Good luck has evaded Michael Philipp recently.

If he can capture some good fortune and stay healthy for a full season, the Oregon State football team should benefit.

OSU’s junior offensive tackle returned for spring practice last week after redshirting last year when he had minor knee surgery. He used that time to rehab and to help become a stronger, better player.

Coach Mike Riley hopes Philipp can make the same kind of impact he did as a true freshman in 2009, when he was a starter and freshman all-American.

“The expectations are really high for him,” Riley said. “We need him to be great. I’m glad he’s back and healthy and participating. With his return and the recruits coming in, hopefully we’ll be a lot better on the line.”

At 6-foot-2, 324 pounds, Philipp can be the piece of the puzzle that has been missing for the Beavers the last two years.

He has the size and agility to block Pacific-12 Conference players, and also possesses experience with 22 starts.

“It feels good and I’m excited to be back,” Philipp said. “It’s not fun when you are injured. Now I can just play and enjoy myself.”

After a strong start to his career, things haven’t gone well.

Philipp initially injured his knee the first week of spring practice in 2010 when, despite limited pressure, it locked up on him during a drill.

He missed the last four weeks of the spring after having a scope done to clean out loose cartilage.

He was ready for a strong sophomore campaign but a broken nose and ankle injury in training camp slowed his progress.

Philipp missed some early games, but came back from those injures. A second ankle injury forced him out the last three games of what turned out to be a miserable season.

His starting job was in jeopardy last season as Colin Kelly made a push for playing time. Unable to compete the way he wanted in the spring and fall, Philipp lost the battle.

Philipp felt the problem was the old knee injury, so he had it examined again.

“My knee wasn’t feeling right,” Philipp said. “Certain areas were hurting. It wasn’t correlating with the surgery. We didn’t know what to do. I figured I needed to take a look at it. It ended up I needed to clean something up. It was a good decision.”

Philipp’s surgery left the offensive line’s depth thin. When Kelly hurt his ankle he had to play through the pain because there was no one else to turn to.

Kelly, who had surgery this offseason, is out for the spring but is expected back this fall.

Philipp was able to practice the last few weeks last season, but only in a limited capacity with the scout team.

“He needed that redshirt year,” offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “One, he needed to rehab, but two, he got thrown into the fire as a freshman. He never had that strength (built up) he needed. Hopefully that extra year helped him mature and get stronger.”

OSU hopes to have Philipp and Kelly ready when games start. At this point, Kelly is the projected left tackle with Philipp at right tackle.

Philipp likes the left side better, so he’s out to prove this spring that he’s the best at protecting the quarterback’s blind side on pass plays.

“The year off was helpful,” Philipp said. “There are pros and cons to everything. It’s bad you can’t play but you have to take advantage of the time you can’t play. I got physically stronger. My upper body got stronger when I couldn’t work out my lower body.”

After three of the 15 spring practices, Philipp is still going strong.

Good luck is with him so far.

“I try to worry about the things I can do something about, not what I can’t,” Philipp said. “It’s just unwanted stress. I can’t control getting my knee hurt but I can control rehab and working out. I just want to be the best I can be, and the whole line to be the best they can be.”

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