OSU FALL CAMP: Under the radar storyline

THE START OF FALL CAMP is just hours away for the Beavs and while a whole lot of focus will be on the QB duel, the big questions at defensive tackle and on several other areas, I find myself pondering something different…

Run, Mike Riley, run.

A couple years ago in the midst of a pass-happy 3-9 campaign, Riley talked at length about how he oh-so-much preferred an offense based on five yards and a cloud of dust. But OSU continued to throw the ball with abandon that year, because they had to. The pass gave them a better chance to move the chains.

The Beavs that season went to the air 503 times, with just 318 touches on the ground.

Last year, Riley took over the play calling from Danny Langsdorf, and everyone looked for the head man to run, run, run.

The Beavers started out the year that way but Oregon State still didn't have a solid enough ground force -- and in a 9-4 season Riley called 504 pass plays against 442 rushing attempts.

This year is lining up to be different. And the biggest factor here is Storm Woods.

WOODS LOOKED SHARP this spring plus he's put on some muscle this offseason -- that should help him better withstand injury.

OSU needs a guy who can also make yards on his own. And Woods' ability to see the whole field and the holes in the defense was noticeably improved this spring over his freshman campaign in 2012. He's reacting now, rather than thinking his way along.

Woods also improved in the receiving game, and his increased aggression towards would-be tacklers was evident. It's expected to be more of the same when the Beavers open fall camp on Monday.

WOODS WILL ALSO have a change of pace guy behind him who can shoulder part of the load in Terron Ward (5-7, 200). He's not going to dazzle you with speed but he's both slippery and loves to play smash-mouth football. He's also more comfortable and looking like he's primed to play the best ball of his college career.

And the o-line returns mostly intact, a year older – and hopefully a year wiser and better able at plowing the road.

And if Oregon State can revive the fly sweep with Brandin Cooks or someone else in 2013 -- because let's be honest here, it hasn't been all that effective in recent seasons -- well that will just be the gravy on top.

OREGON STATE IN 2013 probably won't return to, say, their 2008 offensive numbers, the first year Quizz Rodgers took the Pac-12 by storm and OSU racked up 2,055 total ground yards. That could happen in another year or two if Woods continues on the same glide path but it's asking a bit much his second season. But...

But that kind of ratio could be in reach -- the Beavers rushed 487 times that '08 season, and threw 448 passes.

Even if the Beavs in '13 throw a bit more than they run -- after all you have to take advantage of what Cooks and other guys can do out in the pattern -- a season where OSU is on the doorstep of a 50-50 run-pass ratio will bring a big smile to Riley's face.

More importantly, it could result in another 9- or 10-win season for the Beavs -- offseason quarterback controversies and holes up front in the d-line be damned.

Run, Mike Riley, run.

BF.C will have our boots on the ground Monday morning at 11 a.m. for Day 1 of fall camp, with correspondent Drew Wilson-McGrath once more on the sidelines and providing exclusive on-site reports for BeaverFootball readers.

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