As of Wednesday, August 28, 2013
CORVALLIS — At the start of fall camp, Mike Cavanaugh stoodon an Oregon State practice field and discussed his offensive line withmeasured enthusiasm.
The ninth-year Beavers assistant reasoned that his 2013group — a crew that featured four returning starters and a solid crop ofbackups — could become the best offensive line he has ever coached.
But Cavanaugh is feeling a bit less cheery as the Beavershead into their final stretch of preparations for Saturday's season opener againstEastern Washington. After enduring a host of setbacks over the past threeweeks, Cavanaugh must make due with a severely undermanned offensive line.
"I don't really want to think about it," he said of hisdepth Monday. "It's a big concern obviously."
That worry starts with right tackle. Sophomore GavinAndrews, who seemed poised for a breakout year as the line's lone new starter,was diagnosed with mononucleosis late last week and will likely miss theBeavers' first couple of games.
Cavanaugh initially penciled true freshman Sean Harlow in asAndrews' replacement. After all, there weren't many other options. Backupguard/tackle David Keller retired earlier this month, and left tackle GarrettWeinreich is still grappling with a nagging knee injury.
But Cavanaugh decided to switch his plan after Monday'spractice. He told Harlow that senior Grant Enger will start at right tackleagainst the Eagles, while junior Roman Sapolu fills in for Enger as thestarting right guard.
"Obviously it's tough," said Harlow, who will likely stillplay this season. "I was excited to start, but (Enger) has more experience andhe kind of knows more of what he's doing."
The shakeup is nothing foreign for the Beavers. Coach MikeRiley said he has historically viewed offensive linemen as "interchangeableparts" — they fit in where necessary.
At this point, Enger and Sapolu should slide in relativelyseamlessly at their new spots. Enger played some tackle as an underclassman,and Sapolu logged time at guard earlier in his career.
"Roman's a good player, and Grant's a good player," leftguard Josh Andrews said. "Whoever's on my side, I feel confident."
But right tackle is hardly OSU's only gig that may requirean unexpected starter come Saturday. Center Isaac Seumalo has missed about aweek of practices with a bruised left knee.
Riley still has "high expectations" Seumalo will playagainst the Eagles, but it's becoming a distinct possibility Josh Mitchell willget his first starting nod. The sophomore, who practiced at guard and centerthroughout camp, figures to be a solid do-everything option.
Outside of Mitchell and Saturday's projectedstarters, the Beavers only have one available offensive lineman — sophomoreguard Justin Addie — with previous playing experience.
It's a situation Cavanaugh said he's only encountered"probably one other time" in his 26-year coaching career. So it'sunderstandable if he no longer feels the same level of excitement he felt earlyin fall camp.
"It's just one of those situations you've got to deal with,"he said.