Beav OL the surprise on a team full of 'em

CORVALLIS -- Five weeks, three big wins and five studs on the offensive line for Oregon State. Amidst all the talk about Sean Mannion, Brandon Cooks and Markus Wheaton, we here at BF.C find ourselves praising the big guys up front.

Without the efforts of athletes like Grant Enger, Josh Andrews, Isaac Seumalo, Colin Kelly and Michael Philipp, Mannion would be a pancake on the 50-yard line and Storm Woods would be heading for the hills.

This squad of blockers has arguably been the biggest improvement for OSU – Why?

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THE ACQUISITION OF Seumalo (6-3, 302) prior to fall camp has been a massive lift. And if you think the true freshman is physically gifted now, wait another year or two and tell us what you think.

Mike Riley and crew asked a lot of the kid. Hey, thanks for signing with us Isaac. So we need a guy to fill perhaps the most important position on our line, and we need it, in let's say…now. Get crackin'.

Even more surprising than the task handed to Seumalo was his ability to respond to the magnitude of his duties -- and carry them out with apparent ease in the early stages of fall camp. Yes, he practically grew up in the OSU football program, he learned the ropes and he learned them quick. But true freshmen aren't supposed to do what he's done at the college level.

So far this season, we have seen little to complain about– he holds his assignments well, makes proper reads of the defense. Basically, he is a strong football player regardless of class standing.

The main benefit Seumalo's presence offers to the four other starting linemen is security. Andrews, Philipp, Enger, Kelly –they know that Seumalo will be in his place nearly every time, they don't have to think about compensating for the missed assignments that may have come from the undersized (albeit aggressive) backup center, Roman Sapolu. Seumalo, is "a sure thing" for Riley, and more importantly the OSU O-line.

Seumalo's capabilities add to the collective confidence of the big guys up front, he gives them a chance to focus on their blocks, and their blocks only. In the world of intangibles, that confidence was the invaluable asset they seemed to lack most last season from this chair.

LAST SEASON, Mannion was sacked 27 times for a loss of 213 yards. That is a bummer of a statistic. In 2012, Mannion has gone to the turf six times for a loss of 41 yards. The correlation? The numbers from last year represent a 7.9 yards lost/sack, while the figure from this season rest at 6.8 yards lost/sack – a little more than a yard spread.

That number may seem irrelevant but it speaks to the fact that this season, Mannion has felt far more comfortable in the pocket and has had more time to step up (say for an extra yard or so) to make a throw. The numbers show that he isn't on the run as much, that he is more poised after a three- or five-step drop. If the offensive line weren't doing something right, those numbers would look different.

Sure, as it stands, the Beavs' are averaging two sacks game allowed and that translates into 24 sacks on the season, three less than the season prior. A small margin, granted, but every little bit counts when it comes to winning games.

BUT LEAVE THE math to the accountants and astronauts – what we are really trying to get at here is that the offensive line has found its stride after a year of hard knocks.

In cliché form, they are one year older, one year wiser -- all that Yoda stuff that few bothered paying any attention to while they were growing up.

But it cannot be dismissed that the offensive front five have been by far the biggest surprise this season on a team that may be the biggest surprise in the country. They came out of fall camp undersized and relatively understaffed – from this chair out hopes weren't too high as the Wisconsin game loomed ever closer.

Yet here they are, three games into the season, undefeated and with a Top 15 ranking, and with their eyes set upon WSU this weekend in Corvallis. OSU has found its run game and is having marked success with the aerial attack.

None of that would be possible if the O-line weren't showing up big time.

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