Ask the Insiders: How do you replace Wheaton?

WHAT HELPED enable Oregon State to confound preseason expectations last year – picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North and instead winding up with a Top 20 ranking at year's end – was the passing game on offense. But Markus Wheaton has graduated. Where does that leave OSU now? Insiders Chad Luther and Drew Wilson-McGrath run the routes on that and more…

Luther: With Markus Wheaton tearing it up at the Senior Bowl, one has to wonder whether Brandin Cooks will be a marked man -- can Oregon State find another receiver to contribute enough to keep defenses from focusing on Cooks?

Who do you like to be the 1B to Cooks' 1A next season?

Wilson-McGrath: The sooner Mikr Riley and Brent Brennan get Richard Mullaney fully involved in the aerial attack, the better.

Finding a receiver on the roster who can keep pace with Cooks in terms of speed is currently out of the question. But the West Coast offense Riley and Co. implement will benefit from the size and sure hands of Mullaney just as much as it does the speed of Cooks.

In fact, I feel Mullaney is the perfect complement to Cooks. That's because Mullaney has shown countless times in practice this past season to be an effective weapon whether it's big play ability in space, close quarters or in the red zone. He's that versatile.

I will also reiterate that his hands came straight from the Stick-Um factory. Mullaney has got my vote of confidence for a starting bid, even though he doesn't boast the experience that guys like Kevin Cummings do.

In that same vein – look for it to be a tough battle between Cummings and Malik Gilmore for the slot position.

Relegating Mullaney's talent solely to slot receiver is a waste. Cummings has the knowledge of the playbook, and Gilmore is a sleeper.

Luther: Count me as a big Mullaney fan. It seems that Mullaney was being groomed to play split end, which is traditionally more of a possession receiver in OSU's offense.

Wheaton's blocking improved tremendously by the time he was a senior, and it really helped spring Cooks on those bubble screens. What's your take on how well Mullaney gets dirty with the defensive backs?

Wilson-McGrath: Therein lies perhaps the only issue with Mullaney moving forward.

I tend to be a harsh judge, but I was none too impressed with his blocking capabilities. Now, Mullaney is physical as all hell when it comes to getting the ball into his hands and earning YAC – and he has a mean stiff arm. But the blocking and all the little things he does without the ball need to improve.

Those bubble screens you mentioned are the key to using Cooks at an optimum level and Mullaney may have his work cut out for him unless he can adapt and develop his blocking techniques. If he can accomplish that, he will be a complete package with every opportunity to create nightmares for smaller DB's.

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