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Defense, leaders lead the way in Beavers camp

CORVALLIS — Defense is usually ahead of the offense early in training camp, but it has rarely been as evident as it was during a pads-on scrimmage to conclude Oregon State's Thursday practice at Tommy Prothro Field.

The offense got in its blows -- Terron Ward running over cornerback Malcolm Marable comes to mind -- but in general the defense dominated in a 20-minute live session.

"We played well," linebackers coach Trent Bray said of the Beaver defenders. "We flew around. What's good right now, the energy and competitiveness is awesome. Even in the team periods, guys are battling. Everyone's going at it. It's good right now."

The offense is always going through installation of its system and plays early in camp, which makes it more difficult to establish consistency and allows the defense to capitalize on the offense's mistakes.

"You normally see that early," senior defensive end Dylan Wynn said, "then the offense picks up from there. Our offense is much more difficult than our defense. Defense is mostly through reactions and reads."

"It's that," coach Mike Riley said. "And then there's the simple fact that our offensive line is a work in progress."

Junior center Isaac Seumalo (foot) remained out of practice, watching while wearing a boot. Sophomore guard (back) Grant Bays participated in team drills but was held out of the scrimmage. Junior center-guard Josh Mitchell (shoulder) was able to take part in everything.

O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh experimented, using players at different positions and allowing several players -- including tackle Dustin Stanton and guards Nolan Hansen and Fred Lauina -- to take turns with the first-string offense.

But it was mostly the defense that shined Thursday.

"We're doing really good," Wynn said. "We put in a lot of the defense in spring ball, and we've been executing it. Our defense is already coming together as a unit. Even the second- and third-string guys are playing like they've been here forever."

Other notes from Thursday's drills:

• Riley is pleased with how far the Beavers have come through four days of practice. He pointed to leaders such as Sean Mannion on the offense and Wynn and linebackers D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor on the defense.

"With some older guys who have been around, you can pretty much take off and make it look like football pretty fast," Riley said. "We're just trying to plug in some spots and formulate the whole team and get situations covered. Those are our big issues now."

Riley mentioned sophomore guard Sean Harlow as a leader, too.

"He's a well-respected guy, because he plays and also he's one of the hardest workers," the OSU coach said.

• Junior D-tackle Jalen Grimble, the transfer from Miami, was in the offense's backfield almost as much as Mannion during the scrimmage.

"We knew Jalen was going to do this," Wynn said. "We hopes he keeps it up."

"I think he could be the guy who kind of replaces (end) Scott Crichton as a leader on the defensive line," Riley said.

• True freshman Ryan Nall, who began camp as a tight end, took turns at running back in an extra scrimmage involving young players at the tail end of practice. The 6-2, 240-pound Nall, an all-state running back at Central Catholic, looked at home toting the pigskin.

"I just want to get it right with Ryan," Riley said. "I'm going to try him out at few places. I don't think he wants to hear this, but his best spot might be linebacker."

Will Nall play this year? "If I was saying right now? Yes," Riley said.

• NOTES: Tight end Connor Hamlett (foot) and cornerback DaShon Hunt (hamstring) sat out Thursday's practice. It is unknown when Hamlett will return. Hunt said he will be back in action Monday. … Cornerback Demarlon Morris, who signed with Oregon State in February, will reportedly enroll at Division II Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. Morris, a junior-college transfer, would have had a chance to win a starting job adjacent to senior Stephen Nelson. Hunt and junior Larry Scott are in competition to gain the nod to replace Rashaad Reynolds. … Washington State transfer Rahmel Dockery took some turns with the first team at receiver and made some plays. "I'm excited about him," Riley said. Special-teams coach Bruce Read said Dockery is in the mix to return kickoffs.

Riley said he hasn't yet decided if he or offensive coordinator John Garrett will call plays this season. "We've talked about it," Riley said. "I'm preparing to do it. He's preparing to do it. We won't share it, though. One guy will do it." Then he added with a smile: "I'm going to call the ones that gain yards." … The Beavers worked out of shotgun plenty Thursday, and Riley said they may use it a little more this season. He estimates they were in shotgun between 25 to 30 percent of the time last year. … During the "young guys" scrimmage session, Mannion acted like a coach, working with fellow QBs Kyle Kempt, Marcus McMaryion and Nick Mitchell. "Sean's awesome," Riley said. … Another true freshman who could play immediately is receiver/returner Xavier Hawkins, a 5-7, 170-pound native of Knoxville, Tenn., blessed with water-bug quickness and plenty of speed.

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