ruled incomplete because he couldn’t get his foot down with a defender all over him. It’s important to note that he showed great body control and did in fact haul the pass in, but was out of bounds. Others reported that the ball was knocked out of his hands, but that is false. It was right in front of me. Anyway Hodgins looked solid and made another nice play after where he should his hands, speed and strength all in one sequence. I’m excited to see what he can do.
Seth Collins brought the juice to the scrimmage the way only Seth can. The guy I have affectionately nicknamed Lazarus appeared to be back to his usual high intensity, healthy self. Collins made a few nice grabs and showed off his athleticism by jumping over a defender for good measure. The energy that Collins brings to this team is unmatched. He got his teammates going with that hurdle and then proceeded to get everyone on the sideline hyped with a solid 30 seconds of yelling and aggressive celebrations. Seth is without a doubt one of the most important players on the team. His passion is contagious.
Jordan Villamin looked decent, but had some miscues with Luton. After a down year, I hope to see him return to the player he showed he could be in 2014 and 2015. Vitamin J has all of the tools (size, speed, hands) but he just needs to work on being locked in every single day. I’ve been high on Villamin for a long time and I hope his Senior year can be the season he puts it all together. This guy should be playing on Sundays with his physical gifting.
Noah Togiai was the most impressive in Friday’s scrimmage. He caught three touchdowns from Luton and appears to be back to full health after recovering from his 2016 season ending knee injury. Togiai is so athletic and fluid for a big guy. He is the exact type of tight end you would look for in this offense. Having Togiai is a huge weapon as he is a near impossible cover (too fast for linebackers, too big for DB’s).
D-Line accepting challenge: This one’s pretty simple. Gary called out the defensive line and they are responding thus far. They controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night. This unit has so much depth and potential that it would be inexcusable for them to not be dominant. Obviously it would be a huge boost to get JUCO transfer Craig Evans in the fold, but that possibility remains uncertain given his struggle to become eligible.
I would like to see more out of Elu Aydon this season. His camp got off to a rocky start as he did not show up in shape. After a week of extra conditioning, Aydon is now getting reps on the field. If it all clicks for Elu, he can be an absolute game wrecker. I think he will take a step this year.
Tyner looks explosive: This one has me excited. Picking up Tyner in the spring seemed like it would be a huge boost to the backfield depth. But this is Thomas Tyner two years removed from football after medically retiring. I wanted to see if he still had “it” and if his body that failed him in years prior is capable of holding up.
Simply put, Tyner looked every bit the part of a five-star recruit. He still has impressive burst and excellent field vision. You could tell when number 4 was carrying the ball out there. If Tyner holds up, this will be a backfield worth drooling over. Barring injuries, Oregon State will go into the 2017 season with an absolutely loaded stable of running backs. This is without question the most talented position group on the team. I’m looking for two guys to flirt with 1,000 yard seasons.
Battle for the second safety spot will be competitive: Brandon Arnold is locked in and was thumping people Friday night. However the second safety position was left vacant by the hard hitting Senior, Devin Chappell. It’s going to be a hard fought battle for that starting spot. Jalen Moore got the first crack at it and looked very sound. I think the spot will be filled by Moore, Austin Hudson, or David Morris. Moore seems to be the favorite to win the job at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Morris and Hudson find their way onto the field. Morris has received high praise from the coaches throughout his first fall camp.
I could keep going forever on what I saw Friday, but I think I’ll leave it here for now. Overall I liked what I saw on both sides of the ball. I think this team is going to surprise a lot of people on the outside. There is a totally different vibe from years prior. You can just see a swagger and a confidence that was missing. This team has always played inspired, passionate football under coach Anderson, but this is next level. When these guys step on the field they are expecting to win. Gone are the days of being a PAC 12 cupcake. Opponents are going to have some sore Sunday mornings in 2017. I fully expect this team to win 6-8 games. Honestly, their ceiling could be even higher than that if things bounce their way. There’s no doubt in my mind that six wins is absolutely the floor for this team and they believe that. It’s going to be a fun season in Corvallis.
Is it August 26th yet?