Receiving battle heats up during spring ball

Receiving+battle+heats+up+during+spring+ball

Keenan Puncocher, Multimedia Contributor

With a lot of attention surrounding who will earn the starting quarterback job for the Beavers next season, an equally exciting battle is taking place amongst the receiving core.

Despite who will earn the starting quarterback job for Oregon State in the Fall, several wide receivers have begun to emerge early in spring practice.

During the offseason the Beavers hired new passing game coordinator Jason Phillips from the University of Kansas where he held largely the same role. Phillips was added to the coaching staff in order to bring new ideas and experience to Oregon State’s growing group of possible receivers.

“The people here are great, the situation is great, the staff has been very embracive and have taken me in and I feel very fortunate to be here,” Phillips said. “I think the one thing we definitely want to do is understand where we are. We are in the Pac-12 where we’ve got to be competitive and every week we’re going to see an opponent that is pretty good.”

Returning to action during Saturday’s scrimmage from injury was senior wide receiver Jordan Villamin who had high praise for his newest coach.

“He has brought us a lot of enthusiasm and at Houston he was an All-American, so we know he has a lot of experience and success and whenever he talks, everyone in the room listens,” Villamin said. “He brings a lot of different tools so that we learn and we’ve got to keep learning from that and keep getting better so come Fall we can show what we’ve done.”

Villman struggled in his first appearance, having the ball intercepted over the middle on a deep pass intended for him from quarterback Jake Luton.

“We’ve gotten Jordan (Villamin) back and we’re still baby steps with him right now,” head coach Gary Andersen said. “We’re getting him involved in the offense and I think he has handled the mental part well. He is excited to be back out here so it’s good that he gives us another big target.”

Also entering the mix on Saturday was returning receiver Trevon Bradford who last season as a freshman played eight games, catching five targets for 60 yards and a touchdown. Bradford looked impressive during the scrimmage, finishing with a team-high six receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown.

Now also in his sophomore season, returning receiver Andre Bodden left his mark Saturday by catching three targets, including catching a perfectly thrown deep ball for 45 yards, resulting in a touchdown. Bodden would finish with 75 yards on the day.

Oregon State’s newest receiver, true freshman, Isaiah Hodgins also took part in Saturday’s action. Having arrived just a few weeks ago to Corvallis, Hodgins is looking to make an immediate impact in Spring ball before the start of the regular season.

“I think Isaiah is doing a great job considering he should still be in high school right now getting ready for the prom and senior day,” coach Phillips said with a smile. “As a true freshman coming in as early as he is, he hit the wall about a week ago but kept climbing and I think he is making strides to get over the wall so we can move forward from there.”

During the scrimmage, Hodgins didn’t seem limited whatsoever as he lead the team with 80 receiving yards on five receptions, including his first touchdown in a Beaver uniform.

“Today went pretty well,” Hodgins said. “I feel I could have upped my performance a little more in the red zone because I’m a big body and that’s where I’m supposed to be the most dominant, so I have to learn how to come down with those balls. But overall, I think I did well but could have done way better.”

Hodgins also had similar praise for his new coach following Saturday’s action.

“He (coach Phillips) pushes me to my full ability every single day,” Hodgins said. “Whether it’s a good or bad play, he always tells me how I can do better and I really like that about him because he never lets me just settle and think I did good enough. He has done a great job coaching me up so far.”

Despite the success from the receiving core on Saturday, coach Andersen made a point of emphasis that the team is still growing and improving with each practice in order to be the best possible unit on game one. Andersen also stressed the importance of players being able to make the big plays early in spring ball.

With new players and a new coach, the receiving core for the Beavers is poised for success in the upcoming season and Saturday’s scrimmage was just a small taste of things to come for a team with wide expectations.

“They know they’ve got a lot of competition walking in here, we’re not afraid to talk about competition,” Andersen said. “It comes down to making special plays at every position, if you just have a bunch of guys that are good solid players out there in the Pac-12, you’re going to lose almost every single week. You have to have special players and we have to be able to make those plays.”

On Twitter: @keenanpuncocher