As spring football winds down, Oregon State offensive line coach Jim Michalczik is pleased with the state of his group.
The Beavers have spots to fill at center, right guard and right tackle, so Michalczik has been taking a long look at players at the three positions.
“I’m happy with where they’re at,” Michalczik said. “I think our defense is throwing a lot of stuff at us and we can’t slow down. We’ve got to keep playing physical and that’s the key when you get going is when you play confident you play fast and you play physical. So I’m happy with where our development is. I think we need a little more depth going into this and so I’m looking at some of the young guys to step up.”
Running back Jermar Jefferson can tell the difference since the end of the fall.
Jefferson said he likes the way the offensive linemen have been communicating and has enjoyed running behind the group.
“Our offense line is doing a lot better than last season, just picking it up,” he said. “This year they’re communicating with the calls and stuff so we can be used to doing pass protection.”
The left side is set. Tackle Blake Brandel and guard Gus Lavaka are back as starters and bring plenty of experience to the table. Lavaka (6-foot-4, 358 pounds) had seven starts as a freshman and started all 12 games the past two seasons. Brandel (6-7, 303) has been a starter for the past three seasons.
Spending the past two seasons on the same side of the line has allowed Brandel and Lavaka to mesh as players.
“In terms of football it’s like we’re finishing each other’s sentences all the time. I know exactly what he’s seeing on the field and he knows what I’m seeing,” Brandel said. “We communicate, but sometimes it feels like it’s redundant. We don’t really need to because we’ve just been playing with each other for so long we know how the other guy thinks and I think we complement each other well, too.”
Clay Cordasco (6-5, 316) is at right guard with Brandon Kipper (6-6, 281) at the tackle spot. Cordasco moved inside from tackle.
“He’s a physical guy and so (guard) kind of suits him better inside,” Michalczik said. “He wants to mix it up and tackle you need a little bit more patience and so I think it’s a good fit for him.”
Michalczik said Kipper is a good athlete with length.
“He’s got some technique stuff to keep polishing up that will take him to the next level,” Michalczik said. “There are some things that he puts himself at a disadvantage and if we can correct that it’ll help out a ton.”
Nous Keobounnam is at center. The Beavers also will get Arizona grad transfer Nathan Eldridge at the position.
Also in the OL mix are Joshua Gray, Jake Levengood and Onesimus Clarke, among others.
Joshua Gray has had a good spring for a new guy. For what he’s done just coming in and starting out has been great,” Michalczik said. “He’s played a little bit on both sides and is a very athletic guy. It’s a lot for a guy just coming in and he’s done a pretty good job overall.
“(Levengood) played tackle for us last year, traveled and backed up and played some. We moved him to center, so it’s a learning experience but he’s got a future there.”
Brandel said he likes the way so many of the offensive linemen have been able to step up this spring.
They have been able to gel as a unit and Brandel agreed with Jefferson that the communication has been solid.
“I think we’re pretty deep as an offensive line in terms of guys that could come in and play,” Brandel said. “The first unit right now, I think we look good. I think every guy has stuff that they could individually improve on but for the most part we’re making big improvements over the spring, which is what really matters.”