CORVALLIS — Oregon State redshirt freshman Malik Gilmore figured to struggle finding minutes at split end this season.

CORVALLIS — Oregon State redshirt freshman Malik Gilmore figured to struggle finding minutes at split end this season.

With Obum Gwacham and Richard Mullaney vying to replace the departed Markus Wheaton in the starting lineup, the Lakewood, Calif., native seemed to have little chance of improving on his third-string status.

But Gilmore moved over to slotback Saturday to fill in for projected starter Kevin Cummings, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. And though Cummings returned to action during the Beavers' first of two practices Monday, Gilmore, a former three-star recruit, stayed in the spot. It could be a permanent move, coach Mike Riley told reporters after the more-than-two-hour session.

"We're very thin (at slotback)," Riley said. "We're trying to look at two-deep and he's got a real good chance to be two-deep at slotback. I think he could be pretty good."

Riley believes the 6-foot-3, 213-pound Gilmore possesses the versatility required of slotback. He has solid hands and speed and can use his physicality to block more at the new position.

Gilmore's switch will likely mean fewer minutes for senior Mitch Singler, the South Medford High School product who enters his final year of eligibility with four career catches for 64 yards.


QUARTERBACK WARS: Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz both performed well as they continued to alternate reps in Monday's first practice. Vaz opened the day with a beautiful toss to a wide-open Brandin Cooks, and Mannion responded during his first turn under center with a bomb to tight end Kellen Clute.

Vaz tallied the only interception of the day when cornerback Larry Scott stepped in front of Cooks and ran untouched for a would-be touchdown.

After practice, Riley said "yes" when asked if he's noticed any separation under center. But after a hearty laugh, he said, "No. There's no separation really. Really, we're just letting them play and looking at it hard. It's very difficult."

He added that he hopes to make a decision by the end of the week.


KELLER RETIRES: David Keller has left the team and retired from football, Riley said. The sophomore offensive lineman made the decision after sustaining a concussion during fall camp last week.

Keller, who had three years of eligibility remaining, sat out last season after transferring from Fresno State. He left his hometown Bulldogs before the start of the regular season, and never appeared in a college game.


INJURY UPDATE: While a couple players returned from injury Monday, some notable Beavers sat out of the team's early practice.

Though Mullaney and tight end Tyler Perry weren't in pads, tight end Caleb Smith and safety Tyrequek Zimmerman joined Cummings back in drills. Mullaney is no longer using the crutch he had with him at Saturday night's practice.

Riley said that tight end Will Hopkins, who has missed time with a toe injury, is his only player who could be out extended time.

The freshman had an MRI Monday morning, Riley said, and the toe "looks horrible." Even before the injury, Hopkins seemed a strong candidate to redshirt.


REDSHIRTS DECISION: Riley said he also hopes to decide which players to redshirt by the end of the week. At this point, he's considering to not redshirt three or four freshmen.