The Oregon State football team lost another defensive starter Monday, hours before the first spring practice.
Senior defensive end Matt LaGrone left the team and school for personal reasons, coach Mike Riley said. He needed to be with wife and two daughters who live in Reno, Nev.
OSU already lost starting middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi this offseason because he joined the military. Outside linebacker Keith Pankey ruptured an Achilles' tendon and his status won't be known until the beginning of the season.
"I knew they were struggling with the right thing to do," Riley said of the LaGrone family. "He didn't like the way it was going. I visited with both fathers, and it came down to he didn't think he could make it work again. The separation was the biggest deal."
LaGrone didn't train with the team much in the offseason. He went home to be with his family and took online classes.
He returned recently and was at a team meeting Sunday night. His departure surprised teammates since he was with them. Pankey hadn't heard about it as he watched practice.
LaGrone visited Riley in his office during lunch to deliver the news.
"I thought we were over the hump with it because he returned to school and was with the team at the initial meeting Sunday night," Riley said. "You could tell it was a hard personal struggle for him. He was going back-and-forth with this for a while. From his viewpoint it's a wise decision to make to do with his family."
LaGrone played in every game last year, taking over as the starter in the middle of the season, and helped turn the defense around. He had 28 tackles and half a sack.
He started his college career as a basketball player at Nevada. He wanted to play both sports there, but wasn't allowed. Football was his primary sport, so he transferred.
LaGrone walked on with the Beavers to follow his brother, Josh, a sophomore safety on the team. He eventually earned a scholarship.
"He made a lot of progress, and played a lot," Riley said. "It's just like Pa'aluhi. We got a guy almost at the stage to get his best football, and he's gone. It's not a good thing at all."
The Beavers are down to three active scholarship ends this spring. Gabe Miller is one starter, Taylor Henry moves onto the first team and there's John Braun, who just moved over from the offensive line.
Walk-on backups are Andrew Seumalo and Devon Kell. Mitchell Hunt and Mana Rosa are out this spring with injuries.
"I think we got good depth," Riley said. "We got young guys coming up who will be good players. Our team will recover and we'll have plenty of guys who do a good job. We hate to lose experience. There's no substitute for good players who have played, and then get better."
Junior college transfer Dominic Glover, who the Beavers signed to contribute immediately, will join the team in the summer.
Another option is moving Kevin Frahm back to end. He began last season as a starting end, but switched to tackle in the offseason.
"We don't want to do that yet," Riley said. "Kevin is a smart player, and we know he can jump in there and play defensive end. But we are not going to abandon his opportunity at defensive tackle right away."
The only other players missing from practice were defensive backs Anthony and Brian Watkins, who couldn't return to school on time due to flight cancellations. They were on the East Coast visiting their father during spring break.
The rest of the first day was centered on the quarterback competition between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich. Both performed well running the offense and made most of the throws.
"Everything went smooth," Katz said. "(Monday) was basic. I'm just anxious, trying to get better every day and hopefully help my team out."
Katz ran with the first team and Lalich with the second string. Riley says it's an open competition, and the Beavers are even looking at redshirt freshman Cody Vaz and Jack Lomax to come to the forefront.
"I'm getting more reps now, and it's a lot of fun," Lalich said. "I'm just looking to be the best I can be. Whatever happens, happens."