.:: WIDE RECEIVERS ::.
Combined with the tight ends, the Tigers have on the most potent receiving groups in the Big 12. Junior Will Franklin (6-2, 205) is the team's best playmaker at wideout, but injured his shoulder against Iowa State and is out for the bowl game. Sensational true freshman Jared Perry (6-1, 170) will take Franklin's spot at the "X" position.
Perry can stretch the field and, despite weighing only 170 pounds, he can take a hit. The Sporting News named him to their freshman All-Big-12 team after leading all Big 12 freshman with 36 catches for 413 yards and three touchdowns. He has the longest reception on the team this season with a 74-yard touchdown catch from Daniel.
Senior Brad Ekwerekwu, pictured left, (6-4, 215) is the most experienced wideout on the team with 34 career starts at the "H" spot. Ekwerekwu has the best hands on the team as he has grabbed 30 receptions for 351 yards and two touchdowns. He is also a team captain and has had a reception in 9 of 12 games this season. Ekwerekwu is the in the Brandon Powers mold as he does the little things to keep the offense moving forward.
Former walk on Tommy Saunders mans the final "Z" receiving spot where he has 23 receptions for 231 yards and one touchdown. Saunders has played well in the second half of the season with 20 of his 23 catches coming the second half this year.
True freshman Danario Alexander sits behind Ekwerekwu at the "H" spot and has been receiving more time of late with 10 of his season's 14 receptions coming in the last three games. Alexander has 177 yards on those 14 catches.
The receivers don't mind getting down and dirty and neither do the OSU cornerbacks. The Beavers should be able to stick with the receivers one on one although Ekwerekwu's size and smarts could present problems. Keeping Perry in front of them will be important, as the secondary wants to force the younger players to make plays.
.:: SPECIAL TEAMS ::.
Place kicker Jeff Wolfert earned honorable mention all-conference honors after connecting on 17 of 19 attempts and a perfect 40 of 40 on PATs. His 91 points this year set the school's kick scoring record while his 17 made field goals also set a school record for the most made field goals in one season.
Wolfert is perfect from forty yards in with his misses coming from 41 and 56 yards. His longest of the season is a 54-yard boot against Nebraska. Wolfert has made 14 consecutive field goals and has made a field goal in every game this year except one. He has not had a kick blocked.
Similar to OSU punter Kyle Loomis, Missouri punter Adam Crossett has improved as the year has progressed. He is averaging 39.5 yards per punt, last in the conference, but has averaged 42.5 yards per kick on 24 attempts in the last six games. Crossett has a long of 79. Twelve of his 42 attempts have resulted in a touchback or fair catch while he has placed 13 kicks inside the twenty.
Crossett also handles kickoffs where he is averaging 60 yards per kick. Nineteen, the least in the conference, of his 71 attempts have resulted in a touchback while one of his boots went out of bounds.
Sophomore Tommy Saunders is the team's leading punt returner with 10 returns for a 11.9 average. Backup running back Marcus Woods and defensive back Cornelius Brown also help field punts. The Tigers have yet to return a punt for a touchdown this season.
Running back Earl Goldsmith primarily handles kickoff returns averaging 19.5 yards on 13 attempts with a long of 32. The aforementioned Woods also helps field kickoffs.
Special team's coverage hasn't been great as the Tigers rank 98th nationally in net punting (32.7), 112th in kickoff returns (17.4) and 72nd in punt returns (7.9).
Special teams is definitely an area that Oregon State can exploit. The Beavers currently rank 17th in the nation in punt returns (14.7) and 35th in the nation in kickoff returns (22.0). Coye Francies and Gerard Lawson do a fantastic job taking the ball and going straight up field. Francies is averaging 22.6 per return, sixth in the Pac-10, while Lawson is averaging 27.8 yards per return which includes a 100-yard romp for six against Hawaii.
Sammie Stroughter is one of the most explosive punt returners in the country averaging 15.4 yards per return, good for fourth in the nation, to go with three touchdowns this year. Throw in the ever reliable Alexis Serna, who puts the Beavers in scoring position when they are at their opponent's forty yard line, and the improving Kyle Loomis, who is averaging 41.1 yards per boot, and the Orange and Black special teams is a force to reckon with.
The OSU special teams, at the very least, will give the Beavers an advantage in the field position game and very likely could score a touchdown.
Tomorrow - Defensive line, secondary and linebackers