CORVALLIS — Since the running game needs a drastic turnaround, who the ball carrier will be becomes a spotlight issue.
The Oregon State football team needs a running back who can control the tempo of games, pass block and be a receiver.
After 15 spring practices, coach Mike Riley has an idea how he’s going to approach the fall season. However, he’s not saying yet.
“I won’t talk about it until we get into camp,” Riley said. “We’ll let this play out. We will define it more as we get into the second week. They’ve all had terrific moments. It’s an interesting dilemma.”
Sophomore Malcolm Agnew started most of the games last season, but had recurring long-term hamstring and fumble issues.
Agnew felt some tightness in the hamstring that slowed him this spring, but he held on to the ball. He carried eight times for 32 yards and a score Saturday during the scrimmage.
“I felt like I was sound in my assignments,” Agnew said. “I improved in knowing my assignments and blitz pick up.”
Redshirt freshman Storm Woods stood out as a ball carrier and gained praise from Riley as the best receiver out of the backfield. If he can improve his pass blocking he might win the starting job.
He had eight carries for 37 yards Saturday. The most impressive part of his day was the aggressive running.
“He has entered into this thing, for sure,” Riley said.
Terron Ward, Jovan Stevenson and Jordan Jenkins continue to be reliable. They were a committee used at the end of the season last year.
Riley plans to give incoming recruit Chris Brown a look in the fall if none of them stick.
“We think our runners are good enough to run the ball, but we know the development of the offensive line is the next step,” Riley said.
Only eight healthy offensive linemen competed all spring. Returning starter Colin Kelly worked out a little, but with no contact, since he’s coming off ankle surgery.
Riley praised the work of sophomore Michael Beaton as someone who could challenge for a starting job at guard or center.
However, the incoming recruits are expected to make the biggest different. Corvallis High’s Isaac Seumalo and junior college transfer Stan Hasiak are expected to play, but Riley will look at others.
“There will be a more (incoming linemen) than the couple that we’ve been talking that we’ll look at,” Riley said.
Place-kicker Trevor Romaine was 3 of 5 on field goals. He made them from 41, 33 and 45 yards. He missed wide right from 42 yards and safety Micah Audiss blocked one from 50 yards.
The secondary had three interceptions by safeties Ryan Murphy, Peter Ashton and Audiss.
“They all grew tremendously,” Riley said of the safeties. “They can all play. We just need to find some other corners who can play besides Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds.”
Riley said Santiam Christian High alum Andrew Seumalo, a defensive tackle, is the best player on the defensive line right now.
Riley also feels he has two starting-caliber quarterbacks in Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, but Mannion remains the starter.