Lots to look forward to in 2006

The college football season is almost over and while our friends down south try to haggle themselves into a BCS bowl game, us Beaver fans are forced to forget about this year's woes and focus on next year's team. But there's lots to look forward to as Oregon State returns 17 starters.

The offense loses just two full time starters in receivers Mike Hass and Josh Hawkins while losing one part time starter in tight end Dan Haines. Despite the loss of the best receiver in Oregon State history and a depleted tight end group their is good news. Joe Newton will be back after missing all of 2005 with a knee injury. He went through a light workout before the Civil War and even asked coach Mike Riley if he could play. Riley obviously said no.

Slot receiver Marcel Love, who has been working diligently at Linn Benton Community College, could also be back in ’06. The Beavers also have two solid tight end verbals in Howard Croom and John Reese, who is expected to compete for time immediatley.

The offensive line is one of the youngest in the Pac-10 and was the only unit in the conference not to have a senior starting. That bodes well for both running back Yvenson Bernard and quarterback Matt Moore. Finding a playmaker at wide receiver will be one of the keys in 2006. That playmaker may be at OSU right now, see Ruben Jackson, or in the junior college ranks waiting to be discovered.

Defensively, Oregon State loses four big time players in tackles Alvin Smith and Sir Henry Anderson and linebackers Trent Bray and Keith Ellison. There is good news at these spots as well as tackles Ben Siegert and Curtis Coker saw plenty of time in ’05. All of the starting ends return and help is on the way in the form of verbals Keith Robertson and Dorian Smith. There is also no shortage of talent at the linebacking spot as the coaches will shift several players from inside to outside linebacker and visa versa trying to find the right mix.

The entire secondary returns with veteran safety Sabby Piscitelli and the very talented true freshman Al Afalava. Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes were mutually baptized by fire in their first year as starters, but with a year under their belts, they could become one of the stronger units on the team. Finding or developing quality depth in the secondary will be a major point of emphasis in the off season.

Kicker Alexis Serna returns for this third year, but punter Sam Paulescu is gone with incoming freshman Kyle Loomis slated to take over starting duties. But don't overlook Jake Harry who redshirted this year after being invited to walk on in the fall.

Focuses in the off-season:

- Find playmakers
Riley says - "We really suffered with that. Mike and Yvenson were the playmakers. That was it. We didn't have anybody else that scared anybody."

Bernard will be back and receiver Ruben Jackson showed glimpses of being a playmaker. Lamar Herron is a playmaker and the staff will continue to explore ways of getting the ball in his hands more. Add Joe Newton to the equation and a more experienced Moore and the offense looks loaded. On the defensive side of the ball the strength lies with the secondary. Afalava is a playmaker, but Coker and/or Seigert must step up. A difference maker on the ends is a must or it could another long year for the Beaver defense.

- Eliminate turnovers
Riley says - "That will be a priority, starting immediately. We'll have a turnover tape made, look at all of them, and find out why they occurred and what we can do to prevent them."

The Beavers gave up a Division 1-A leading 31 touchdown passes through the air while throwing a NCAA leading 23 interceptions. OSU finished with a NCAA leading 36 turnovers good for a -1.27 turnover margin, good for last in the Conference of Champions.

- Find depth
Riley says - "We just weren't a deep team, but nothing came easy and it went down hard."

Depth concerns lie at safety, cornerback, defensive tackle, and possibly running back and wide receiver. Seven true freshman played primarily on special teams in 2005 and their experience on the field this year will help the team next year. The coaches are also scouring the junior colleges in hopes of landing a big time recruit at any of the aforementioned positions. Cornerback Edorian McCullough could play a year in Corvallis.

Later this week BF.com will breakdown the offense and defense, position by position.   Have a question? Visit premium message board and ask away.

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