Moevao & Canfield, QB state of the union

THERE ARE FEW THINGS a head coach dislikes more than a quarterback controversy. Indeed, last year around this time, Oregon State head man Mike Riley said he never again wanted to go into August without naming a starter. This year looks to be setting up differently than last, but there's still plenty of intrigue at the most visible of positions on the Oregon State football team.

Riley's decision on naming the go-to quarterback was made easier this offseason -- junior Sean Canfield was recovering from shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, Lyle Moevao, also a junior, was turning in a solid spring taking over the starting duties.

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This & That, on QBs and OSU playmakers
AS FOR CANFIELD,. for some reason, it's easier for fans to remember the bad than the good with Canfield. Sure, he threw 15 interceptions in 11 games, but just three came in the last four games he played.

Although his passing yards dropped significantly during that four game stretch, you could still see his development as a quarterback -- he began to go through his progressions faster and more efficiently, toss the ball away if no one was open or tuck it away and pick up positive yards with his feet.

Plus, he wasn't helped by a plethora of dropped passes by upper and lower classman alike. Canfield can make any throw on the field, he has solid relationships with his receivers and a strong understanding of the offense.

But what still worries some where Canfield is concerned is the mental game.

The California native has made mention in several post game interviews that he has to do a better job in moving on after throwing an interception, referencing Matt Moore's ability to forget about the past and focus on the future.

But while he does a great job of identifying what he needs to do to bounce back, his body language oftentimes conveys a completely different message, and players around him can't help but pick up on it. The sooner Canfield learns to take an education from a mistakes rather than dwell on them, the better a quarterback he will be -- in all phases of the game.

ONE ISSUE THAT plagued both quarterbacks at times last year -- the inability of the receivers to get open and/or stretch the field. Several factors were at play, including Sammie Stroughter being out of the lineup and freshmen learning the ropes.

The good news is that Stroughter is back, which helps the overall passing attack and specifically the deep game, while Catchings and Rodgers have a year of experience under their belts -- they looked the part of much more experienced ball players this spring.

With those three stepping up, it allows the QBs to attack with other playmakers -- like Chris Johnson, Shane Morales and Casey Kjos -- to be all that more effective. Throw in a more experienced group of talented tight ends and the Beaver passing game could be a force to reckon with in '08.

That means the playbook could well be wide open and turbo charged. The fly sweep, reverses, flea flickers - all of those plays and more could be on the table and that means, among other things, less pressure on the quarterback.

All they have to do is get the ball to the playmakers and watch them churn up the turf.

Ask any QB who has gone from backup to starter and they'll tell you this: One, the value of timing, and the time spent in developing chemistry with the front line receivers, backs and line cannot be understated. Second, there just aren't enough reps to go around beyond what is required for the starter. With Canfield out of action this offseason, Moevao benefited markedly.

He did so by working closely with the receivers in the summer months during the Beavs' voluntary practice sessions that he and Canfield organized -- and prior to that, Moevao's extra practice reps with the receivers really paid off in the spring and set the foundation.

There's less than two weeks to go before heading into fall camp and if he were to make even a little bit more of an improvement during the fall session, come fall the OSU offense will be represented by an accurate, confident and smart decision maker slinging the pigskin.

DESPITE HIS PROGRESS and a perfect 4-0 record as a starter, Moevao still has his doubters -- in a recent poll conducted earlier this month on the BF.C free football board for who they wanted to start between Moevao and Canfield, 54 percent voted for Canfield.

Moevao's detractors claim that he does not have the arm strength to make the difficult passes near the sidelines or the deep throws consistently. They have a point. In several games last year, specifically Washington State, he sailed balls over the heads of wide open receivers that would have resulted in touchdowns and/or big gains if on target.

His 52.4 percent completion rate, second worst among starters and part time starting quarterbacks in the conference, and just two throwing touchdowns, worst among starters and part time starters in the Pac-10, certainly suggests he needs to work on his accuracy.

On the other hand, Moevao is a beast in the pocket. Anyone who followed the Beavs last season and watched him after he released the ball saw plenty of occasions where Moevao took big hits, time and time again, while making an accurate toss.

He also gives the offense more mobility, picking up several first downs with his feet and running for a pair of scores in '07. That's more of a risk the coaches perhaps wouldn't take with Canfield in the pocket.

THAT MOBILITY DID come at a cost last year -- Moevao had trouble holding onto the ball, committing a number of fumbles in '07. That's something he'll need to correct.

But one area that Moevao has a clear edge versus Canfield isn't so easily quantified on stats page -- his demeanor in the huddle and with this teammates. It should be noted that each player has their own style - Moevao is vocal and demonstrative, Canfield is reserved.

For Canfield to truly emerge as a leader, he likely needs to get more vocal. Former quarterback Derek Anderson and Matt Moore were both reserved in their first year's as starters. But as seniors, they developed into very vocal leaders, getting in a teammate's faces if they did something wrong on the field or were joking around on the sidelines during a blowout.

Their aggressiveness had to do with several factors -- it was their final year of college football, they had a very good understanding of the offense which in turn gave them confidence to lead, and they didn't have to worry about a quarterback competition.

IN THIS MAN's humble opinion, it's not likely that Canfield will take a run at Moevao's starting spot based on Riley's comments this offseason.

And the coaches don't want a quarterback controversy and, right now, there isn't one. Moevao has shown the skills necessary to be successful during the season and in spring ball and until he shows otherwise, he's the No. 1 guy.

But what the coaches do want to see from Canfield, first and foremost, is a smooth throwing motion. Secondly, they want to see how he reacts after he gets hit or is about to get hit on his surgery repaired shoulder. Third, they want to see how much he has developed without the benefit of a full offseason of work.

The answers to those questions could well tell the Beaver Nation if Oregon State will have the benefit of going into the season with two highly capable field generals.


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