Up-and-comers shine at spring game
Obum Gwacham, Storm Woods among fresh faces who made impact
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Saturday’s spring football game for Oregon State let some up-and-coming players shine in front of a crowd, and made the prospects for 2012 look a little more positive.
Sophomore wide receiver Obum Gwacham and redshirt-freshman running back Storm Woods have been two guys that Mike Riley, the media and the fans have all looked at as potential breakouts this spring.
They showed on Saturday that the label given to them isn’t far off.
Gwacham was the star of the day, catching four passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was the highlight of the afternoon, a 44-yard deep ball from Cody Vaz thrown down the sideline that the 6-foot-5 Gwacham caught over the cornerback, and trotted right on into the end zone.
“I can’t act surprised about Boomer, because I really had anticipated this leap from him,” head coach Mike Riley said.
Gwacham has been a guy that has had flashes of brilliance on the field, but you’ll also see him running the wrong route during practice and getting chewed out by coaches for it. Learning and improving is what he’s been using this spring for.
“I’ve been learning a lot from [Markus Wheaton], from Coach Brennan every day,” Gwacham said. “Trying to learn something new from those guys. And hopefully, when Markus does need a break every now-and-then, I’m able to step in and make those big plays.”
And then there’s Woods.
Storm Woods is one of the five running backs involved in the most-publicized question of Oregon State spring camp: who emerges as the starting running back?
Malcolm Agnew, Jordan Jenkins, Jovan Stevenson and Terron Ward all saw some time at tailback in 2011. Woods was a little behind the curve because he spent last fall on the scout team as a redshirt.
But now after spring camp has concluded, it’s very apparent that Woods is considered an equal to those four.
“Who’s going to be the starting running back? I don’t know,” Riley said. “But guys like Storm Woods definitely made a move. He’s in that picture now for sure. And then we’ll decide in fall camp what we’re going to do.”
Woods is aware of the competition too.
“I think it’s going to come down to probably fall camp,” Woods said. “We have a lot of great backs. We’ve just got to battle it out and see where we go from there.”
Woods ran for 37 yards on eight carries Saturday. The numbers might not be there, but Woods passed the eye test, and looks like a legitimate contender to start this fall. Only Jordan Jenkins received more work, carrying the ball nine times for 45 yards.
Besides the coming-out-party for Gwacham and Woods, the quarterback situation may be the most compelling story of the spring game and of spring practice in general.
It’s hard to put too much stock into one spring game, but Vaz’s 21 passing attempts to Sean Mannion’s 15 is interesting.
Though Riley says he loves what Vaz is bringing this spring, there’s still a hierarchy at quarterback with Mannion at the top.
“There’s a definitive one and two, but I think that … you’re always one play away from playing when you’re that second-string quarterback,” Riley said. “That’s the reality of it. You need to have a lot of confidence in that guy and feel like he’s capable of going in and running the team and winning games, and I think [Vaz] is.”
Throughout practice in April, Vaz has looked much better than he did last fall. Being able to have confidence in both quarterbacks — like Riley does — is a positive for this team. Vaz looked like the better passer on Saturday, but Mannion is still improving and is young.
“Cody has had an awesome, awesome spring,” Gwacham said. “And so has Sean. So as a coach, you can’t go wrong with either of those guys. They’ve been playing their hearts out. With Sean, he’ll get mad; he’ll get really mad when he throws a pick. With Cody, he’ll almost want to kill someone when he gets a pick too. It’s good to see that competitive nature from both of them.”
The spring game wrapped up spring camp for the Beavers. There were expected positives and negatives during the last month of practices, but this team did visibly have a lot more hunger and drive this spring.
OSU will begin fall camp in early August, and all the question marks of the spring will start being answered by then.