Building the Dam

Oregon State was a Pac-10 bridesmaid last season, coming within a win over Oregon from capturing the league championship. This fall, Coach Mike Riley and the Beavers have their sights set higher.

Oregon State is a hard-working team that in many ways is similar to Boise State —no matter how good they do, they are still looking for respect.  They aren't usually thought to be a major contender in the Pac-10 Conference, even though they reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2000 and have made the postseason the last four years, winning three of those four bowl games.  OSU sports five bowl wins in the last seven years.  

That could change this year.  

With USC's probation and Oregon 's off-the-field problems, Oregon State has vaulted to the top of the conference in many people's minds.  Consider that in the last four years, Oregon State has 25 Pac-10 victories.  Only USC (27) has more during that span.  With a win over rival Oregon in the last game of the regular season last year, OSU would have captured the league title and the automatic Rose Bowl berth that goes along with it.   

Five fourth-down conversions decided last year's Civil War.  It was the first time in the 113-year history of the game that the winner would go to the Rose Bowl.  Oregon State was 1-2 on their fourth downs while Oregon was 3-3.  With the Beavers behind 37-33, Oregon took possession with six minutes remaining and ran out the clock.  The Ducks converted two fourth-downs in the final minutes to hold on to the ball and preserve the victory.  

Obviously in a game like that, one play can make a difference.  If Coach Mike Riley can find that difference in the off-season, OSU is in position to go to Pasadena for the first time since 1964.  

That said the 2010 schedule is rugged.  The Beavers must go to Top 5 Boise State and Top 10 TCU.  Those two games will adequately prepare the team for their Pac-10 journey.  

The Rodgers brothers (Jacquizz and James) are the best two-man wrecking crew in the country.  They will attack by land, air, and water too (when it rains as it often does in Corvallis ).   

Look for offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf to involve more personnel in the passing game by getting the ball to the backs and the tight ends.  Everyone knows about the Rodgers brothers—Langsdorf's job is to introduce them to the rest of the Beaver skill players that are eager to show what they can do.  

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz (6-1, 209) can do more for the Beaver offense this fall by giving the ball to someone else and letting them run with it.  Oregon State has a plethora of talent at the skill positions and the youngster has to realize that his job is helping other people look good.  He doesn't have to be the hero, but he must be efficient and consistent while making good decisions.  Katz brings a lot of skills (a nice ball with zip on it, the arm to throw deep and accuracy on the move) and seems to have the right demeanor. 

Riley is fortunate to have quality veteran backups for Katz.  Peter Lalich (6-4, 222, Jr.) saw playing time at Virginia (35-61 for 321 yards and two TD's in 2007 and 39-74 for 359 and three interceptions in 2008) before running into trouble and transferring to Corvallis .  Lalich is comfortable in the pocket and too possesses a strong arm.  Redshirt freshman Cody Vaz (6-0, 200) has the coaches' attention with a tremendous off-season.  Vaz has shown good arm strength, release and poise.

Heisman Trophy and All-America candidate Jacquizz Rodgers (5-7, 188) ran for 1,440 yards on 273 carries (5.27 avg.) and was second on the team with 78 catches for 522 yards.  He accounted for 23 touchdowns, including a TD pass from the Wildcat formation.  "Quizz" is on target to finish as the Pac-10's second top rusher of all-time to USC's Charles White. 

 Rodgers is a thrill to watch with great change of direction and is sensational in the open field.  Rodgers is not only electrifying but he can be a straight-ahead runner willing to take it to the defense as well.  Make no mistake:  he is shifty but also has power and is always churning forward for more yards after first contact.  Look for Riley to get him the ball more in the Wildcat to press the advantage with his athleticism and ability to throw the ball as well.  

Jovan Stevenson is chomping at the bit as well.  The 5-11, 183-pound sophomore did well in his first year between the lines, gaining 138 yards on 26 carries and coming down with five receptions for 59 yards.  Stevenson is speedy and quick and has proved to be exciting in his own right.   

Ryan McCants (6-1, 228, Jr.) gives the Beavers a physical back in short-yardage situations.  McCants was bothered by an injury that kept him out of all but four games last season.     

James Rodgers (5-7, 185, Sr.) was one of the top receivers in the country with 91 catches for 1,034 yards and nine scores.  He also carried the ball 58 times for 303 yards and another TD on fly sweeps from his flanker position.  James has a quick burst of speed and often makes defenders look silly with his moves.  

Darrell Catchings (5-11, 164, Jr.) is a name to remember.  He had high hopes in 2009 after a promising spring but an ankle injury ended all that.  He is the possession receiver the team needs and his health is a key to the Beavers' season because it takes some of the pressure and attention off of Rodgers.  

H-back Joe Halahuni (6-2, 252) was a pleasant surprise to Beaver fans last year and his is a star on the rise.  The junior was fourth with 35 catches for 486 yards and three scores.  Halahuni creates matchup problems in opposing secondaries; after the catch he is more like a fullback than a receiver.  He has great athletic ability and should see plenty more opportunities this fall.  

Markus Wheaton (6-0, 178, So.) is another weapon.  Wheaton has great speed and knows what to do with the ball after the reception.  Opponents who line up man coverage against him could be shocked when they see the defender lying on the ground grabbing nothing but air.

Sophomore Jordan Bishop (6-3, 199) gives Katz a sizable target in his arsenal.  Bishop positions his body well and can catch anything near him.  Bishop recorded 13 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown in his first year.   

Tight end Brady Camp (6-4, 265, Sr.) knows the OSU system and what it takes to win.  Camp is a solid blocker in the crunch and has the ability to get open in short-yardage situations.   

If you have a raw quarterback with only 27 career attempts, it is important to surround him with experience.  Senior Aaron Nichols (6-0, 185) gives Katz yet another senior to work with.  Nichols runs precise routes, a must for breaking in a new starting quarterback.  Last season, Nichols had 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown, numbers that should go up this fall. 

Four returning starters are back on the offensive line for Oregon State 's run for the roses.  That quartet has 72 career starts between them.  Right tackle Mike Remmers exemplifies the Beaver system and how hard they have worked to get to where they are.  Remmers (6-4, 305, Jr.) came to Corvallis as a walk-on without collegiate pass protection ability.  Through hard work and a blue-collar mentality, Remmers has improved his footwork tremendously and learned to use his hands as part of his technique.   

Michael Philipp (6-3, 307, So.) is already seasoned with 13 starts at left tackle as a freshman.  It isn't really all that often when a team's top recruit pans out to be every bit as good as advertised.  That happened here.  Philipp has the ability to dominate his man and drive him downfield.  The Beaver star was recognized as a Freshman All-American last season.  

Alex Linnenkohl is not only one of the Pac-10's best centers but a good bet to play at the next level.  Linnenkohl (6-2, 303, Sr.) is vicious off the snap and quick with technique.  Linnenkohl is a fiery leader as well, helping to make everyone around him better.  

Grant Johnson had to undergo shoulder surgery in the off-season but the Beavers are hopeful he can pick up at left guard where he left off.  Johnson too is a former walk-on who made the transition to starter.  Johnson (6-3, 280, Jr.) is quick and exhibits good footwork to get the job done.  

The fifth starter is projected to be Burke Ellis.  Ellis (6-4, 280, Jr.) earned his first letter last year as a sophomore.  Still trying to earn a scholarship, he is gung-ho this fall after adding considerable weight over the last three years to ready himself for action.   

Senior Ryan Pohl (6-3, 284) is ready to step in if Johnson takes longer to recuperate.  Pohl has the experience in the offense and in the system to be fine.   

Colin Kelly, a 6-4, 285-pound sophomore, is making the move to right guard from tackle.  Kelly has toned his body in the weight room while still being able to move well.  Kelly's forte is pass-blocking, but he'll be challenged by bull rushers up the middle. 

Wilder McAndrews (6-4, 282, Sr.) has been beset by injuries throughout his time in
Corvallis .  He is probably the healthiest he has been and he might get a shot at starting tackle in which case Philipp would move to guard.   

Meanwhile, the Beaver defense needs to be more creative, as in creating more turnovers.  They totaled just 16 last season.  Think how much better the team would have been if not for this one statistic.  Defensive coordinator Mark Banker did a nice job in bringing in eight new starters last year—the Beavers just need to kick it up a notch.  

The run defense was stout in 2009, especially in the interior.
Take a 6-1, 311-pound guy with brute strength and combine that with a former rugby player.  You get the Pac-10's premier defensive lineman, senior Stephen Paea.  He may be that, but he can't improve the Beavers' sack total, takeaways, or pass defense by himself. He needs more help, specifically on the front seven.   The
New Zealand native has quick feet yet tremendous upper body strength.  Paea has added to his value by camping out in the weight room all off-season.   

With his 6-1 frame and strength, Paea will get up underneath the opposing guard and overwhelm him.  Plus, he can chase down backs from behind.  He had 43 tackles, 8.5 for loss, with three sacks and four forced fumbles last year, numbers he achieved even though opposing teams did their best to run away from him.  

Brennan Olander (6-1, 276, Sr.) is yet another walk-on who has made good in Coach Riley's system.  Whereas Paea will overpower you, Olander gets in the backfield thanks to his quickness and good hand technique.  Olander recorded eight tackles behind the line a year ago.  

Gabe Miller and Taylor Henry will be the Beaver ends.  Miller (6-3, 249, Sr.) is a converted tight end who has added weight and improved his pass rushing.  Miller is the fastest man on the team in the 10-yard sprint.  He posted 23 tackles, five for loss, with three sacks last year.  Henry (6-1, 240, So.) advertised his talent in the spring game with four sacks.  Henry is fast and with his weight room work has added strength this season.   

The end position is one of concern.  The Beavers ranked 25th nationally against the run largely because of the tackles but often pressure didn't arrive from the outside or if it did, it came too late.  Oregon State does not have a lot of depth so they are banking on Miller and Henry.  We will know right away how they are coming along against TCU.  If they cannot be forces in their own right, it will allow opponents to double Paea.  

Junior Kevin Frahm (6-2, 267) moved to tackle where he can use his strength and heavy hands to his benefit.  Frahm started eight games last year and had 19 tackles, 2.5 for loss, with 1.5 sacks.  The OSU coaches are looking to Andrew Seumalo (6-3, 262) to step in this fall and provide good depth as a sophomore.  He is the son of Beaver defensive line coach Joe Seumalo.   

Another key to Oregon State 's chances this fall is their linebacker play.  Dwight Roberson (6-0, 232, Sr.) returns at the weakside position.  Roberson is active and quick with good pursuit.  He had 55 tackles last year, including 7.5 for loss, and two sacks.   

Roberson's counterpart on the other side may not be known until the last few weeks before the opener with TCU.  Sophomore Devin Unga (6-1, 219) is one of the leading candidates.  He played well on special teams last year.  Senior Keith Pankey (6-0, 231) was the strongside starter before a most unfortunate Achilles' tendon tear in the spring.  The Beavers need his experience.  

Tony Wilson is ready after being on the sideline all of last year with an ACL tear.  Wilson (6-1, 231, Jr.) has yet to play a down in college.  He has good strength and intelligence, qualities he'll need until he gets his feet wet.   

Sophomore Rueben Robinson (6-1, 222) played as a true freshman and could take one of the spots mentioned above.  Robinson will hit you hard and is one of the best Beaver linebackers in pass coverage.  Kevin Unga, Devin's twin brother, is another physical player who recorded 18 tackles as a true freshman.  Kevin is tough, has a great motor, and had many a successful weight room workout to tone his 6-1, 236-pound body into a machine.  Unga is a star of the future.  

Look out for Michael Doctor. ranked him as the 21st-best outside linebacker in the country.  He had an impressive spring and hopes to make his mark this fall.  

The secondary is physical and intimidating.  Lance Mitchell (6-2, 207, Jr.) led the Beaver "D" with 72 tackles and three interceptions last season.  Mitchell has speed, size, good hands and surefire tackling ability that serve him well at safety.  Cornerback James Dockery (6-1, 176, Sr.) is another all-star candidate.  Out all of last season due to knee surgery, Dockery recorded 38 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two interceptions and a team-leading eight pass breakups in 2008.  Dockery possesses the instincts that you can't teach.

Brandon Hardin is the other corner.  Hardin is blessed in having the speed and soft hips needed to play cornerback with 6-2, 219-pound size.  He started three games last year and Beaver fans are anxious to see what he can do with a full-time job.  

Junior Cameron Collins teamed with Mitchell to make quite a duo at safety.  Collins (6-2, 230) made 70 tackles and had four pass breakups.  His style of play is similar to Boise State's Jeron Johnson, roaming the field looking for someone to pop.   

Suaesi Tuimaunei (6-1, 205, Sr.) lost his starting job to Collins last year and is back to have a say.  Tuimaunei plays with reckless abandon and is another member of the Beaver secondary hit squad.  Tuimaunei proved to be an invaluable asset on special teams, earning All-Pac-10 honors there. 

Jordan Poyer (5-11, 189, So.) provides backup at corner.  He had 11 tackles as a freshman.  Poyer is a converted safety, very athletic and versatile.

 Senior Justin Kahut will give Oregon State stability and experience as the returning placekicker.  Kahut was 22-27 on field goals last year and was recognized as second-team All-Pac-10.  Kahut (5-8, 176) has a strong leg that allows him to be accurate beyond 40 yards. 

Junior punter Johnny Hekker (6-5, 223) is back as well.  Hekker beat his career best with a 40.1 average last year with 19 kicks landing inside the 20.   Defenses should be aware that Hekker, a high school quarterback, will hold for Kahut on extra points and field goals.

James Rodgers will once again handle punts and kickoffs.  His presence alone affects what the opposition does, since he is a threat to take it all the way at any given time.  Rodgers averaged 23.3 yards on kickoff returns and 11.6 yards on punts.

Kudos to any team that schedules two Top 10 teams in non-conference games. The Beavers also have invited Louisville to Corvallis.  In the Pac-10, Oregon State gets Oregon, Arizona State, Cal, USC and Washington State at home.  OSU must protect its home field if it is to win the conference.  They must win all or at least all but one of those.  Road dates at Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Stanford are all going to be challenging as well.  In fact, given USC's probation, Oregon's off-the-field problems and the disappointing announcements from Corvallis this off-season, the door is wide open in the conference.  Stanford and Washington are both teams that could sneak in and win the title.  Coach Riley's squad must win at least three of those conference road games to bring home the trophy.




2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 TCU (in Arlington .)
Sept. 11 OPEN DATE
Sept. 18 Louisville
Sept. 25 at Boise St
Oct. 2 Arizona State
Oct. 9 at Arizona
Oct. 16 at Washington
Oct. 30 California
Nov. 6 at UCLA
Nov. 13 Washington St
Nov. 20 USC
Nov. 27 at Stanford
Dec. 4 Oregon

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