Is this RB on the rise at Oregon State?

THERE WAS A striking play late in the spring showcase at Oregon State. The Beavs were near the goal line and running back Damien Haskins cut the rug, jump-stopping his way into the end zone. That change of direction, that ability to make yards when a clear path isn't readily apparent, is what the Beaver running game has been missing in recent years.

Oregon State in 2014 is going to have to have a guy who can make some yards on his own if the spring showcase was any indication.

Sure, ideally you'd have a blast-furnace offensive line, one that would give Beaver running backs consistent lanes from which to utilize their skills.

And sure, there were a lot of reserves in the game at the time Damien Haskins, listed fourth on the depth chart, started to shine. But the moves Haskins displayed on that play (and others) hold much of the same value regardless of who might have been in on defense. Quickness can be just as effective against the 1s as it is against the 3s.

THE BEAVS' offensive line will be better in the fall once Isaac Seumalo and Josh Williams return from rehab. But they're not going to be deep. And they're not going to be one of the Pac-12's best if the spring was any indication.

A reasonable set of expectations would be that the Oregon State o-line will struggle early, but come on stronger as the season goes along.

Sean Mannion was under fire much of the spring from the rush and he no longer has Brandin Cooks. I think Victor Bolden is going to be a star but it's asking too much to expect him in 2014 to be what Cooks was in 2013. Richard Mullaney and Connor Hamlett will help, but it's hard to objectively say the OSU passing game this year will be as explosive as it was last year.

And as explosive as it was last year, we all saw what happened when the Beavs faced better competition -- their one-dimensional attack was stymied and the Beavs lost five straight to end the regular season.

The Beavs need a run game and they need a running back who can make yards on his own. And from this chair, the guy who did the best at that in the final Oregon State session of the spring was Haskins.

Terron Ward, if he plays like he did in the Civil War, can cause teams problems. Storm Woods has always given hope that he can make yards on his own as well, but he hasn't turned that corner yet on Saturdays in the fall. Chris Brown has promise, but hasn't been able to jump over Ward and Woods.

AND SO MAYBE the guy who emerges this season is Haskins.

The redshirt freshman is built low, at 5-foot-8. He's also built wide, at 224-pounds.

He's not going to show you top-end speed but a running back doesn't always need that to rip off 5-, 8- and 12-yard gainers. Not if he's quick, not if he has moves. Not if he has power to break tackle and tally up yards after contact. Haskins, in the spring showcase, showed all of it.

THE SPRING SHOWCASE didn't feature a lot of running in the first "half." When the Beavs did run, they were stymied. The o-line couldn't open lanes and the running backs couldn't make something out of nothing.

There were more running plays and things also slowly got better in the second "half." And Haskins turned my head more than did any other running back.

And maybe he's the guy who does more of the same in fall camp and on into the season for the Beavs in 2014.


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