Beavers look to Brandel to hold line
CORVALLIS — The plan was for Oregon State senior Sean Harlow to roll into the season entrenched in his left tackle spot.
That would allow players like redshirt freshman Blake Brandel to continue to learn and develop at the position.
Plans don't always pan out in football.
Harlow is still working on getting ready from the ankle injury that sidelined him since the Colorado game last season and he might redshirt this season.
With Will Hopkins also out for a time with a concussion, that leaves Brandel taking the bulk of the reps.
"It's what we prepare for," Brandel said. "This whole team is next man up because it's football, people are going to go down.
"So we all practice the same and it's just next man up right now. It sucks that people are getting hurt, but you've got to be prepared for when that happens."
Offensive co-coordinator Kevin McGiven said Brandel has done a good job while trying to digest a lot at a key line spot.
"There's always going to be growing pains there. He's a young player and there was a lot being thrown at him during fall camp, a lot of different looks, so he's trying to tighten down technique and at the same time he's trying to learn the entire system," McGiven said. "The thing about Blake is he's a really smart player and so some of the deficiencies he's got right now physically sometimes he makes up for mentally, but I think Blake's going to be a really good player for us.
"But it is a lot of weight. You've got the quarterback's back side and there's some pressure there. Generally, you're going to put your more athletic of your tackles and your longer of the tackles on that left side and so I think Blake will be able to handle it. He's worked extremely hard to this point in fall camp because I think he does feel the pressure of being a starter, but a young guy is going to have some growing pains there."
Brandel does have the prototypical length and size coaches prize for left tackles.
He's 6-foot-7 and at 296 pounds wants to get even bigger.
Left tackle is also a natural spot for Brandel, who has played it since his high school days. That gives him an advantage over the linemen that might have only played inside or at right tackle.
"I love playing left and that's what I've been working on lately," Brandel said. "I have no problem, I'm going to do whatever the team needs me to do. If they need me to switch to right, I'll switch to right. But right now I'm playing left and I'm loving it. I played left tackle in high school and I'm a little more used to it, but it's wherever the team needs me to play, I'm going to play."
Harlow and senior right tackle Dustin Stanton have both gone out of their way to help Brandel in any way they can.
Brandel said he sees them as older brother types and looks up to them.
"They're like player-coaches," Brandel said. "I'm learning a ton from them and they've got all the experience, the experience that I don't have right now and so they're helping me out a ton. I'm extremely thankful for them."
There's plenty to work on. Brandel says he wants to add size, get his strength up and has been trying to hone his hand skills.
"It's an endless thing. Even the best guys got stuff to work on," he said. "There's a ton for me to work on and like I said, Sean and Dustin are helping me out a tremendous amount and coach Woods is a tremendous coach. You can't do anything perfect. That's the thing about football. You've always got stuff to work on. So yeah, I'm getting a lot of help from those guys."
Brandel is from Milwaukie and went to Central Catholic. He has been an OSU fan since he was a kid and went to games regularly. He said he knew for years that he wanted to play for the Beavers.
Even so, he put off his commitment for quite some time. He had offers from Nevada, Colorado and Washington State and said he was talking to California and Washington.
"I think it was just pressure from everyone else. Everyone was like, 'you've got to see what's out there,' and that's true, but I remember when I decided," Brandel said. "I was driving home one day from playoff football practice or something like that and we had practiced pretty late at night and it was kind of dark out, just driving, and I was like, I don't know what I'm waiting for. Just commit to Oregon State. That's where I want to be. So it's kind of funny how things work like that."