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The Spring Practice Experience: Oregon State

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Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Can you smell it? That freshly cut grass — er, turf? Do you hear the grunts and snap counts echoing through campus yet?

Yes, it’s upon us: spring football.

Some have already started, but here in Corvegas (Corvallis, but that’s what all the cool dudes call it), today marks the opening of spring ball for Oregon State.

And Mike Riley has spoken.

And yes, practices will be open to reporters and the public, something Mike Riley, Saint of all Kindness and Generosity, has always done.

Oregon State practice crowds tend to vary in size, depending on the weather. There’s always a decent contingent watching the endless drills. It’s not that exciting, which always makes me wonder why people stay. Maybe it’s just die-hard fans who sit there, spit seeds and watch dudes sprint back and forth, most of the time at half speed. After all, it’s practice, many times with helmets only. What gives?

Over the years, I’ve chalked it up to general fandom. Fans give a rip, more than seeing who participated and who didn’t on a practice report. They want to see returning star players. Have they gained weight? Have they gained good (muscle) weight? Have they lost it?

At Oregon State, fans will train their eyes on Brandin Cooks, who, after a breakout year as the No. 2 guy behind Markus Wheaton, will become THE wide receiver in 2013. Many say he’s one of the best in the country. How’s his offseason gone? Can he still cut like he did last year? Still jump high? Higher?

Then there’s Rashaad Reynolds, poised to fill the void left by dynamic playmaker Jordan Poyer. Reynolds had minor offseason knee surgery, but is running well according to the Gazette-Times’ Cliff Kirkpatrick. Reynolds, a good tackler in addition to his ball skills, posted 12 passes defended with three interceptions last season. With Poyer gone, the ball will likely come his way less, which, I guess if you’re doing your job right, is a good thing. Reynolds should be just fine.

The thing is, Cooks and Reynolds will take a back seat to Cody Vaz, Sean Mannion and the Beavers’ quarterback controversy. OK, not really a controversy, but Riley will again have to choose between the two. And after last season, in which Vaz started six games to Mannion’s eight, fans are going to make their own assessment as to who should take the helm for the opener. Riley said the two will split spring reps evenly, so he has time to make a decision.

I like to watch the Beavers put in work about every other week. I’m a football fan, don’t get me wrong, but I like to leave drills to the men who’ll compete.

What about you? Will you be at your team’s spring practices?