BF.C Fall Camp Preview: TB's and FB's

CORVALLIS -- Are the orange and black poised to name a solid, definitive starting running back? Or will Beaver Nation again get a look at a rotating set? FB Tyler Anderson sat out all of spring ball – will fall camp come too quickly for the junior to recover and play at the top tier? Perhaps the most pressing issue – can we expect any incoming rookies to make an early push for playing time?

The Tailbacks
Arguably, the best thing about 2013 for the OSU running backs: the Beavs aren't relying on the hope nor expectation that a young guy needs to come in and win it all in fall camp -- the way Storm Woods had to last year.

The declining and oft-injured state of former OSU tailback Malcolm Agnew necessitated the expedited progress of Woods in 2012 – and it also forced Terron Ward to step up and bite into a larger role than anyone originally anticipated he would have as a sophomore.

Flash to 2013 – Woods/Ward have a season under their belts and are healthy. The prevailing assumption is that Woods gets the official nod from on high for reps with the 1's in fall camp, and starting time once the season begins. He looks to have bulked up a bit, potentially adding both metaphorical and legitimate weight to his game.

Yet whatever offseason improvements that Woods has made cannot – rather, should not – overshadow the fact that Ward will be an integral part of the OSU running schemes. After Ward (5-7, 200) cruised past Arizona State last season with 19 carries for 146 yards and a TD despite being coming into that game as the third string tailback, fans and pundits alike perked up a bit.

Maybe the challenge of that game (Woods was injured, Agnew wasn't moving the chains) is what kicked the sophomore into high gear. Whatever it was, the coaching staff at Oregon State took notice. My observations late in 2012 and in this spring were that OSU began designing more plays around the notion that they had two very capable runners sporting their colors.

So in all likelihood, Woods gets the title of No.1 tailback in the fall depth chart and Ward slates at No.2, with Chris Brown leading the way for the scout team in the backfield.

BROWN, A REDSHIRT freshman who checks in at 5-10, 198 pounds, is still developing. It's not necessarily a bad thing considering Woods and Ward both have three years of eligibility remaining. But there will come a time that Brown will need to "turn the corner," and time is, if not running out, ticking by at a louder clip.

And as far as the cupboard goes, OSU looks to be in good shape with Lawrence Mattison and Damien Haskins in the fold, having come in this class.

I suspect caution will be the name of the game, as Riley in the years to come gradually slides back toward a more power running offensive look with guys like Mattison and Haskins. But that's the future. In 2013, it's expected to be about Woods and Ward.

WOODS' AND WARD's impact should be felt early and often provided they stay healthy. A dual tailback set could be the most beneficial opportunity for Riley and RB's coach Chris Brasfield to prolong the health and consistency of the duo.

Both are solid options to have on screen plays and both know how to avoid and break tackles.

They are relatively decent singularly -- combined however, they make for a daunting threat unless an opposing defensive line is stacked via Andre the Giant clones with rocket boosters on their cleats.

Brown's influence in the fall should be comparatively small to that of the above-mentioned tailback tandem. He has to wait in line just like everyone else – either that or push, shove, kick and otherwise earn the designation of ‘game changer' in replacing Woods or Ward. That scenario seems unlikely based on this spring but you never know for sure what development has taken place from spring to fall until they get back out on the field.

Mattison and Haskins are probable redshirts unless one or the other comes into fall camp with the velocity of a swinging wrecking ball and diminishes the front seven to origami – also a scenario that seems unlikely.

The Tailback's Best Friend:
Oregon State has a beast of a fullback in Tyler Anderson and he should return at 100 percent in the fall. He knows how to pave the way for tailbacks and he is a fair ball handler himself in spite of infrequent turns with the ball -- Anderson amassed an average of 3.9 yards per carry on 13 attempts with three TD's, and 22 receiving yards on four receptions.

If he doesn't return strong, will that responsibility then fall to Michael Balfour? Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf don't utilize the FB all that frequently, so having a younger guy with less overall experience is not too much of a detriment to the position -- as long as he can block and keep pace with the churning legs of Woods/Ward.

Balfour assumed FB duties this spring in lieu of Anderson's absence and the sophomore showed good anticipation of the defense and certainly managed to get a strong, well-executed block in here and there.

If I'm Riley, Balfour isn't my first choice, yet he remains an option with definite room for improvement. Balfour is not as aggressive at the point of attack as Anderson proved to be in 2012 - that type of bang-em-up mentality comes with confidence in one's body and real time experience on the turf.

If Anderson swings into fall on a healthy note, he gets the playing time. But Balfour is in reserve, a guy who knows the schemes well enough to execute when he is called upon. It could be worse.

Ricky Ortiz floated around the tight end unit for a year prior to finding a home as a fullback in the spring behind Anderson and Balfour. Ortiz is a 6-0, 233 redshirt freshman walk on who became well acquainted with the scout team. He provides a mix of size, speed and decent blocking technique to the backfield should he (in desperation) be needed.

All in all, the running back corps look like a positive for OSU. No outstanding injuries coming into fall camp, and veterans won't necessarily be too caught up in securing their jobs over a youngster, thusly giving them the opportunity to rehash what they already know works best and improve when and where it counts headed into 2013.

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