Receiver Sammie Stroughter and guard Jeremy Perry, the two most heralded players on that side of the ball entering the season, missed most of the year with a lacerated kidney and broken leg, respectively. The quarterbacks had no starting experience. Running back Yvenson Bernard became the team’s workhorse, but one of the toughest guys Riley has ever coached even missed two of the final five games. Bernard’s replacement was for the most part a player who was a safety and receiver in the program prior to the season.
But, that’s not all. Injuries forced true-freshmen Darrell Catchings and James Rodgers to play significant roles at split end and flanker. Even one of the best kickers ever in the Pac-10, Alexis Serna, was forced into double duty as the punter due to a late defection.
With all of that, the good news is that nine starters from the 2006 and 2007 seasons return for this year and 24 lettermen overall.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the players who made last year a success while facing a lot of difficult challenges,” Riley said. “We put some guys in tough situations, but in the long run that will be a benefit for us in years to come.”
Canfield continues to rehabilitate from a shoulder injury suffered Nov. 3 at USC that required offseason surgery. He started the first nine games of last season and was in the midst of playing his best football before the freakish injury to his throwing shoulder. He ended the year guiding Oregon State to a 21-14 win over Maryland in the Emerald Bowl, replacing his injured backup Moevao. Canfield finished with 1,661 yards passing and nine touchdowns on 165 of 286 completions (15 int).
Moevao was undefeated as a starter leading OSU to wins over Washington, Washington State and then No. 18 Oregon. The 5-11 Moevao has a distinctively different
style than Canfield and has shown a gritty toughness. He will take a big load
of the spring drills after passing for 876 yards and two scores last season.
He suffered a pair
of minor injuries in the Emerald Bowl that forced him out early in the game.
“Generally, I feel better about our quarterback situation than I did at this time last year when we had two guys competing for the job that had never started,” Riley said. “Sean and Lyle both demonstrated they can lead this team and be effective. It’s disappointing Sean won’t be able to participate this spring, but I know he has been working hard rehabilitating and looking forward to fall camp.”
True freshman Ryan Katz joins the team for spring practice, after graduating from Santa Monica (Calif.) High School early. He will have an opportunity to share snaps with walkons Brendan Sim and Justin Engstrom.
The running back position is exactly what the quarterback situation looked like at this time last year — lacking experience.
Redshirt-freshman Ryan McCants appears to be the next Beaver great running back, following in the footsteps of Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson and Yvenson Bernard — that trio ranks among the top 11 rushers of all-time in the Pac-10 Conference. McCants reminds many Beaver fans of a bit smaller Jackson. He was impressive as a true freshman last season on the scout teams.
Junior college transfer Jeremy Francis joins the team this spring and has a
definite opportunity to stake his claim as a starter. The El Camino Community
College standout could also line up as an “H” back in the Riley
system. His role is yet to be defined. Senior Patrick Fuller, who has been mainly
a special teams player, will also have an
This is a position that could see a true freshman make an impact. Parade All-American Jacquizz Rodgers, the brother of sophomore flanker James Rodgers, has impressive credentials after rushing for 2,902 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior. True-freshmen Keynan Parker, the son of CFL All-Star James “Quick” Parker, and Jovan Stevenson also could be in the mix.
“We’re obviously young, but it’s a group that is deep in talent,” Riley said. “This is going to be fun to watch how this plays out in August. I think we have found a group of players that will be very good for several seasons at Oregon State."
Quite possibly the strength of the offense is at receiver. 2006 All-American Sammie Stroughter returns after getting a Pac-10 medical hardship following last season’s serious injury. He is joined by Catchings and Rodgers in the starting lineup.
In addition to be an excellent receiver, Stroughter is also an ultra dangerous punt returner. He returned three punts for touchdowns in 2006, including the memorable 70-yard return in helping the Beavers end USC’s 27-game Pac-10 Conference win streak. As a receiver he has accounted for 1,613 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Sammie certainly adds another dimension to our team,” Riley said. “He will draw the attention of the opposing defenses. He is also one of the best in the nation on special teams.”
Rodgers was used as much as a “running back” as anything else from his flanker position last season. He accounted for 208 yards receiving on 19 receptions, but also 586 yards rushing on 50 carries — most coming on the “fly sweep.” The fan favorite will be even a bigger presence this season.
Catchings is the team’s leading returning receiver after snagging 33 balls for 386 yards. He may switch from split end to slot during spring with the return of Stroughter. Seniors Chris Johnson and Shane Morales, juniors Taylor Kavanaugh and Damola Adeniji, and sophomores Aaron Nichols and Casey Kjos also figure to contribute.
“In just one season we went from the receivers being the thinnest group on the team in terms of experience, to one of the deepest,” Riley said. “This was a big area of concern for us last season, but I feel much more comfortable about it this year.”
Four veterans return to anchor what has become a solid group. Junior Howard Croom started all 13 games last season and accounted for a team-high three touchdown receptions. Sophomore Gabe Miller started seven games in the Beaver two tight end set. Junior John Reese and sophomore Brady Camp also contributed. The foursome
combined for 34 receptions.
“A very good group that I expect bigger things from this year,” Riley said. “This is another area of the team that has gone from being inexperienced to a veteran unit. I like the makeup of this group.”
The Beavers lost two very good linemen in guard Roy Schuening, projected to be a high NFL draft pick, and center Kyle DeVan. Between the two of them they started 78 games. However, the Beavers do have three returning starters and several other experienced players.
Leading the list are senior guard Jeremy Perry, who has been on the Outland
and Lombardi Watch lists the last two seasons, and senior tackle Andy Levitre.
Perry missed almost all of last season after suffering a broken leg in the first
game of the season. Levitre has quietly become one of the best at his position
in the league. The two
have each started 26 games.
Senior Adam Speer flanks Levitre at guard. Speer has started 13 games over the last two seasons and has played center during his career. Senior Marcus Henderson is another veteran on the front and backed up DeVan last season.
Junior Gregg Peat and sophomores Alex Linnenkohl and Ryan Pohl also have considerable
experience, particularly from last season when Peat and Pohl each started two
games. Senior Tavita Thompson will return to game action Nov. 1 after having
his eligibility suspended by the NCAA last season. Senior Michael Cole also
action last season at tackle.
“The silver lining of last season on the line is that several guys experienced
a new position and we had some guys learn what it’s like to start in this
league,” Riley explained. “No question we have two very big holes
to fill with the loss of Schuening and DeVan, but at the same time we are in
better position this year for some new guys to make