Spring ball: Twelve to watch

Twelve players, six on each side of the ball, to keep your eyes on during Oregon State's 2008 spring practice session.

Defense

CB Tim Clark - There wasn't a bigger surprise then the growth and development of Clark. The junior came in cold for Keenan Lewis starting four games while grabbing 32 tackles and eight pass breakups, good for second on the team, including one interception. Clark is definitely in the rotation giving the team a solid three man rotation.

DT Mitchel Hunt - This Texan has been in the system for two years, but has been slowed down by injuries with the most current one being a knee sprain that he suffered almost exactly one year ago. Hunt is healed up and atop the depth chart where he will battle Sioeli Nau and Latu Moala, two other defensive tackles to keep your eye on, for the starting spot. Staying injury free is key.

S Lance Mitchell/Cameron Collins - Singled out by coach Mike Riley for their smarts and athleticism Mitchell and Collins have a big time opportunity to make an impact due to Al Afalava's suspension. They will be the front runners for the starting jobs a year from now, but will be called into duty to round out the depth chart this season.

LB Keith Pankey - A talented athlete who came in and immediately made an impact on special teams as a freshman where he had a nose for the ball and was a sure tackler. His outstanding play earned him some playing time later in the year and the reward of being at the top of the depth chart to start the spring.

LB Dwight Roberson - A dangerous blend of brawn and speed Roberson has paid his duties on special teams and is ready to take over a starting linebacking role. It is foolish to think he can pick up where Joey LaRocque left off, but his speed and a penchant to punish opponents into the turf will make up for some of his rookie mistakes.

DE Keith Roberston - In his final year Roberston has finally cracked the two deeps and a home a defensive end. In football shape and ready to go, Robertson needs to have a year like Victor Butler and Slade Norris did in 2007 to keep the Beaver defense strong in 2008.

 

Offense

RB Jeremy Francis - Originally not expected to arrive until the summer Francis took care of his class work and will participate in his first Corvallis spring practice. With great hands and a bruising running style he is expected to push McCants for the starting tailback spot.

C Marcus Henderson - Not many walk-on offensive lineman are awarded scholarships and even less get a chance to compete for a starting spot. Henderson has plenty of experience playing in over 20 games the last two years and will compete for the starting center position.

K Justin Kahut - Consistency in the kicking game has been a staple in the Oregon State program for almost a decade. Kahut has a big leg to connect consistently from 40 yards out and he learned from one of the best in Alexis Serna. He has the physical skills, but does he have the mental skills?

RB Ryan McCants - The offensive load falls squarely on this underclassman's broad shoulders, but history says not to worry. Under Mike Riley two freshman have eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark.  Ken Simonton rushed for a school freshman rushing record 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1999 as a true freshman while Yvenson Bernard put up 1,321 rushing yards, fifth all-time in school history, and 13 touchdowns in his inaugural starting season.

OT Viliamu Nau - At a massive 330-pounds Nau is another junior college prospect who is expected to come in and compete immediately for playing time. The offensive line sorely lacks depth at the tackles and getting Nau up to speed is needed.

WR Sammie Stroughter - He's back, but will the All-American be able to pick up where he left off his junior year? By the time the season rolls around it will have been almost a year since he has played against players other than his teammates. Luckily for Stroughter, Darrell Catchings and James Rodgers quick development will give him time to ease back into his role as one of the go to guys on offense.


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