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Running back B.J Baylor, center, attempts to avoid the pursuit of Isaiah Dunn, left, and Omar Hicks-Onu during the spring game. Dunn and Hicks-Onu are part of a secondary that has been steadily improving during training camp while Baylor is also catching the eye of the coaches after a strong spring. 

Oregon State first-year secondary coach Blue Adams loves to watch his defensive backs compete during training camp.

Still, Adams, who took over for Greg Burns, who left for a position at USC, knows the secondary is still very much a work in progress. The goal is simple right now: to keep improving each day.

“They come out here, work to get better every day,” Adams said after Friday’s practice. “So as we continue to go through camp we’re going to continue to see what we can do, continue to put more on these guys and see at the end of the day what we do well and what we should include into the package.”

One nice thing for Adams and the Beavers is the group is deeper and healthier than a season ago. That means many players are getting a look to see how they might be able to contribute this season.

“No rotation yet just getting guys snaps and see how plays out,” Adams said. “But I think everybody needs an opportunity to show what they can do so that’s kind of where we are right now.”

One of the areas Adams has been happy to see is how tight-knit and together the position group has been.

“I think those guys do a good job of just bringing someone along with them,” he said. “You never see one guy studying by himself, you never see one guy working out by himself. That’s good to see in the secondary considering the fact we all depend on each other.”

The players seem to like the approach that Adams has taken since he arrived on campus just before spring practices.

“He’s hard on us and he works us,” junior Isaiah Dunn said. “He also is able to joke around at the same time which is good. But when you step on the field it’s time to go and he preaches that go go go go. … He’s just really energetic and he brings the best out of all of us and I appreciate that.”

The secondary has been more aggressive in training camp, something the group talked about. While Adams is new, the returning players are a year into the system and that has also helped their development and leadership.

“We have guys who have played in more games,” Dunn said. “Obviously last year it was a lot of guys’ first time touching the field. This year we’ve got guys back and healthy. I hope it stays that way for the first game and the whole season.”

Running backs impressing

The Beavers know what they have at running back in sophomore Jermar Jefferson and senior Artavis Peirce. While they are likely to get the bulk of the carries, others are not shying away and showing what they can do.

Redshirt sophomore B.J. Baylor had a strong spring game and has performed well so far in camp.

“He’s had some good runs in the run game this week,” coach Jonathan Smith said Friday. “He’s earned those reps. I like the way he’s going. He’s good in protection and is physical. You need to have a few backs.”

True freshman Ta’Ron Madison has also made an impression.

“As a freshman coming in in the spring his head was just spinning and learning everything,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “I think things are starting to slow down for him a little bit and he’s starting to just play faster and I’ve been really impressed with his ability to just make a decision and get vertical, because he’s a downhill runner and we’ve seen some good runs out of him the last couple days.”

QB battle

Jake Luton and Tristan Gebbia continue to battle for the statrung quarterback position. So what is Lindgren looking for out of both of them?

Consistency.

“I think that’s the big deal for those guys is to come out and make it every day where they’re taking steps to improve their game and getting on some of those younger guys that are having to step up on offense and keep challenging them to push their game to another level,” he said last Thursday. “I’ve been really pleased with those guys. I think they are pushing each other and we’re seeing results from it.”

Offense progressing

Lindgren has been pleased with the way the offense has progressed the first week or so of camp.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of positive things on both sides of the ball. I’ve been really pleased with the way Tristan and Jake have a really good rhythm with the offense. The first team, particularly, I’ve been very impressed with. I think we still have some work to do, but overall I think we are so much further along than we were at this time last year.”

Bradford still out

Senior receiver Trevon Bradford is still out of training camp as he recovers from an injury, but his absence is more a precaution than anything else.

Smith said Bradford could possibly return at the end of the week. He won’t need much time to get up to speed once he returns, the coaches say.

“I think he needs a little bit just to get into his own rhythm but I think as far as his understanding of the system, he’s out there taking a ton of mental reps and he played in it last year so I think the transition will be pretty quick for him,” Lindgren said.

No depth chart

Smith said it’s still too early in camp to really put together a depth chart because there are so many new faces on both sides of the ball.

“Across the board there’s some competition going on,” he said. “There’s nothing set ones and twos because you’ll see some flux of different guys getting turns with the ones or the twos. We’ve got some young guys who have been in a week or so in camp and you never know where they’re going to head and they’re going to continue to get chances at it this next week.”

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald