Oregon State football coach Mike Riley was busy in the winter moving the chess pieces on his team.
There are seven position changes as the Beavers head into spring practice, which begins March 29. Four moves shore up the defensive line.
Defensive line coach Joe Seumalo is concerned about finding backup tackles for this season and developing other for the future.
The biggest move is junior Kevin Frahm from end to right tackle behind Brennan Olander. Frahm began last season as a starter but was replaced with a faster pass rusher.
"We've moved Kevin Frahm inside because that will suit his ability best," Riley said. "He played a little bit there last year."
John Braun, Ben Motter and Nate Hannah were offensive linemen but are now on the defensive line. Braun will be an end; Motter and Hannah tackles.
Braun, a redshirt freshman, was a standout on both sides of the line at West Albany High.
"He has a lot of ability and is a good runner," Riley said. "When we recruited him we knew he had two-way ability. We felt we had enough depth at tackle he might make more of an impact here."
Motter, a junior from Philomath, and Hannah, a senior, filled in on the defensive scout team last year. Their success there prompted the moves.
"They did a nice job on the scout team, and I think they'll take advantage of this opportunity," Riley said.
Sophomore Jordan Poyer began his conversion from safety to cornerback during practice for the Las Vegas Bowl. He'll back up senior James Dockery on the left side.
"We moved Poyer to corner, which is interesting," Riley said. "He could play corner, safety or the nickel. We'll let him play and he'll forge his identity some way. If he can play corner, it's a great place to have him."
Redshirt freshman Aaron Magnuson from West Albany makes a slight offensive move, going from guard to center. He and Josh Andrews are being groomed for when senior Alex Linnenkohl graduates.
Sophomore Markus Wheaton moves from flanker to split end to compete with junior Darrell Catchings. The loser will be the backup there and to James Rodgers at flanker.
The timetable for starting outside linebacker Keith Pankey to return from a ruptured Achilles' tendon is July. He was injured in February during a team running workout.
"Pankey will be back, but I hate not having him (for spring)," Riley said. "They think he'll be ready in July. They think it's a four-month (rehab) deal. He sure thinks that, so that's a good thing."
Five others will not compete in spring to recover from surgeries. Starting offensive guard Grant Johnson, cornerback Sean Martin and defensive end Mana Rosa have shoulder injuries. Defensive lineman Mitchel Hunt and offensive lineman Rory Ross have knee injuries.
Wilder McAndrews will try to play again after a series of wrist and hand injuries slowed him. If he can't continue he may retire.
"The injuries are disappointing, but it's good they are getting healthy and should be all good by fall camp," Riley said.
The Beavers nearly graduated everyone the last three years, and expect to keep pace next year, Riley said.
All 20 seniors graduated in 2008 and 18 of 19 in 2009. The only one who didn't was Al Afalava. He never redshirted so he went to school for less than four years before joining the NFL.
This year's senior class is expected to graduate by the end of summer. The projection for 2011 is all 21 will graduate after the winter term. Three will graduate after this spring and start graduate school.
"I have to brag about that one," Riley said.
Comings and going
Redshirt freshman defensive end Tom Black left school to go home to Winnipeg, Canada. He's attending to personal business, Riley said, and could be back on the team in the fall.
Greyshirt offensive lineman Michael Beaton from Dallas enrolled for the spring. He's a 6-foot-2, 284-pounder.
Walk-ons Greg Anderson and Charlie Gilmur joined the team. Anderson is a 5-11, 176 pound cornerback from Portland's Douglas High and Gilmur is a 6-1, 227-pound linebacker from Curtis High in Tacoma, Wash.
Former quarterback Lyle Moevao will work for the Beaver Athletic Student Fund office while he rehabs his ankle injury. Then Riley plans to get him on a United Football League team.
"He won't be ready to go to camp for the CFL, but he can be ready by the time UFL does in August," Riley said. "I've already talked to the personnel people in that league and they will sign him if he's ready."
The players voted on team awards last week. Sean Canfield, Grant Johnson and Michael Philipp were the most improved. Rodgers and Taylor Kavanaugh shared the lunch bucket award.
Moevao was the most inspirational. Dax Dilbeck was the defensive scout team player of the year and Jordan Jenkins and Josh Andrews were the offensive scout team players of the year.