Oregon State football players return to campus for the summer term and voluntary workouts Monday in what begins the final push in training camp preparation.
Coach Mike Riley has practice plans mostly prepared, but he and his staff are working on the final details to begin practice on Aug. 5.
The roster is close to being finalized with grades and test scores being reviewed. He expects players to be ready to go full speed on the first day.
“Our main focus right now is to get those who were hurt during the spring ready, they have to get in shape for football,” Riley said. “And the junior college defensive tackles — Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau — they are good players, but they need to be in great shape. They need a good summer to be ready for the fall.”
Hautau missed most of the spring with a hand injury, star defensive end Scott Crichton was out with a shoulder injury and there were several others.
Safety Kendall Hill (knee) will miss his second season due to injury, while offensive lineman Garrett Weinreich (knee) and offensive lineman Chase Eldredge (knee) are still coming back after missing last season.
Riley expects all his returning players to be academically eligible, so there’s no scramble in summer school. All the junior college recruits are eligible, Riley said.
He’s waiting on some incoming freshmen. There are about four or five questions to be settled.
One facility update Riley hopes to have approved soon is a facelift to the front of the Valley Football Center and additional offices added. His goal is to have that done before training camp.
As these preparations are being made, preseason preview magazines are coming out and are giving the Beavers some respect with similar predictions.
Athlon Sports ranked the Beavers third in the Pac-12 North Division behind Oregon and Stanford. The magazine also ranked OSU No. 25 nationally.
“I generally feel that we should be pretty solid with all we have coming back,” Riley said. “I still have some personal question marks. We have to replace two of the best players we’ve ever had.”
The loss of receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Jordan Poyer still has Riley worried, but he’s also concerned about how the junior college transfer defensive tackles do and the performance of new middle linebacker Joel Skotte.
“Those are all big shoes to fill,” Riley said. “We have to be strong in the interior of the defense. From the coaching end, there’s a lot to do to solidify stopping the run.”
Oh, and there’s the matter of the quarterback. Who will be the starter: Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz? Both are proven winners who Riley is letting compete through training camp before naming a starter.
Mannion was recently voted by teammates as a team captain for the second year in a row. Is that a hint to who will be the starter?
“Not really,” Riley said. “I’m not settling it now. We have two good players who had good springs. They’ve had rough patches. The winner is who can minimize them.”
Riley said even though Mannion is a captain, Vaz could be the starter.
“It’s a sign of respect and commitment to the team and not who is going to be the quarterback,” Riley said of the vote. “Cody Vaz got a lot of votes. A lot of the guys did. That’s a good thing. We can’t let the votes enter into who is going to play.”
Whoever plays, the Beavers are expected to start the season strong with the first seven games being very winnable with several opposing programs rebuilding.
When the idea of starting slower than 7-0 being a disappointment was brought up, Riley dismissed the pressure to achieve that quickly.
“That doesn’t enter my mind,” Riley said. “Every game is tough. We have to play a good game every time. We still have a lot of work to do to be able to do that.”