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OSU spring game will be 'good work,' especially for backups

CORVALLIS — Mike Riley has watched a few of the televised spring games throughout the country in recent weeks. Oregon State's veteran coach notes the glorified scrimmage sessions have been consistently inconsistent.

"They run the gamut," Riley says. "I've seen full scrimmages, quarterbacks live, and I've seen no tackling at all. And I get it. You have to do whatever your team is capable of, knowing the ultimate objective is to do something to better your team for the fall.

"There's no advantage to trying to win the spring game — whatever that means."

Nobody will win the football segment of Oregon State's "Spring Showcase," which includes Friday competition in baseball, softball and track and field.

There will be no score kept during the intrasquad scrimmage that begins at 7 p.m. at Reser Stadium and will be aired by the Pac-12 Networks, with Ted Robinson handling play-by-play duties.

Will the TV coverage add motivation for the players?

"A little bit," junior safety Ryan Murphy says. "But really, it's just another practice for us with more cameras."

Riley says he will "mix up the competition," pitting the starting offense against the starting defense, the second-string offense against the second-string defense and so on.

"Then maybe some ones against twos, and twos against threes if we have enough threes -- that's our biggest issue," Riley says. "And we'll mix every special team in. We'll do everything full speed except tackle -- hit but don't bring (the ballcarrier) to the ground. It's not totally realistic, but there will be a lot of good work involved."

Junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz, going head-to-head for the starting quarterback job, will get an equal number of snaps and will probably swing between the first and second units.

"I try not to psyche myself out about the spring game," Mannion says. "The format is going to be more like a practice, but it's really important to finish on a strong note in spring practice. That puts you on the right track going into the summer."

There could be only two running backs -- reserves Terron Ward and Chris Brown -- available. Starter Storm Woods took a hit Monday and was watching in sweats during Tuesday's practice session with what Riley called "concussion-like symptoms." Even if Woods plays, it will be pretty much a cameo role.

"A lot of the veteran players are going to be limited," Riley says. "Guys like Murphy, Brandin Cooks, Michael Doctor, D.J. Alexander, Grant Enger, Josh Andrews, Michael Philipp -- I'll probably give them a dozen plays and they'll be out."

Riley sees some benefit from the spring game.

"With the crowd and the hype, it's good particularly for the younger guys," the OSU mentor says. "It's a little different feel than coming out to (a regular) practice. Some of them get a little uptight about it. There's a process in learning how to handle that.

"We have a pretty good idea who quite a few of the starters will be. We're looking for the next group, for good backups. We need to develop people, and we need people to step up and be able to play.

"We're looking for good execution, for technically sound football."

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