Oregon State Beavers Preview
  2011 SEASON IN REVIEW:Head coach Mike Riley has gotten himself into some hot water in the last two seasons. After ripping off four straight winning seasons, the last two years have seen the Beavers end on the outside of bowl contention with losing records. Last year was in fact the worst finish by a Beavers squad under Riley.

Embarrassment opened the season for Oregon State as they lost 29-28 at home in overtime to FCS opponent Sacramento State. Three straight losses followed before Oregon State got in the win column with a 37-27 win at home over Arizona. The Beavers split their next two games and then went 1-4 down the stretch with all four losses coming in double-digit blowouts. The only win during that time came at home against Washington (38-21).

At 3-9 overall and 3-6 in Pac-12 play, Oregon State finished as one of the worst teams in the conference. Another season like that could turn Riley's seat from warm to blazing hot.

S 1 vs. Nicholls
S 8 vs. Wisconsin
S 22 at UCLA
S 29 at Arizona
O 6 vs. Washington State
O 13 at BYU
O 20 vs. Utah
O 27 at Washington
N 3 vs. Arizona State
N 10 at Stanford
N 17 vs. California
N 24 vs. Oregon
QB Sean Mannion
WR Markus Wheaton
WR Jordan Bishop
TE Colby Prince
OT Colin Kelly
OG Josh Andrews
OG Grant Enger

DE Scott Chrichton
DE Dylan Wynn
DT Castro Masaniai
LB Michael Doctor
LB Feti Unga
CB Jordan Poyer
CB Rashaad Reynolds
S Anthony Watkins

PK Trevor Romaine

OFFENSE:The Beavers ranked 100th in the nation in scoring last season largely due to inefficiencies in the running game, which ranked 118th nationally.

There are plenty of backs that will try to reverse that downward trend. Malcolm Agnew led the team with 423 yards last season but was slowed by a hamstring injury. Terron Ward is a sophomore but did see playing time in his freshman season. He rushed for 211 yards and a score, ranking third on the team in terms of rushing yards. His backup will be Jovan Stevenson who rushed for 229 yards last season and freshman Storm Woods may also get a share of carries.

While the running game struggled, the passing game did all it could to make up for it. In just his freshman season, Sean Mannion took over for Ryan Katz and was rather impressive, completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did go through the expected struggles with turnovers (18 interceptions) due to his lack of experience, but with a year under his belt should only improve.

Who Mannion will be throwing to is largely the same. Markus Wheaton was the leading receiver a year ago and was one of the bright spots in a dismal season.

"One of the best things about Markus is how he works," wide receivers coach

Brent Brennan said of his star pass-catcher, "He's a great leader for the group

because not only is he our best player at the position he's also our hardest worker."

Wheaton caught 73 passes for 986 yards (both team highs) but had just one touchdown. Jordan Bishop (31 receptions, 384 yards) is a proven commodity and sophomore Brandin Cooks and 6-5 Obum Gwacham will also get plenty of targets.

The left side of the offensive line remains the same as last year with left tackle Colin Kelly and left guard Josh Andrews returning to their posts. Right guard Grant Enger is the other returning starter. The Beavers will be relying on sophomore Roman Sapolu to take over at center. Four-star recruit Isaac Seumalo could fit into the rotation right away.

DEFENSE:The secondary should be solid this season after ranking 46th in pass defense in 2011. Although that ranking certainly doesn't put the Beavers among the elite pass defenses in the country it looks favorably compared to the overall defense which ranked 84th in the country.

Cornerback Jordan Poyer nabbed four interceptions to lead the squad last year and also recorded 57 total tackles. The senior will be paired with junior Rashaad Reynolds, also a returning starter on the outside.

"Jordan is an outstanding player we all know that and Rashaad Reynolds has really stepped up and we have to continue to try to build depth behind them,"

secondary coach Rod Perry said of his unit.

Anthony Watkins, the Beavers' leading tackler from last season (85), had shoulder surgery in the offseason and missed spring practice. He is expected to return for the beginning of the regular season but whether or not the senior can bounce back will play a large role in the defense's effectiveness.

Defensive end Scott Chrichton was a terror for opposing offensive lines last season and will be back to lead the front four. Chrichton recorded 14.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks, both team leading totals, in just his freshman season. He will be joined by returning starters Dylan Wynn and Castro Masaniai. Wynn, a defensive end, had 44 total tackles last season and 5.5 for loss. Masaniai has suffered a broken leg in each of the past two seasons and has yet to finished an entire season healthy.

The linebacking unit is also made up mainly of experienced players. Michael Doctor will be on the outside after recording 78 total tackles last season, which ranked him second on the team. Sophomore D.J. Welch had limited playing time last season but still recorded 18 total tackles. Welch and Doctor provide a great deal of speed off the edge.

Manning the middle will be Feti Unga, who began the year as the starter last season and finished with 67 total tackles despite being slowed by a calf injury for much of the year.

SPECIAL TEAMS:Trevor Romaine will be the starting place-kicker again despite a rough 2011 when he went 15-for-22 on field goals and missed five kicks within 49 yards.

Division II transfer Tim McMullen will fit in as the punter. The Australian junior has only one year of experience, but averaged 41.0 yards per punt in his first season.

OUTLOOK:After two straight losing seasons that have been filled with injuries to key playmakers, Oregon State will be trying to reverse the trend and stay healthy, while picking up some more wins. If that doesn't happen, Riley could be on his way out.

The first two games of the 2012 season could not be more different. First, Oregon State plays FCS opponent Nicholls State, but that is followed up by a huge home game against Big Ten power Wisconsin. Pac-12 play opens up for the Beavers from there who have their next three games against conference opponents, two of those coming on the road. A tough road contest against BYU marks the unofficial halfway point of the season after which the Beavers have tough road games (at Washington and at Stanford) as well as a regular season finale against in-state rival Oregon.

Right now this team is healthy and experienced. If it can stay that way the Beavers may be able to surprise some teams. However experience doesn't mean as much with the team coming off a 3-9 season. Expect some improvement, but not enough to push Oregon State into the postseason.

By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor

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