ANALYSIS: Oregon State's unsung

CORVALLIS -- With Thursday's practice cancelled and Oregon State Saturday home opener postponed courtesy of a hurricane that is clearly a hockey fan, here's something to hold the Beaver Nation over...

The BF.C practice coverage since fall camp began has, in our opinion, been ultra in-depth and complete - the result of countless hours spent sorting through and reviewing notes and discerning context from an untold number of observations on players and coaches alike in the blistering summer sun. It's enough to make you want to take a nap. So…

Who's A Sleeper?
1.) Richard Mullaney is the first guy that comes to mind. He is going to have a big impact on this team if he stays healthy, which has not been an issue thus far save for a slight hiccup early on. With a solid release off the snap and a good frame (6-3, 191), Mullaney has a knack for getting open that even Markus Wheaton could take notes on.

That's not to say Mullaney is a star right now - he lacks the in-game experience that Wheaton brings to the table and that accounts for a lot. But Mullaney has exhibited great hands and field awareness – and he has shined in the red zone. Mullaney is good at using his size to get leverage against smaller corners, and he has good hops (jumping ability, to those readers who instead always have beer on their minds).

Add it up and Mullaney is dangerous in the red zone. He and Obum Gwacham (6-5, 224 - currently out with a foot injury) bring much needed height to the OSU receiving ranks, and height has its own benefits down near the goal line.

Mullaney saw work with the 1's during a brief period in fall camp when both Gwacham and Kevin Cummings were out due to injury – and he excelled. Mike Riley has high hopes for Mullaney – but then again, Riley has high hopes for just about everything, so you should probably just trust us.

2.) Castro – and no, we don't mean Fidel.
Castro Masaniai, of course. Yes, few would consider him a sleeper but he is from this chair. The Beavers need girth on the defensive line and he brings it at 6-3, 354 pounds.

If that seems like it's too much, here's the thing: He doesn't look like he's 354 pounds – he looks and moves a lot better than it may look on paper. And at the end of the day, with the exception of Masaniai and Joe Lopez (6-0, 273) the defensive tackle corps looks pretty small. True, Andrew Seumalo (6-4, 290) is "big" on paper, but in reality, he plays smaller than that – his value lies most in his considerable speed and awareness.

Masaniai is quick for a guy his size -- Riley has said it, Joe Seumalo has said it, and we've been saying it since fall camp began. He represents the big, strong player needed on the Beavs' D-line in order for them to be remotely effective against the run.

He plugs up run lanes, and at times has been commanding the attention of two linemen at a time when at his top gear. Opponents are going to try to attack the middle of the line with the run against OSU given the reputation Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton have accrued since last season - that should not be much of a surprise. And Masaniai will certainly help there.

3.) The Zim
Are you getting tired of hearing about Tyrequek Zimmerman yet? We've talked about him a lot in our practice reports. You are? Good, because we are going to talk about him again.

Anthony Watkins has been out for three weeks now. If he starts in the home opener (now against Wisconsin…yikes) after missing three weeks of fall camp, we will have to change Mike Riley's name on the roster to Riverboat Gambler. Yes, Zimmerman lacks the significant game experience, and practice can only dictate so much in terms of a player's ability. But he has looked the part and then some from this chair.

From Yesterday: "I'm confident in his ability against anybody," DBs coach Rod Perry said of Zimmerman. "He had an outstanding spring and has come along very well during fall. I'm looking for good things from him."

Granted, it is a coach's job to be bland and positive most of the time but Perry is old school, has coached the likes of Bob Sanders and he doesn't dole out praise like some other college coaches do. And again, Zimmerman has proven that sentiment to be true on numerous occasions since practices began.

A senior, Watkins is very good in run coverage – he is an aggressive safety who has an eye for the ball carrier and he takes up a lot of space in the secondary. But he is not the best in pass coverage, and Zimmerman is a happy medium between the prototypical run stopping/pass protection safeties.

A Team of Specialists:
Special Teams is overlooked by fans, reporters and analysts. When all else shakes out about equally, the difference in who wins and who loses comes down to, yep, special teams. Yet an inordinate amount of time is spent on it compared to the position groups on offense and defense. Let's correct some of that right now.

Bruce Read and his unit have gotten only about 20-25 minutes a day to practice their routines, and typically it has been really basic stuff. Still, who does what, and how do things look for the Beavs in 2012 on special teams?

Place Kicker: Trevor Romaine

Holder: Tim McMullen

Punter: Keith Kostol

Long Snapper: Michael Morovick

Gunner: Jordan Poyer/Sean Martin/ Larry Scott

Punt Returner: Jordan Poyer

Kick Returner: Malcolm Marable/Brandin Cooks

Romaine has been just above average this fall from what we've seen – mostly on point but has also missed what some easy kicks at less than appropriate times (not that there every really is one). To whit, during the last scrimmage that the Beavs ran, Romaine missed a PAT early on. Save a few lapses, though, it's generally been good news on that front.

Kostol was a good pick for the punter position. He has a strong leg and impressive accuracy when it comes to placing a kick down inside the 20. A note on Kostol – he has a tendency to kick line drives here and there. Disclaimer: Like Romaine, we haven't seen a ton of work from Kostol (a few scrimmage plays and some limited punt work during practice). Only real game scenarios will dictate how the story unfolds.

Malcolm Marable has been slick in the return game from what we have seen. Again, a lot of the special teams work that Read has them do revolves around formation tactics and situational blocking. But Marable is slippery, and his small frame makes him capable of disappearing behind some of the bigger guys blocking for him against the opposing special teams unit.

Marable is fast and runs downhill – when he gains momentum he will zip right on by a defender. This eliminates some of the attention Read's special teams unit would normally have to allocate to blocking the gunner on the other side of the ball. Why? Because Marable will likely speed right by them if he maintains a vertical route for the first 15 yards or so. If he is met by the gunner right off the bat, he has the agility to evade and continue upfield.

If fall camp and beyond has indicated anything, it has been that the starting offense is potent in short yardage situations. Mannion seems a lot more comfortable when he doesn't have a long field. Both Marable and Poyer are more than capable of turning an 80-yard field into a fifty yard field, and that should prove valuable for the Beavs in more ways than one.

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