Will Beavs air it out in post-Quizz world?

WHEN OREGON STATE lost Steven Jackson to the NFL, they found themselves without a top-notch running game. And they went to the air more in 2004 before returning to more of a ground-based attack with the emergence of Yvenson Bernard in 2005. Are the Beavs headed towards a similar situation in 2011, with Jacquizz Rodgers gone and the running back position still in flux post-spring?

Um, no. Not according to Mike Riley.

Oregon State has a potentially explosive group of pass catchers in the wide receivers and tight ends – provided they all get healthy. And this spring, seemingly no position group was healthy at Oregon State.

Still, it's an intriguing notion with Quizz gone and no one in the running back corps having emerged as head shoulders above the pack. Ryan Katz struggled in the final half of the season but anyone who remembers what he did against Arizona would be hard pressed to argue against his potential for putting up some crooked passing and TD numbers.

Air Riley in 2011, rather than Ground Mike? Why not?

Could the Beavs go to the air like they did in 2004, when in the absence of Jackson they attempted 501 passes to 335 rushes? When Derek Anderson threw for 3,615 yards and 29 TDs? When the leading OSU rusher (Dwight Wright) had 784 yards?

Riley doesn't see it happening.

"That does not replace my desire to run the football," Riley told BF.C when asked to weigh a potentially explosive receivers group against a running attack that hasn't yet clicked in comparison to recent years. "It's just been proven, proven through the years, that you have to have balance."

You don't have to be a college football head coach to see why.

"Protection is harder. If the defense doesn't have to play sound, if they don't have to play the run, it makes everything a lot harder. You see it time and time again," said Riley.

Riley is, however, intrigued by what the Beavs may have in the passing game this year. The worry, though, is that OSU doesn't look to have everyone back and 100 percent by the time fall camp arrives, and maybe that stretches into the season on guys like James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni.

"If we can get..our receivers and playmakers back into the swing of things, like Bishop, James and Halahuni, and then you have Markus Wheaton in that group…But that group is incomplete right now. You've also got Obum Gwacham, and the four freshmen receivers coming in. So I'm excited about that group…through healing and addition, you've got a real good receiving group there," said Riley.

Also coming in the summer, two freshman running backs in Malcolm Agnew and Storm Woods. Could one of them emerge as the cream of the running backs crop?

If not, OSU has no shortage of running backs. Senior Ryan McCants and sophomore Jovan Stevenson were the primary ball carriers in the final spring scrimmage. Terron Ward, before he got dinged up in the spring, boosted his stock. Jordan Jenkins (shoulder) should be back healthy by the start of the year. Malcolm Marable is in the mix, too.

But if fall camp plays out as spring ball did, the Beavs might not have the luxury of handing it off to a guy 25-plus times a game. And more than one guy could get significant carries. And it's hard to see the Beavers gaining around 1,500 -2,000 yards on the ground in 2011, as they did the past three seasons with Quizz in the backfield.

Air Riley?

Not if he has his way.

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