ROUNDUP: Don't forget the Beaver TEs/HBs

LOST AMID THE breakout performance of Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz on Saturday, a position group quietly making things possible for the Beavs during their 5-0 start. Yes, the offensive line has certainly and significantly improved in the area of pass protection, enabling Vaz and Sean Mannion before him to shine very brightly indeed this season. But that's not who we're talking about…

But it's in the ballpark.

It's the tight ends and h-backs, namely Colby Prince and Connor Hamlett.

Both figured prominently in the passing game on Saturday – Hamlett had two grabs for 58 big yards. Prince snagged a deflected ball in the end zone on third and goal with BYU defenders clutching and grabbing at him before the catch.

But those are just the most obvious contributions, the ones that show up in the stat book. The Beaver tight ends and h-backs have arguably made their biggest overall contribution somewhere else -- in protection.

Cody Vaz, and before him Sean Mannion, have enjoyed significantly better protection this season than last and that's enabled them to shine during a 5-0 start.

While the offensive line -- LT Michael Philipp, LG Josh Andrews, C Isaac Seumalo, RG Grant Enger, RT Colin Kelly -- deserves the lion's share of the credit, the contributions of Prince and Hamlett also shouldn't be minimized.

(Also seeing action in all five games for the Beavs has been true freshman Caleb Smith, listed as the No. 2 tight end. He recorded his first college reception against WSU. Kellen Clute and Tyler Perry, listed as the backup h-backs behind Hamlett, have no stats on the season but have played in four and two games, respectively, according to OSU's official stats.

SPEAKING OF MANNION, he says he's ahead of schedule in coming back from surgery on his torn meniscus. What that schedule is, is unclear. But Beaver fans have to feel pretty good after what Vaz did against BYU.

Mannion was back on the practice field in full pads according to the Gazette-Times. Mike Riley said Mannion will not start this week. Riley declined to give a timetable and wouldn't say if Mannion would be available as a backup to Vaz on Saturday.

When Mannion is healthy enough to play, and if Vaz continues to play admirably, will there be a little quarterback controversy in Corvallis? Tell you what, we'll get back to that later, when Mannion is full go.

Running back Storm Woods and wide receiver Brandin Cooks, both of whom were injured in Saturday's win, look to be healing up well.

Woods (bone bruise) and Cooks (ankle) are both expected to be ready to go against Utah by Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7:36 pm).

LAS VEGAS IS convinced when it comes to the Beavs – for this week anyway.

After Mannion went down, the betting line for BYU saw Oregon State go from a 4-point to a 7-point underdog. This week the line for Utah started with the Beavs a 7.5 point favorite, but has since increased to 10.5 points.

Stat of the week: Oregon State is No. 4 in the nation in rushing defense (No. 1 in Pac-12).

The Beavs are also ranked No. 8 in the land in passing offense, (No. 2 in Pac-12 behind Arizona) and No. 12 in turnover margin (No. 1 in Pac-12). The biggest area in need of improvement? The run game. Oregon State is ranked 99th in the country and ninth in the Pac-12 (119.60 yds per game in rushing offense).

Individually on offense, Markus Wheaton is No. 6 in the country in receptions per game (8.2) while Cooks is No. 22 (6.8). Cooks is No. 2 nationally in receiving yards per game (131.8), Wheaton is No. 10 at 112.8.

Jordan Poyer and Scott Crichton lead the nation in interceptions per game (1.0) and sacks (1.6). Crichton is also fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (2.20 per game).

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