Thursday’s Oregon State football practice featured a look into the future.
Veterans spent the day lifting weights, giving center stage to the young underclassmen who didn’t get much playing time — if any — during the season.
It was an opportunity to give the starters some rest before the team leaves for San Antonio on Sunday, and for those younger players to develop more.
There are two more football practices — today and Saturday — to prepare for Texas in the Alamo Bowl before the team leaves.
“We’ve had a lot of good work after practice with the young guys, but getting the chance to focus on just them was great,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “This is a good group. They’ve played hard.”
Coach Mike Riley enjoyed watching the practice. He has seen many of the players grow over the course of the season.
They’ll fill in the holes on the depth chart left behind by the seniors. Riley calls bowl practice for them spring practice part one.
“There are a lot of good guys here,” Riley said. “Come spring practice they’ll make a move to play. This has been a great time for them.”
Riley expects young safeties Cyril Noland-Lewis, Kendall Hill, Zack Robinson and A.J. Hedgecock to make a quick impact. They’ll be used on special teams and one must step in for Anthony Watkins.
Hill has looked athletic, particularly since he missed most of the season rehabbing a knee injury. The extra bowl practice allowed him to catch up.
Lavonte Barnett looked impressive at defensive end, but it’s the defensive tackle position that’s of most concern to Riley. Both starting seniors move on after the season.
“We have to develop guys and recruit them there,” Riley said.
Noke Tago is someone Riley expects to move into the tackle rotation next season. He also signed 315-pound Siale Hautau from Snow College in Utah this week and has a verbal commitment from Kyle Peko from Cerritos College in Southern California.
Tight ends Dustin Stanton, Kellen Clute and Caleb Smith create depth so OSU can continue to utilize the position in multiple ways.
“It’s always good to get extra work,” Smith said. “This bowl practice allows the young guys to get extra reps they didn’t get in the season. We are all getting better.”
Receiver Malik Gilmore showed his off his combination of speed and size running routes. He’s someone who could quickly step in with the departure of Markus Wheaton.
“He has made a lot of strides this year,” Riley said.
Quarterbacks Richie Harrington and Brent VanderVeen were relatively smooth running the offense after a season of mostly running the scout team.
They can make all the throws. Now it’s a matter of seeing the big picture of the offense and making quick decisions.
“They have a good understanding of what we are doing, especially for as young as they are,” Langsdorf said. “I’m excited where they are, being far along in the offense to make some throws and good reads.”
Right offensive tackle Colin Kelly graduates after the season and Gavin Andrews is the likely replacement. Other linemen who worked as guards such as Josh Mitchell, David Keller and Grant Bays have impressed the coaches.
“The line is solid and (running back) Chris Brown is a good runner,” Langsdorf said. “The tight ends are good. We have good young receivers. As a whole it’s a good offensive group.”