Defense dominates first two weeks of Oregon State spring practice as Beavers ready for 2-week breather

CORVALLIS – Oregon State hit the break of spring practices Saturday, not exactly the midpoint but a good place to assess progress.
With finals week and spring break up next, the Beavers ended their sixth of 15 spring practices with a 75-minute scrimmage. It was defense-dominated, with the offense having a few good moments but as the coaches like to say, a lot to clean up.
Oregon State coach Trent Bray walked away from Saturday’s practice encouraged, though knowing the Beavers have miles to go. The first six practices have been an introduction to a new offense and different terminology from the staff’s new coaches throughout the roster.
“They’ve handled it well. I’m really impressed with their focus, their energy, the way they work,” Bray said. “There’s things we got to improve on, but from a standpoint of their ability to pick up information, learning and play the way we need them to play, I’ve been very pleased.”
Among things that stood out Saturday were the defense’s ability to force takeaways, and tackling. The scrimmage featured the first live tackling this spring, and Bray thought the defense aced it.
Quick hitters from Saturday and beyond:
Offensive tackle Tyler Morano and receiver Jimmy Valsin are out indefinitely, and at least into the season, with leg injuries. Tight end Gabe Milbourn and offensive lineman Luka Vincic have been on crutches this week, but there was no indication from Bray that they’ll miss preseason camp.
Quarterback Jabarri Johnson, a redshirt freshman transfer from Missouri, has yet to practice this spring. Asked if Johnson will be back when workouts resume April 4, Bray said “I hope so, but wait and see.” Through six practices, most of the first team reps have gone to Ben Gulbranson and Gevani McCoy.
As for McCoy and Gulbranson, Bray said “they’ve had good days and bad days. It’s learning, right? Lot of reads right now, which is new for those guys.” It’s led to some errant throws and reads, which Bray said is to be expected early in the spring.
Defense has won most of the days early this spring, but an area of improvement Bray would like to see in April is the pass rush. “From what I saw today, that was the one thing that I could really pinpoint that we need to get more,” he said.
Bray remains uncertain as to what will happen with final practice Saturday, April 20, which is open to the public. Bray said he’d like to play a game, but “it’s going to be based on health.” Bray said.
Oregon State recently hired Rod Chance to an assistant to coach the secondary, replacing Anthony Perkins. Bray said defensive coordinator Keith Heyward had familiarity with Chance, as they previously worked together at Oregon.
“What he’s done at previous stops, and his energy and who he is, I thought he was a great fit for the room,” said Bray, who said Chance and Heyward will both coach the secondary, rather than split up between corners and safeties.
Bray said a couple newcomers plan to enroll for spring quarter and join the Beavers when practice resumes April 4. Bray didn’t name the players, as they’re transfers who aren’t official until enrolling at OSU.

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