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QB Del Rio makes impression at Oregon State

Beavers learning a lot from new offensive coordinator John Garrett


CORVALLIS -- From Monday's first day of spring football practice at the Truax Center …

• Quarterback Luke Del Rio threw his first passes in Oregon State practice gear, displaying what receiver Richard Mullaney called "a cannon arm."

"He throws a really heavy ball," Mullaney said. "It gets right there on you. It's good."

Del Rio -- son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and a native of Highland Park, Colo. -- transferred from Alabama because he felt he fit better in coach Mike Riley's pro-style offense than with new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

Though Del Rio is listed at 6-3 and 210 pounds, he is probably closer to 6-1 -- or at least he appeared that way standing next to QBs Sean Mannion (6-5), Kyle Kempt (6-4) and Brent VanderVeen (6-4). Del Rio was sharp, though, in throwing the ball.

"I liked him when I was recruiting him in high school, and I liked him today," Riley said. "He has been well-schooled technically playing the position. He has a nice, quick release and strong arm, and has good accuracy."

"It was fun," Del Rio said of his first official day as a Beaver. "It was different -- a good different, though. Going from Alabama to the state of Oregon, it's a different climate, different people. But it's going good so far."

Del Rio said Oregon State's offense is similar to what he ran in high school, "more so than Alabama was. It's more multiple, doing stuff with shifts and motions and fly sweeps."

Both the Del Rio family and Oregon State have appealed to the NCAA for immediate eligibility for Luke, who turned down scholarship offers from OSU and elsewhere out of high school and arrived at Alabama as an unrecruited walk-on. The hope is that the NCAA will grant Del Rio eligibility for the 2014 season, making him in effect a redshirt freshman. For now, Del Rio must sit out next season and would have three seasons to play beginning in 2015.

"If you're recruited, it's an automatic 'no,' " Del Rio said of his appeal for an extra year. "But if you are unrecruited, (NCAA officials) look at your circumstances. They came back with a couple of more questions, which was encouraging. If they don't, it's usually a 'no.'

"I'm waiting to hear back from them. It'll probably be within a week or so."

Said Riley: "We have reason to be positively hopeful on this."

There's no question Del Rio has talent. At Alabama, he began August training camp as the seventh-string quarterback. By the second game, he had moved up to third team on the depth chart.

"I was third officially the whole year, but was the emergency backup," he said. Alabama coaches "told me if A.J. (McCarron) got hurt, I needed to be ready to go in. But they didn't want to burn a redshirt year if they didn't have to."

Del Rio already has impressed those around him at Oregon State.

"We're really glad to have him," new offensive coordinator John Garrett said. "He's going to add great depth to the position, and he showed some good physical skills. He showed a good aptitude to be able to call plays and pick up the system, which is not surprising because of his background. I'm looking forward to him accelerating his development as he gets more comfortable with the system."

"I'm just getting to know him," Mannion said. "I threw with him over spring break a little bit. He looks good. Seems like a real smart guy. He's picking things up well. It's going to be fun to have as part of the QB room."

• Garrett already has made an impact, too, replacing Danny Langsdorf as O-coordinator.

"Smart," Mannion said of his new boss. "I'm just trying to learn all I can from him. He knows a ton of football. I'm trying to soak up as much of it as I can. He's always willing to answer a question or teach you something. Being able to talk football with him, having him out there on the field, it's been impressive how much he knows."

"Love him," Mullaney said. "The first day he got here, it was our Wednesday morning run. He came over to me and was like, 'You better not lose one cone drill.' I love his intensity. What he's going to bring to this offense will be really good for us."

"He's precise and exact, pays attention to detail about everything," Brasfield said. "It's really cool. It's a different perspective. I commend Coach Riley for having the foresight to know what we needed to do and who we needed to bring in."

"Everybody likes to hear detail," Riley said. "I had several players say that to me today. The detail with which John teaches is outstanding. He's very smart, but down to earth. I enjoy talking football with him."

Garrett, who spent 15 years as an assistant coach in the NFL, has overseen the installation of Oregon State's offense this spring.

"I thought I was going to be in a position where, regardless of who I hired, I'd do all the installation meetings," Riley said. "But after spending a month with John, I was like, 'I don't need to do this. He'll be just fine.' "

• Garrett already has spent plenty of time speaking with -- and challenging -- Mannion.

"I tell him every day, 'Do you realize you threw for 4,600 yards (last season)?" Garrett said. "And after we watched the (video), I said, 'You know what? It could have been 6,000.'

"There's always room for improvement. He always has to have the mentality that he has to improve every aspect of the game. We're in search of the perfect play, the perfect rep, the perfect technique, the perfect game. We're never going to get there, yet it's the pursuit that always makes you play better."

Garrett will focus much of his attention this spring on the Beavers' other three QBs.

"We want one of them to emerge as the clearcut backup," he said. "It's going to be good competition there between Brent, Kyle and Luke. It will be a situation where they're going to get reps and we'll see who emerges. We have to have Brent and Kyle show they can go into a game and run the offense if anything happens to Sean."

Is there enough evidence from spring ball to make that kind of evaluation?

"They're being evaluated in everything they do, from how they hand the ball off, their position in the huddle, how they lead, how they throw the ball, how they retain the offense, how they take it from the meeting to the field," Garrett said. "This is a whole month of football. Somebody can make great strides in this period of time."

• There was something new at Oregon State's Monday practice. Most of the position groups moved through 10 minutes of "circuit drills," with coaches at four different stations teaching ball security, fumble recovery, tackling and body positioning.

"I thought about this during the offseason -- teaching general football skills to the whole team," Riley said. "For instance, virtually everybody on the team has to be able to recover a fumble. Even offensive linemen may have to make a tackle if there is a fumble or interception, plus quite a few offensive players are on special teams. Every player has to be able to get his hips down, be able to widen and quicken your feet and play with some leverage in an athletic position.

"We'll do it every practice. The drills will change a little bit. We'll rotate our offensive players to our defensive coaches."

As for quarterbacks in tackling drills, Riley said "We'll do it so they won't be in position to get hurt."

NOTES: Former California quarterback Zach Kline, who has made a verbal commitment to Oregon State, will make an official recruiting visit to Corvallis on Friday. Kline, who is attending Berkeley (Calif.) College, is expected to join the Beavers for August training camp. He would redshirt next season and have two seasons of eligibility left beginning in 2015. … Former Washington State receiver Rahmel Dockery, who has also verbally committed to OSU, caught passes from Mannion in Corvallis over spring break. "I heard he was in town and texted him," Mannion said. "It was a cool deal. We probably threw 30 balls, but he was impressive. He looks real fast -- a quick guy with hands." Dockery, who didn't play at WSU last season, will be on hand for August training camp and immediately eligible with three years left to play. … There was no sign of defensive tackle Kyle Peko, but all is not lost. Peko, a transfer from Cerritos (Calif.) College, thought he had completed necessary classwork to be eligible this spring, but the NCAA didn't count one of his classes as necessary core work. One source said Peko was expected to take the class at OSU this spring. If he passes, he'll be eligible in August training camp. … Receiver Jordan Villamin, who has been ineligible to participate in practice or games while at OSU this school year because the NCAA deemed him a non-qualifier, will be in camp in August if he remains academically eligible. OSU coaches are confident it will happen for the 6-4, 245-pound Villamin, who would be a redshirt freshman next season.

Receiver Hunter Jarmon has left the OSU baseball team and participated in Monday drills. "It was his decision to go full-time with football from now on," Riley said. "It was a surprise to me. I haven't talked with Pat (Casey, the baseball coach) about it yet. I was good with Hunter playing baseball." Jarmon is a slotback, "but we're going to work him at split end, too," Riley said. "We're going to train all our guys to play both split end and slot for when we go three wideouts. I wish we'd done that with Kevin Cummings. He could have played more football for us the last two years." … Sophomore Sean Harlow, who started at offensive tackle last season as a true freshman, started at left guard during Monday drills. Junior Bobby Keenan, a junior transfer from American River College in Sacramento, was running with the "ones" at left tackle. "I liked Harlow today," Riley said. "He's in tremendous shape, had a great offseason in the weight room. He gives us some versatility in the line. We have to find out if Keenan and Will Hopkins are ready to go" at tackle. … Mullaney, who caught 52 passes as a sophomore last season, has gained 10 pounds and said he now weighs 202. How will the Beavers replace Brandin Cooks' 128 receptions? "It'll be spread out between the receivers, tight ends and running backs," Mullaney said. "We'll be able to replace that." How many will Mullaney catch? "I haven't set a personal goal," he said. "I'll just do what the coaches need me to do. If they need me to catch 10 balls, I'll catch 10. If they need me to catch 80, I'll catch 80."

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