Anyone who follows the Pac-10 knows the ups and downs of Derek Anderson (6-6, 240). One minute he is picking apart the defense with precision, the next he is tossing passes into the hands of the defense.
With one year of the Mike Riley system under his belt Anderson was expected to excel. He looked sharp during pre-season drills and opened the season with a three touchdown, one interception performance against LSU.
Things took a turn for the worse against Boise State when he tossed four interceptions against the Broncos. To his credit, two of the picks were not his fault, but the other two were forced passes. It was the seventh time in his career that he had at least four picks in one game.
Anderson followed up with a zero interception, two-touchdown performance against UNM, but completed less then 50% of his passes. Even with his low completion percentage he played a smart game and showed some fancy footwork spinning out of multiple tackles. Through three games he has completed 72 of 139 (52%) for 916 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. His 305.3 passing average is good for second in the conference.
Despite his troubles against Boise State Anderson has shown improvement. He has completed a pass to nine different receivers throughout the season and has avoided locking onto any one receiver, a hang up from a year ago. He still throws a gorgeous long ball and is always a threat to go deep to receiver Mike Hass.
Move Anderson out of the pocket or force him to move his feet and the Beavers are in trouble. Force him to get rid of the ball quickly and the Beavers are in trouble once again. But Anderson is the best option for the Beavers. He is a tremendous talent with a huge heart and the potential to pick apart or throw to any defense on any day.
Behind him is senior Adam Rothenfluh (6-3, 187). He is smart and efficient, perhaps a little more mobile, but lacks the big play arm of Anderson. Rothenfluh will only see playing time if Anderson is seriously injured.
Senior Dwight Wright (5-9, 208) gets the nod for the struggling Beaver running game. Wright is shifty with good movement between the tackles, but has not been given a lot of opportunity to showcase his skills. Weather kept him in check against LSU while the score in Boise prevented Oregon State from running.
Wright got his shot against New Mexico and produced 108 yards (his first 100-yard game of the season) on 30 carries against one of the nations top run defenses. He has a skill for staying on his feet after the first hit and normally falls forward.
He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and has caught six passes for 70 yards. Wright's longest run of the season is a 49-yard jaunt that resulted in a touchdown. He has a total of 256 yards on 56 carries for a 4.6 yard average.
Splitting time with Wright is sophomore Ryan Cole (6-0, 233). Cole is the larger of the two backs and does not see a lot of playing time. He is used in short yardage situations and is a punishing rusher with good speed, although not as talented as Wright as a receiver. He has rushed for 34 yards on 13 carries in three games.
The Oregon State offensive line's strength is pass protection. They have given Anderson plenty of time to throw in each game of the season and have allowed him to be sacked just six times. But they have struggled with run blocking. As a unit they do not get off the block well and have trouble with their zone schemes.
But the line is young, with three younger classmen, and are still developing into one entity. Standout seniors Matt Brock (6-2, 298) and Doug Nienhuis (6-6, 321) lead the unit. Brock is a three year starter who is quick, intelligent and one of the better centers in the conference. He has started 29 consecutive games and is on the Rimington Award watch list.
Right tackle Nienhuis is also a three-year starter with great technique on both running and pass plays. He received all-conference honors last year and has started 29 consecutive games. Nienhuis is powerful and excellent at pushing the defender to the outside.
Right guard Roy Schuening (6-3, 302) fills at right guard after redshirting last year. He is still learning the system, but learning quickly.
The left side of the line is made up entirely of new players. Sophomore Adam Koets holds down the left tackle position after grabbing the starting role during fall camp. Koets is in his first season as a starter and has had his ups and downs with false starts, but overall has been solid.
Left guard Josh Linehan (6-4, 284) has been impressive in his first year as a starter. He picked up the blocking schemes quickly and is very mobile. Linehan gets off the line swiftly and is improving with every snap.
The backups are thin as junior Jason Fyda recently transferred after being unsatisfied with his position on the depth chart. Talented freshman Jeremy Perry (6-2, 296) and Tavita Thompson (6-6, 290) could both see playing time if some of the starters become injured. A situation that the coaches hope to avoid.
Believe it or not a former walk-on is one of the top receivers in the nation. Junior Mike Hass (6-1, 210) is averaging seven catches (second in conference) and 134 yards per game (third in the nation). He has caught 22 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
Deceptively fast with an uncanny ability to get behind the defense again and again, Hass is the Beavers go to receiver. He rarely drops a pass and is a very disciplined route runner. The Hass-Anderson connection could be in full effect on Saturday.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Wheat-Brown (6-0, 210) has performed well after switching from the defensive to the offensive side of the ball during the pre-season. He is athletic and can stretch the defense. He also has a knack for getting open inside the red zone, as two of his four catches have gone for touchdowns.
The third starting receiver junior college transfer Marcel Love (6-0, 181). Love had his first big game of the season against New Mexico catching five passes for 79 yards. He got good separation from the defenders and will have a chance to prove himself against Pac-10 competition this weekend.
Senior George Gillett is also in the mix and got off to a great start against LSU catching five passes for 29 yards and one touchdown, but has been incognito ever sense.
The men in black have one of the most talented groups of tight ends in the country. Sophomore Joe Newton (6-7, 244) who is a big target and one of Anderson's favorite targets leads them. If the Beavers are going to win the game, Newton will have to have a solid contest. He has caught 18 passes (second on the team) for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Dan Haines (6-4, 242) also receives plenty of playing time, is faster then Newton and perhaps a better blocker. Haines has caught six passes for 39 yards and is a threat to break a big one, as he possesses outstanding speed. Senior Pay Loney also sees playing time. He has caught two passes for 15 yards and one touchdown.
Relentless, tough, talented – Bill Swancutt (6-4, 259) embodies those three words. As one of the top defensive ends in the nation he constantly receives double and triple teams, but he still affects the game. On several plays against New Mexico, three offensive linemen went to block Swancutt. Against Boise State the Broncos threw a running back his way chop blocking him the entire game.
With the added attention and extra hits Swancutt has had a tough time adding to his 25.5 school career sack lead. He has not grabbed a sack this year, but is constantly disrupting the pocket. ASU's offensive line will have their hands full with Swancutt on Saturday. He is the team's fifth leading tackler with 15 grabs, 3.5 for loss, and leads the team with five quarterback hurries.
On the left end of the line sits sophomore Joe Lemma (6-5, 252). Lemma is undersized and uses his quickness to beat the offensive lineman. Like Swancutt he has a motor that doesn't stop but has a hard time moving his opponents.
Clogging up the middle is a trio of players – junior Sir Henry Anderson (6-3, 294), sophomore Ben Seigert (6-4 271), and junior Alvin Smith (6-2, 313). Anderson has a good blend of size and strength and is playing in his first full season at right tackle without being injured. Seigert and Smith rotate at the left tackle position. Seigert is a talented individual who has a good push and enough speed to bring down the quarterback. Smith is a large man at 313 who does a nice job of taking up space, but has limited movement.
Big Curtis Coker (6-1, 334) is seeing increased playing time at defensive tackle and could follow in the footsteps of former Beavers and NFLers Eric Manning and Dwan Edwards.
Since Riley started coaching at Oregon State in 1997 the Beavers have had at least one, if not two, outstanding linebackers. This year is no different as senior Jonathan Pollard (6-1, 234), junior Trent Bray (6-1, 234), junior Keith Ellison (6-2, 224), and junior Chaz Scott (6-2, 222) provide the firepower to the OSU defense.
WILL backer Jonathan Pollard is the most experienced with three seasons under his belt. His 16 tackles are good for fifth on the team. He is a big hitter who plays with a lot of emotion and rarely misses a tackle. Middle linebacker Trent Bray leads the team in tackles with 36 (second in the conference) and seems to be everywhere on the field. He is not outspoken and is one of the better linebackers in the league. Bray is a sure all-conference member.
Sam backer Keith Ellison transferred from El Camino junior college in the spring and adjusted nicely to Division I ball. He grabbed the starting spot from Chaz Scott and had his best game of the season against New Mexico. He grabbed three sacks, eight tackles, and forced one fumble. His three sacks are a team best and good for second in the league.
Scott is one of the faster players and one of the emotional leaders of the team. He missed the Boise State game due to academics but made a great return in the New Mexico contest. Scott ended up with only two tackles but made a huge impact on defense and special teams as he punished the UNM quarterbacks time and time again. He also delivered a big hit on special teams that electrified the sidelines and stands.
The strength of the orange and black defense lies with the secondary. Corners Brandon Browner (6-4, 202) and Aric Williams (6-0, 172) are capable of playing almost any receiver one on one. Browner has the respect of all his opponents and is rarely thrown against.
Williams is underrated and tested often. He had a rough game against Boise State, but bounced back with a good game against the Lobos. Williams displayed good footwork and was in excellent position all day. He has 18 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and one interception.
Free safety Mitch Meeuwsen (6-3, 205) and strong safety Sabby Piscitelli (6-3, 217) form a deadly combination in the backfield. Meeuwsen is one of the better safeties in the country and has an excellent nose for the ball. The Oregonian is third on the team in tackles with 18.
Piscitelli leads the team in interceptions and pass breakups with three and seven respectively (first in the conference). The Florida native is the fastest player on the team and has been one of the most impressive players so far. Definitely a playmaker who Andrew Walter will have to keep his eye out for.
Redshirt freshman Yvenson Bernard and sophomore Ryan Cole handle kick return duties. Each has made bad decisions on when to bring the ball out of the end zone, but the coaches are working to correct the problem.
Bernard is the most explosive of the two, but is still learning the position. He is shifty, comfortable between the tackles and dangerous in the open field. He has returned three kicks for 58 yards. Cole is a bruiser who is tough to bring down after a full head of steam. He has returned two kicks for 29 yards.
Bernard also handles punt return duties and has had problems fielding the punts. But he is getting better and the coaches have confidence that he will improve. He has returned nine kicks for 57 yards for a 5.7 average.
Junior Sam Paulescu came to OSU with a lot of hype and he has lived up to his billing. He is an excellent kicker with a powerful leg averaging 43.2 yards per kick, good for fourth in the conference. Paulescu is calm under pressure and accurate enough to angle his kicks towards the sidelines.
He has booted four inside the twenty-yard line and a 62-yard blast against Boise State is his longest of the season.
After three weeks of kicking hell the Beavers have seem to found a solution to their problems. Redshirt freshman Alexis Serna (5-7, 157) has not made an extra point, but is 2 of 2 on field goals after hitting a 40-yard attempt against UNM. It was his first kick since his 0 for 3 PAT performance against LSU.
Junior John Daily (6-1, 214) has not made a field goal (0 for 2), but is perfect on extra points. So, Serna will handle field goal and kickoff duties while Daily will handle extra points.
§ Oregon State has never defeated ASU during the regular season since ASU became a Pac-10 member in 1978.
§ The Beavers have lost 14 straight to Arizona State in Sun Devil Stadium.
§ OSU is expected to be at full strength on Saturday.
§ Four Beavers expected to be on the travel roster this week are from the state of Arizona. Redshirt freshman defensive back Eric Anderson is from Phoenix, senior offensive lineman Brent Bridges is from Kingman (near the Arizona/California border), junior linebacker Chaz Scott is from Chandler and sophomore defensive lineman Ben Siegert is from Glendale.
§ Oregon State has outscored their opponents 20-0 in the first quarter this year.
§ OSU has scored nine touchdowns this year, nine passing
§ The Beavers 88.7 yards per game rushing average is 103rd in the nation.
§ Derek Anderson is one touchdown pass away from moving to number 10 on the Pac-10 career touchdown passes list and three away from moving to the number nine slot.
§ Anderson has attempted over 40 pass attempts in each game this season.
§ Mitch Meeuwsen needs just one interception to tie the Oregon State record at 15.
§ Joe Newton has led the team in receptions two out of three games.
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