WHAT WE'VE LEARNED: OSU Offense

CORVALLIS – For the first week of Oregon State's fall camp, BF.C has inundated you with injury info, on-field updates, camp data, notes upon notes and more. We may have even overwhelmed you – and we have done it intentionally. Are we crazy? Yes, though that has nothing to do with it. But what exactly does all the aforementioned information mean? We're here to put it all into context for you..

Who's Calling The Shots?

There was virtually no contact between the offense and defense during the initial two practices (with the exception of kicking drills) – However, the last four practices have been increasingly interaction oriented, revealing an interesting change looks to indeed be on the horizon.

It's been hinted at since the spring but never confirmed by the powers-that-be, and it still hasn't. But it sure looks like Mike Riley will put himself in charge of calling the plays on offense this year, taking over the duties previously held by offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.

Could there be a switch sometime in fall camp, with Riley handing the duties back to Langsdorf? Could Riley be calling the plays just be for fall camp? Anything's possible but it's hard to figure what purpose that would serve. Riley started this in the spring and all parties involved are now feeling that comfort zone. Changing now would seem to disrupt more than it could help.

Based on what we've seen, we have every reason to believe that Riley will indeed take the helm when the season begins. Is it unexpected? Not necessarily, for reasons detailed above. But it still brings up questions of what the offensive strategy will look like.

Put Me In Coach, I'm Ready To Play – The Offensive Line

If the OSU offensive line plays anything like they did last season, it would take more than just a crazy running back hybrid of Steven Jackson/Jacquizz Rodgers in order for the Beavs to have a successful running game. That said, the line has shown some signs of improvement of late, and the addition of Isaac Seumalo was a much needed boost.

While on the face of it, the decision to slot Seumalo as the starting center right out the gate was questionable – a true freshman offensive lineman? And right in the middle? But cursory looks can be deceiving.

It's early but the first week has shown throwing Seumalo into the fire and with the 1s is without a doubt the best move Mike Riley and line coach Mike Cavanaugh could have made at this juncture. Seumalo has looked to be that rare kind of hoss who is Pac-12 ready as a true freshman.

And then there's this -- the 2012 line doesn't need a player that will develop slowly over a year – they need someone who can come in and make an immediate and much needed impact. And Seumalo has given every indication thus far that he can fill that void.

Josh Andrews and Colin Kelly, perhaps spurred onward by the significant acquisition of Seumalo or the thought of not repeating last year's performance, have also stepped up their game. Cavanaugh has been pleased with their progress, and in talking to him he seems confident that his line will hold up, despite a lack of depth across the board.

The return of Grant Enger is a lift, and Michael Philipp, despite tailing off since his freshman season and being best with injury, has looked really good blocking the ends. Needless to say, Beaver Nation is holding onto some doubt regarding the ability of the line to hold up against opposing Pac-12 defensive units. Only time will tell.

And one has to assume that it will be easier to build a steady, reasonably effective offensive line approach once the issue of ‘Who Gets the Rock' is ultimately answered.

Who gets the Rock?

Possibly the top question giving many Beav diehards an ulcer right now -- Who will be the Beavs' No.1 running back?

Riley and crew are not exactly the victims of slim pickings when it comes to their tailback pool, a positive development that carries negative underpinnings, a Catch-22 if you will.

To elaborate -- depth is good, but in fall camp, when (ideally) most teams are developing a game plan around a few specific weapons, it can be highly detrimental to still be in an "experimental phase" when it comes to choosing perhaps the most integral member of an offensive strategy, the tailback.

There are less than three weeks to go until the home opener against Nicholls State, so we expect Riley will have to pick a starter soon.

Our money is on Malcolm Agnew at the moment. He may have only started five games last season (played in six), but that is more experience than any other member of the existing tailback corps can boast, and experience will likely count for something come decision time.

But we also can't forget about Storm Woods – Agnew's primary competitor for the No.1 slot at tailback.

Woods is why Riley has an interesting dilemma. There are stark differences in the way Woods and Agnew run the ball, and both offer something unique to the rushing attack that the other lacks. If their individual attributes were combined into one player, this pair would be phenomenal – separate, they are both still young and comparatively inexperienced at the collegiate level.

Woods is a lightning bolt with big-play capability in the passing and rushing attack. Quick feet, soft hands and a good eye for blocking assignments (not to mention a juke that could break someone's hip) have all been in evidence.

Riley and crew have every right to be excited about him – but he is a redshirt freshman. And Woods can be erratic at times, inconsistent even. Woods will see playing time, hell, he might start a game – but based on Week One, it would be tough to affirm a decision that slates him at the No.1 right out the gate.

Agnew is a coach's player. He learns fast, and develops even faster. He has a few things working for him that Woods seems to lack – namely patience off the snap.

Agnew waits for a play to develop in front of him then breaks it loose for a gainer. In addition, Agnew is shorter than Woods, making him less of a target in small spaces and better suited for sneaking out from behind his blocks and getting into the flat. In short, Agnew is reliable (provided his hamstring holds up) and shows that he can be a consistent source of positive yardage come game days.

Riley has stated numerous times that he is still unsure of what his approach will be with the tailbacks moving forward. He seems wary about running by committee two years in a row, but also wants a minimum of 1,800 yards on the ground in 2012. That being the case, he has to fully understand the tools he has available to him in the run, and use them wisely, and that seems to be the reason he's not ready to decide on a running back depth chart and plan just yet.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Keep a close eye on the receiving corps throughout camp. Markus Wheaton is a lock and Brandin Cooks is a dynamo (when he runs the right route) but Obum Gwacham and Kevin Cummings are currently jostling in the slot. The group as a whole is full of talented players who are all just as likely as the next to make a bid for playing time and reps as fall camp continues.

  • Clayton York has thus far been an effective lead blocker for the tailbacks coming out of the backfield. He's demonstrated a solid mix of size and speed that can be utilized in terms of blocking (and maybe earning yards.) York has quick feet for a fullback and sets clean blocks in the open field to open up some run lanes.

  • Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz have looked fairly sharp to date. Both seem to struggle against the wind, especially when it comes to some of the deeper plays, but that should be easily improved upon and is simply part of the game. Both have shown better recognition of where they are in the pocket and where the defense is in relation to them. Mannion is a lot more confident in his game – it shows in his approach to the ball out of the huddle. You can hear it in his voice when he calls a play. Now Mannion just needs to ride the lighting and continue to show progress throughout the remainder of fall camp.

  • Chris Brown shows promise at the running back position. The first week has indicated he may be on the backburner for a season, but with some development and coaching, he could become a future OSU standout.

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