Agnew ready to make his starting claim

CORVALLIS – One of the big questions that will be answered during fall camp -- getting underway Aug. 6 at Oregon State -- is who will be the Beavs' starting tailback. sat down for a wide ranging conversation with potential starter Malcolm Agnew to address some of the questions burning in the minds of Beaver fans young and old, tried and true.

Storm Woods or Jordan Jenkins? Terron Ward or Malcolm Agnew? Chris Brown?

For the second straight year at OSU, the Beavs closed the spring session without naming a starting tailback. But fall camp, running Aug. 6 – 25 at Oregon State, ushers in new opportunities for a running back corps stacked with talent and drive.

Agnew, at 5-8, 204 pounds, is arguably the leading candidate to spearhead the Beavs rushing attack after arriving in the spotlight as the Beavers' premier back during the 2011 football season. An unfortunate and ill-timed hamstring injury shortly after a record breaking game against Sacramento State last year hindered Agnew's progress within a young football program. Now feeling healthy and eager, he wants to prove himself to his team and Beaver Nation alike.

"My real goal this season is to play the whole season," Agnew said. "I was definitely devastated (after the hamstring injury). I was still young, and missing four games is not easy. You need that play and experience to get better."

The proof will be in the pudding come Saturdays this fall but if Agnew is any indication, there will be more swagger to this 2012 orange and black vintage.

"I was never taught to fear an opponent," Agnew said. "I respect every team in this conference, but as far as fearing them, no. We are going to come ready to play, with our plan. We are going to come ready to attack."

WITH FALL CAMP just days away, no one knows for sure who will start at a position as demanding and integral to a team's success as tailback.

However, throughout the spring, Agnew saw the bulk of the carries during scrimmages.

AGNEW HAS ALSO been receiving specialized exercise and attention from the training staff this offseason in an attempt to combat any future hamstring woes, an injury that has affected him since high school.

Mike Riley, in all likelihood, probably won't officially reveal some starters prior to the end of fall camp. But Agnew feels assured that he has a shot to remain the Beavers go-to-guy in the backfield come the 2012 season.

"I feel like I've put in enough good work to be the starter," Agnew said. "We will just see how it goes. I'm going to work hard in order to be the best I can be for the team."

TO MANY FANS worn down by two losing seasons in a row, this is just talk. Results equate to proof; nothing else. But Agnew is keen on producing results that extend beyond his numbers from last season.

"I'm more comfortable with myself," Agnew said. "As a freshman playing, I was more worried about doing the right thing all the time. Now that I know what to do I can just play. I think that is the biggest difference in my game."

During spring ball, Agnew did have a slight hiccup, sitting out a couple days with a tight hammy. But for much of the 13 other days of spring, he was flying by would-be tacklers and crashing through holes in the middle of the defensive line. He might not be the biggest fish in the sea of Pac 12 talent, but he does possess the overall physical and mental attributes needed from a "franchise" running back.

Another key improvement in Agnew's performance this spring was his ability to recognize defensive schemes and adjust accordingly in the middle of a play. But where has Agnew improved the most since last year?

"My pass protection," said Agnew. "I've been watching a lot of film on reading (defensive) fronts and reading which linebacker is which. Catching the football has gotten a lot better for me too, I feel way more comfortable with it."

Confidence in one's ability to catch the ball is a good thing to have no matter what string you rest at on the offensive attack. This year, however, it could be especially vital, seeing as how OSU is interested in possibly incorporating the their running backs into their passing plan with higher frequency.

"We have been looking at some new packages…" Agnew said, without going into too much detail. "A few years ago, Sean Canfield threw (Quizz) something like 78 balls. So I figured we had success with that in the past, maybe we can do it again."

NO MATTER the raw capability individual players have in the back field, there is no disputing the importance of a cohesive, reliable unit up front on the offensive line -- a commodity the Beavers' have struggled to find the last couple seasons.

Agnew, despite criticism of an o-line that has struggled with remaining healthy and lacking depth (primarily at the guard position), continues to think positively.

"You know, they had a tough year last year for sure," Agnew said. "A lot of people have been scrutinizing the o-line, but they are secure. They have been working hard and we've got some young guys who are hungry to play."

Young is not always good. The acquisition of nationally acclaimed recruit Isaac Seumalo (ranked as the No. 52 overall prospect in the country) could aid in the patching up process, but is that a bad thing if he's the best option over upperclassmen. And most importantly, will it all be enough to launch the Beavers to a bowl game?

"This year we will definitely win more than three games; we are definitely going to be a better football team," Agnew said. "We are young, that has been said, but as far as this year, we are going to have a winning season, we are going to make a bowl. We are confident about that."

A stable set of guys on the offensive line is considered by many to be what separates teams in the Pac-12 from spending the holidays in warmer weather or staying home. And Agnew sees stability on the horizon.

"There will be some tough competition at that guard spot," Agnew said. "There are a lot of good players at that spot for us. Whoever wins it can only be good for us. (The offensive line) will take pride in what they do this year, and they will have a better season."

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