***** NCAA Football Preview - Oregon State Beavers *****
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: What a difference a year can make. The oft used cliche
may be tired but it certainly fits the 2012 Oregon State Beavers. After
suffering through a 3-9 season in 2011 the Beavers were quick out of the gate
in 2012 and finished with their best record since 2008.
After sitting out the first weekend of the college football season with a bye,
the Beavers were flying far below any radar when they opened the season
against a nationally ranked Wisconsin team. However, on that Saturday the
Beavers stunned the nation by pulling out a 10-7 victory. It wasn't a fluke.
Oregon State won its next five games as well, including important conference
victories over UCLA and Arizona. After the win streak the Beavers had risen to
No. 7 in the Top 25, its highest ranking since the 2000 Fiesta Bowl squad.
The Beavers struggled the rest of the way though, beginning with a 20-17 loss
at Washington. Including that game the Beavers traded wins and losses the rest
of the season, including a disappointment in the Alamo Bowl against Texas.
Still at 9-4 the Beavers far exceeded the severely limited expectations the
2011 team had created. The six-win improvement by Oregon State was the best
one-year improvement in program history.
OFFENSE: Most teams that get to nine wins have their quarterback situation
pretty much locked down all season. That wasn't the case for Oregon State.
Incumbent starter Sean Mannion began the year under center but a knee injury
sidelined him after a 4-0 start. Backup Cody Vaz then came in and after
winning his first two starts, gave head coach Mike Riley more than one option
the rest of the way.
Mannion was a more accurate passer than Vaz as he completed 64.7 percent of
his pass attempts, while totaling 2,446 yards passing with 15 touchdowns. Vaz
threw for 1,480 yards and 11 touchdowns in more than 100 fewer pass attempts
and made better decisions as his three interceptions were 10 fewer than
There won't be a decision about a full-time starter until the end of camp and
Riley may even use both signal callers like he did in the second half of last
"It's nice to have two guys who know what they're doing," Riley said of his
two signal callers.
Each quarterback had plenty of options to throw to last season as the Beavers
had one of the more explosive and productive receiving duos in the conference
and the country overall. One half of that pair is gone with Markus Wheaton
lost to the NFL. That leaves Brandin Cooks, who is perhaps an even more
dangerous threat with his breakaway speed. Cooks caught 67 passes for 1,151
yards last season for an impressive 17.2 yards per reception average. Lesser
used targets like Kevin Cummings (18 rec, 208 yards, TD) will be called on to
line up across from Cooks. Expect tight end Connor Hamlett (32 rec, 403 yards,
3 TDs) to also become a larger factor.
"I feel that the void that Marcus left, one of those guys will step up and be
playmakers and take that pressure off and (opposing teams) won't be able to
do the double coverage, things like that," Cooks said of the group of
receivers around him.
The running game wasn't a strength for the Beavers last season as they ranked
10th in the conference in rushing yards per game (124.4 ypg). Starting running
back Storm Woods' lingering knee issues were part of the reason, though he
still managed to finish with 940 yards and 13 touchdowns. An improvement on
those numbers by a now healthy Woods is anticipated.
Oregon State is fortunate enough to have four of its five starters from last
season back on the offensive line. Sophomore center Isaac Seumalo is the most
intriguing member of that group and could very well be an all-conference pick.
DEFENSE: Even with the loss of All-American safety Jordan Poyer, the Beavers
are still loaded in the secondary. That is primarily the result of cornerback
Rashaad Reynolds returning for his senior season.
Reynolds is one of the few shutdown cornerbacks in the conference after he led
the team with 16 passes defended, while collecting three interceptions and 75
tackles last season. Both safety slots are filled by players with starting
experience with Tyrequek Zimmerman (63 tackles) and Ryan Murphy (67 tackles)
The only player on the defensive side of the field to have recorded more
tackles than Reynolds for the Beavers last season was linebacker Michael
Doctor. Used in an outside spot, Doctor also had 11.0 tackles for loss. D.J.
Alexander (50 tackles, 5.5 TFL) is the other outside linebacker and creates a
nice tandem on the edges both against the run and pass. Finding the right man
for the middle will be key.
The defensive line is another area where there is plenty of returning
production but also a good amount of retooling going on. Scott Crichton
finished with 17.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks as a sophomore. The
productive defensive end teams with fellow returning starter Dylan Wynn on the
line. A number of junior college transfers like Edwin Delva will be called on
to eat up room in the middle. Expect a number of players to be rotated into
SPECIAL TEAMS: Poyer's loss doesn't just leave a need at safety but in the
return game as Poyer was the team's primary punt returner. Terron Ward
averaged 22.5 yards per return as the primary kick returner and may get a shot
at taking back punts as well.
The other specialists are all set. Kicker Trevor Romaine nailed 16-of-18 field
goal attempts last season and 51-of-54 extra points. Keith Kostol averaged a
respectable 41.9 yards average on 59 punts.
OUTLOOK: It's difficult to tell which Oregon State is the real one. Is it the
squad that ran out to a 6-0 record and broke into the top 10 in the national
rankings or the one that was inconsistent in going 3-4 to end the season?
Riley believes it is the former while keeping his team focused on not getting
"The one thing I've tried to reinforce is there are no accidents in this
thing," Riley said. "You've got to go earn everything you're going to get.
Just because of what the team last year did, there's no guarantees about
Unlike last season Oregon State will be in action in the first week of the
season as it takes on FCS foe Eastern Washington to open the campaign. The
Beavers then host Hawaii, play the Pac-12 opener on the road against Utah and
another away contest against San Diego State, before battling Colorado to end
September. A trip to Pullman to play Washington State kicks off the next
portion of the schedule, which gets increasingly difficult as the campaign
wears on. The second half of the schedule includes contests against Stanford
and USC as well as trips to Tempe and Eugene to face Arizona State and hated
rival Oregon in the season finale.
The non-conference slate isn't particularly challenging this season. However,
the conference schedule is less forgiving, especially in the North Division
where giants Oregon and Stanford are expected to battle it out for the crown.
Still, Oregon State will be a team to be reckoned with this season. It just
won't be sneaking up on anyone this time.
08/20 10:55:35 ET