Depth Chart Analysis - Part I

In light of the current struggles Oregon State faces with certain facets of their game much has been made of Mike Riley winning with Dennis Erickson's players and vice-versa. Some point to talent level of the athletes as it relates to recruiting history, some to the coaching staff's in-game adjustments, pre-game preparation, and/or player development, while others point to the system employed by each coach.

For those of you who follow the premium board, you may have recently seen Recruiting Analyst James Greule speak about the lack of depth in the junior and senior classes at Oregon State. This is a large reason why Riley and his staff are looking at more than a handful of JUCO kids this year. This article is basically just an expansion of that thought.

Bruce Battle/College of the Canyons
WR Tyrell Smith is one of several JUCO players who have verbaled to Oregon State this year.

The intent of this article is not to pinpoint a particular reason or state an opinion as to just where exactly the blame for Oregon State not being in the Rose Bowl this season lies, but more to chronicle an observation about the surprising turnover at many key positions on the depth chart. There is always attrition to any depth chart, whether the culprit is graduation, injury, or academic casualties, but the losses experienced by Oregon State over the last two years are particularly surprising. Draw your own conclusions once you have finished reading the article.

Some of the changes and attrition will not come as a surprise to die hard Beaver fans…maybe none of it is for those who eat, sleep, and breathe Beaver football. But I remember thinking during the ‘02 season that the 2004 Oregon State squad would be truly something to behold.

I also know that I figured Steven Jackson would still be wearing Orange and Black. I knew that he was something special, but my reckoning was that no Beaver had left the program early to date for the NFL, and that grades and therefore eligibility were no factor in the equation for Jackson.

But I digress.

As I was cleaning out my desk the other day, I happened across a printout of the depth chart from June of 2003. I sat down and gave it a cursory glance, and then something stopped me from round-filing the out-of-date papers.

Where have all these players that are on the two-deep gone?

One quick note before we get started: This is the 2003 depth chart. That means that Noah Happe is still listed as the starting left end, for instance. I know that Happe was counted as a loss for the 2003 season, but being that Noah was a senior for 2003, he doesn’t impact the current depth chart. I’ll be leaving losses to graduation largely out of the discussion, and mostly will be focusing on the results as we see them during this season.

When I speak about a “projected starter,” that means that in 2003, before fall camp broke, I was looking at the depth chart and figuring who I logically expected to start in 2004. That means that Mike Hass was not a “projected starter,” for instance, though he is one of the three best wideouts ever to play at Oregon State.

Associated Press
DE Noah Happe took off for the NFL after the 2002 season.

Ahem, now that I have wasted several minutes of your day, let’s lace ‘em up and take a swing at the offense.


Wide receivers as a position is a group that has surprisingly evolved into a position of strength for Oregon State, but mostly just for the latter half of thsis year. Why? Although the position is now seemingly fairly well stocked with talent, lack of experience has been costly at times this year.

• #1 FL Jayson Boyd – academic wash out. Would likely still project as a starter.
• #2 SL Travis Brown – behind senior Kenny Farley. Would project as a starter, academic wash out.
• #2 SE Josh Hawkins – currently in the program, behind starter Mike Hass.
• #2 FL George Gillette – currently in the program, behind starter Anthony Wheat-Brown.
• #3 SE Mike Hass – currently starting at SE.
• #3 SL Cole Clasen – transferred to Boise State.

True Freshmen:

• Brandon Powers – currently in the program.
• Phil Ghilarducci – transferred to JC due to family illness.
• Lorenzo Bursey – did not qualify.

Summary: Of the three projected starters, exactly zero are starting, and zero from the entire two deep as well. The only starter from the entire depth chart was Mike Hass – three deep on the 2003 depth chart.


Offensive line is a position that has been discussed with regularity on the message boards, and youth is prominently measured in the discussion. A quick look:

• #1 RT Doug Nienhuis – currently starting at RT.
• #2 RT Brandon Lockheart – dismissed from team for non-football related issues.
• #1 RG Kanan Sanchez – withdrew from program. Would still likely project as starter.
• #1 C Matt Brock – currently starting at C.
• #1 LG Jason Fyda – withdrew from program.
• #2 LG JC Ronnefeldt – currently in program.
• #2 LT Adam Koets – behind senior Brian Kilkenny. Currently starting at LT.
• #3 RT Josh Linehan – currently starting at LG


• Roy Scheuning – current starter at RG
• Patrick Wu – currently with program
• Kyle DeVan – played extremely well in place of injured Brock
• Whitfield Usher – currently with program

Dan Norz/
Brandon Lockheart was dismissed from the team two years ago.

Summary: Lot to digest here. Of five projected starters, three are still starting, two are gone from the program. The real story here is DEPTH – Linehan was being groomed as a tackle, and depth pressed him into duty at the guard position. Not an incredible amount of turnover, but the cycle should have this as a veteran, very productive offensive line, should things have gone “according to plan.”


At quarterback, there have been some changes. Derek Anderson would likely still project as the starter, however, and it’s largely an academic discussion as to whether Southwick or Clarkson would see playing time. This may, however, be a debate worth revisiting a year from now, but right now this is all the lip service I will pay to it.


• Ryan Gunderson – current #3 qb. Will contend for starting position in ‘05
• Danny Kalavi – no longer with team, left for undisclosed reasons.

Summary: Depth here is the main issue, but impact on this year’s program is only arguable.


Tight end is a rock-solid position, and one of the few that has gone exactly “according to plan.”

• #2 TE Pat Loney – played significant minutes this season.
• #3 TE Jonas Newton – current starter
• #4 TE Dan Haines – played significant minutes this season.


• Zach Hagemeister – late qualifier, currently with program.
• Jeff Kruskamp – currently with program.

Summary: Tight end continues to be a point of strength, and the continuity shows, as the TE’s are arguably the most consistent, productive facet of the offense.


Running backs are a position that could have used some more depth. It’s arguable as to whether there would be a big impact if we had recruited differently, but there is little doubt that Steven Jackson’s early departure left a large pair of shoes to fill.

• #1 RB Steven Jackson – early entry to the NFL.
• #2 RB Dwight Wright – current starter.
• #3 RB Ryan Cole – current #2 RB


• Charles Burnley – late qualifier, moved to defensive back.
• Clinton Polk – did not qualify.
• Yvenson Bernard – current #3 RB.

Dan Norz/
Steven Jackson was the first player in Oregon State history to leave early for the NFL.

Summary: The real story here is that of three running backs recruited, only one qualified, and Clint Polk could have pressed for starting time, as the powerful 6-foot-3 back from Phoenix drew favorable comparisons to Steven Jackson.


When looking at the offense piece by piece, there doesn’t appear to be significant damage. A player here gone, a player there. Steven Jackson leaving early for the NFL had a serious impact, but that’s the state of college football these days. Guys with ozone-level talent levels don’t play four years any more, and Steven Jackson’s talent level was sky-high.

Depth is the major hit, but even looking at the starters: Six of 11 projected starters is an ASTOUNDING amount of turnover in just ONE YEAR. Losing one or two projected starters and having one guy step up and outplay an incumbent is one thing, but having nearly half of the projected starters not finding their way into the starting lineup is, in a word, startling.

In part two we’ll take a look at the defense.

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