Oregon State Preview

Saturday afternoon in Corvallis features a meeting between two teams desperate to get back to their winning ways.

Offensive Personnel

To creatively use an expression for what surely must be the first time, Corvallis, Ore., truly is "Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood".

All facetiousness aside, for the past three to four years, Jacquizz and his older brother James have been scattering through the Pac-10 in the run game, pass game and on special teams, becoming two of the most durable, versatile and dynamic skill players in college football.

The Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman, Jacquizz Rodgers ranks as the active career leader in the FBS with a 109.1 per-game average in rushing, and may surpass the 3,000-yard mark against ASU, standing at 2,946 yards through less than two-and-a-half college seasons.

By no means a one-trick pony, Jacquizz caught 78 passes last season and has 114 for his career and is a reliable threat in the short-distance pass game.

However, all-in-all Jacquizz has been held below his standard in three games this season, totaling 253 yards on 60 carries with four touchdowns, over 25-yards-per-game short of his career average entering 2010.

Not to be outdone by his kid brother, James Rodgers is OSU's career leader and ranks second in the FBS in career all-purpose yards (5,630) and earned First-Team All-Pac-10 recognition in 2009 after receiving 91 passes for 1,034 yards and nine scores. Thus far in 2010, James has hauled in nine passes for 113 yards and one touchdown.

Also a threat on kickoff and punt returns, James has 1,419 career rushing yards on 161 carries with nine scores, having effectively perfected the Fly Sweep early in his Beaver career.

Aside from the Rodgerses, Joe Halahuni – listed as more of an H-back than a traditional tight end – is Oregon State's most accomplished skill player, standing as the top receiving ‘tight end' in the Pac-10 from 2009 after catching 35 passes for 486 yards that year. His 2010 campaign has been no disappointment so far, as he has caught six passes for 85 yards with a team-high two touchdown receptions.

In his first year as a starter, Ryan Katz has been less-than-stellar in his early attempt to supplant standout passer Sean Canfield. In three starts, Katz has completed only 46.8-percent of his passes with only 460 total passing yards; however to his credit he has tossed five touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Also able to scoot for yards, Katz is in the plus on net rushing yards (18) despite being sacked eight times in three games.

Skill production has be scarce outside of the Rodgers brothers and Halahuni, as Jacquizz has rushed for 253 of the team's 328 yards, while the trio has combined for 22 of OSU's 37 receptions and four of the five touchdown catches.

Aaron Nichols has started two games at wide receiver, collecting four receptions for 42 yards, while Markus Wheaton has one start and has hauled in a pair of receptions for 41 yards and is OSU's second-leading rusher with 39 yards on four carries with one touchdown.

In a reserve role, Jordan Bishop is the Beavers' fourth-leading receiver with five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown, while Darrell Catchings and Jordan Poyer have both worked their way into the stat books as contributing wide receivers.

Behind Jacquizz Rodgers, the only pure running back to record a carry is former walk-on Jordan Jenkins, though Jenkins has barely accomplished that feat with only one three-yard rush to his credit.

Brady Camp, Colby Prince and John Reese are listed on the depth chart at tight end/H-back but have not recorded any offensive statistics this season.

For several years the Beavers have put forth a solid offensive line, often times grooming underrated players into big-time contributors.

Four of the five first-stringers have started each of OSU's three games – left guard Grant Johnson, center Alex Linnenkohl, right guard Burke Ellis and right tackle Mike Remmers – while left tackle Michael Philipp rejoined the starting lineup in week two after missing the first game due to injury.

Linnenkohl earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 recognition last season and has started 29 consecutive games, while Remmers has 23 career starts including 16 straight. Last season, Johnson started all 13 games, as did Philip as a true freshman in 2009, netting multiple Freshman All-America honors.

Offensive Expectations

Though Oregon State boasts tremendous talent in the two Rodgers, the Beavers rank 113th in the nation and dead last in the conference in total offense (270.33 ypg.), generally a product of a lack of threats in the pass game.

With Katz unable to establish himself thus far, defenses can schematically cheat to contain Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield. Until Katz is able to fully acclimate to his role, the Beavers won't be able to keep defenses honest and the Rodgers brothers will not have ample opportunities to showcase their dynamic skills.

Against the Sun Devils, ASU will do all it can to rattle Katz and force him into bad decisions. ASU's front seven is expected to be ready to attack Jacquizz Rodgers and dare Katz to be the difference maker. If he can be, he can opportunistically attack the Sun Devil secondary, but if ASU is able to pester him in the pocket, ASU could take dramatic control of the game.

Defensive Personnel

With the talent and experience that the Beavers have up front on defense, it's downright mystifying that the defense as a whole has mustered only two sacks in three games.

The line is powered –literally and figuratively—by beastly senior Stephen Paea (10 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sack), a forceful tackle and YouTube sensation for his bench press feats of strength.

Brennan Olander (six tackles, one TFL) joins Paea along the inside of the starting line, while senior Gabe Miller (11 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks) and Taylor Henry (eight tackles, 2.5 TFL) are the first-string defensive ends.

Junior college transfer Dominic Glover (six tackles, 1.0 TFL), Kevin Frahm (four tackles, 0.5 TFL) and Castro Masaniai (two tackles) are the primary reserves on the defensive line, however on the whole the line has a significant lack of established depth.

Oregon State will be without the services of its leading tackler, Dwight Roberson, and in his place the unit will be led by the rotation of Tony Wilson (17 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sack), Keith Pankey (16 tackles, 1.5 TFL), Feti ‘Unga (13 tackles) and Arizona native Rueben Robinson (10 tackles).

Uani ‘Unga (five tackles) and Keo Camat (five tackles, 1.5 TFL) add reasonable depth at linebacker for the Beavers, while Cameron Collins (seven tackles), was recently moved from safety to SAM linebacker and brings an athletic—albeit inexperienced—presence to the ‘backers.

In the secondary, upperclassmen James Dockery (13 tackles, one interception) and Brandon Hardin (19 tackles, two pass breakups) are slated to start at cornerback, with Jordan Poyer (five tackles) and Rashaad Reynolds (five tackles, one fumble recovery) as the primary reserves.

Talented junior Lance Mitchell (27 tackles, one interception), one of the league's better safeties, starts beside Suaesi Tuimaunei (24 tackles, one forced fumble), with Josh LaGrone (one tackle) and Anthony Watkins (four tackles) positioned behind them.

Defensive Expectations

Through the struggles the Beaver offense has endured, the defense has not been much of a saving grace, ranking 108th in the nation and ninth in the conference in total defense (458.3 ypg.) and 99th in scoring defense (31.7 ppg.), while only two teams in the nation average fewer sacks-per-game than OSU's 0.67.

With ASU's high-powered offense (…first time in about five years that has been said), which ranks 12th in the nation in total yards (495.0 ypg.), Steven Threet and all his buddies are licking their chops at the opportunity to burst the dam and flow up and down the field at Reser Stadium.

However, despite the gaudy statistical mismatch, the onus of responsibility primarily falls on the shoulders of Threet and ASU's running backs stable to avoid mishaps and turnovers.

If ASU can avoid sloppiness and untimely mistakes, the matchup clearly favors ASU and the Devils have the personnel to roll through, above and around the Beaver defense.

An area of interest for Oregon State is ASU's revamped offensive line that may see new starters at both tackle spots, which could enable the Beavers to have an uncharacteristically busy day in the opposing backfield if the Sun Devil blockers can't adjust to their new roles.

Special Teams Preview

Oregon State boasts one of the better kicker/punter combinations in the Pac-10 in kicker Justin Kahut and punter Johnny Hekker.

Kahut stands second all-time on OSU's field goals list but has struggled this far in 2010, connecting on one-of-three attempts, making a 41-yarder against Boise State but missing a 25-yard attempt against the Broncos and a 47-yarder versus TCU.

Hekker averages 41.8 yards on 17 punts, with seven downed inside the 20-yard line and four kicks over 50 yards.

In the return game, James Rodgers continues to be one of the country's most dynamic specialists, averaging 22.0 yards on five punt returns with one touchdown in addition to a 29.4-yard average on 10 kickoff returns. Jordan Poyer has also seen action on kickoff returns, collecting a 24.3-yard average on six runs.

Overall Expectations

In all, Oregon State is in a similar position as ASU in that their record may or may not be indicative of their overall level of capability as a challenging early season schedule may have made things look worse than they are.

The Beavers historically and seemingly instinctively start out slow in non-conference action before ripping through Pac-10 play, and this week may determine if they can continue that trend in 2010.

Working in ASU's favor is an inexperienced quarterback and a handful of injuries or physical limitations on both sides of the ball for the Beavers, in addition to an urgency to gain wins before the team begins to doubt itself.

However, tilting toward the home team is the anticipated sold out crowd at Reser Stadium and the concern as to how the Devils will rebound from consecutive gut-wrenching losses to have a steady, disciplined effort on the road.

It's tough to determine which team has momentum entering this game, but it could comfortably be said that at this particular junction, ASU has, at least to some degree, exceeded preseason expectations while Oregon State has not made that achievement following two losses, paired around a close home victory.

This meeting has tremendous value to both teams; Oregon State had high ambitions entering the season and can ill-afford to begin 1-3 to achieve those aspirations, while the Devils would immensely benefit from a victory to kick start a month-long west coast road trip.

If ASU is able to pester Ryan Katz and be stable in pass defense, the front seven can key in on limiting Jacquizz Rodgers. If that clash can side in favor of ASU, the Sun Devil offense will be in advantageous situations to strike.

Lineup Notes and Injury News

• Running back Deantre Lewis and safety Max Tabach may earn their first collegiate starts.

• Offensive lineman Dan Knapp will be limited due to an MCL sprain. Evan Finkenberg will replace him at starting left tackle and Andrew Sampson will replace Finkenberg at first team right guard.

Five Questions: ASU at Oregon State

• Can ASU overcome two disappointing losses and focus against the Beavers?

• Will Steven Threet be able to make better decisions and cut down on turnovers?

• How will injuries affect Oregon State?

• How will Deantre Lewis respond in what is expected to be his first career start?

• Will Oregon State be able to rebound from early season struggles as it has recently proven to be able to do?

Familiar Faces

• ASU's head coach Dennis Erickson (1999-2002), defensive coordinator Craig Bray (2000-2002), tight ends coach Jamie Christian (2001-02), offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (2002) and offensive line coach Gregg Smith (1999-2002) have all coached at Oregon State.

• ASU's linebackers coach Trent Bray lettered at linebacker for Oregon State from 2002-05, earning First-Team All-Pac-10 honors for the Beavers as a senior.

• Oregon State offensive lineman Josh Andrews attended Ontario (Calif.) High School, the same as ASU's Omar Bolden.

• Oregon State offensive lineman Grant Enger attended Seattle (Wash.) O'Dea High School, the same as ASU basketball's Jamelle McMillan.

• Oregon State offensive lineman Geoff Garner is an Arizona native and attended Mesa High School, the same as ASU's Keelan Johnson and current Sun Devil basketball commit Jahii Carson.

• Oregon State defensive lineman Dominic Glover and ASU's Aaron Pflugrad were previously teammates at Oregon.

• Oregon State defensive lineman Mitchel Hunt is an Arizona native and attended Tempe's Corona del Sol High School.

• Oregon State safety Levi Levasa attended Tualatin (Ore.) High School, the same as ASU baseball's Mark and Mitchell Lambson.

• Oregon State linebacker Rueben Robinson is an Arizona native and attended Chandler's Hamilton High School, the same as ASU's Anthony Jones, Gerald Munns, Colin Parker, Gerell Robinson and Kerry Taylor.

• Oregon State's Jacquizz and James Rodgers attended Richmond (Texas) Lamar Consolidated High School, the same as ASU baseball's Brady Rogers.

• Oregon State offensive lineman Rory Ross is an Arizona native and attended Peoria High School, as did ASU's Jamal Miles and T.J. Simpson.

• Oregon State's Jovan Stevenson is an Arizona native and attended Tucson's Sunnyside High School.

• Oregon State's Markus Wheaton is an Arizona native and attended Chandler High School, the same as ASU's Taylor Walstad.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories