ROUNDUP: Linnenkohl's tenacity earns nickname

FOUR MONTHS AGO, Alex Linnenkohl wasn't Oregon State's starting center -- he wasn't even listed anywhere on the offensive line depth chart release just prior to the Aug. 1 start of camp. Yet one of the reasons why OSU is leading the race for the Pac-10 crown has been the emergence of the Beaver o-line. And in the middle of the group, a second year sophomore given an apt nickname by his teammates.

Many observers felt headed into this year Alex Linnenkohl probably needed another year of seasoning before he'd be ready to compete for a starting job. It seemed reasonable, the preseason fall camp depth chart had him as the leading snapper candidate but senior Marcus Henderson and sophomore Ryan Pohl were the only two listed at center.

Besides, it seemed Linnenkohl's best position might end up being at guard.

But '08 projected starting center Henderson was suddenly mired in a month-plus long battle with mono, and it readily became apparent he would not be ready to start the opener. Henderson was cleared to play before the Penn State game and has since made a full return to health. But once Linnenkohl had earned the starting job in camp, he saw to it there was no longer a question on who would start.

"He never let it go," said Mike Riley.

LINNENKOHL, WHO PREPPED at Capital High in Olympia, Wash., wasn't a sought after o-lineman coming out of high school. Schools liked him more at d-tackle -- Oregon State didn't decide which side of the ball he would play until they got him into his first fall camp in '07.

The Beavs offered him in large part because they saw him on two occasions in the summers before his junior and senior years -- when Capitol camped at Oregon State. Linnenkohl in high school, said Riley on Tuesday, didn't exactly "fit the box" in what you look for, he didn't have prototype measurables. But Riley, line coach Mike Cavanaugh and the Beaver staff still saw something in Linnenkohl that led them to believe he'd succeed in the Pac-10.

Sure, a big part of it was and is his ability, you have to have a base to build and develop from. But what Riley says stood out then is what still stands out today -- competitive fire. To get a sense of it, you only have to look at Linnenkohl's nickname among the Beaver players.

It's Tas --- as in, The Tasmanian Devil.

"The guy is a tenacious player and truly, truly dedicated. He's really competitive," said Riley.

Most Tasmanian Devil-types are.

UNLESS YOU'VE BEEN living under a rock and prefer ice skating to college football, you know what's at stake for Oregon State these last two games -- win out and it's a guaranteed berth in the Rose Bowl. Arizona, however, provides the first of two stern tests. "It'll be tough, there's no doubt about it," says Beaver head man Mike Riley.

DT Stephen Paea (knee) will be limited in practice this week but is expected to be good to go by kickoff on Saturday.

QB Lyle Moevao (illness) doesn't have much of a voice but it appears he's physically fine other than not being able to bark out a cadence.

IT BECAME APPARENT -- last year -- that Wildcat TE Rob Gronkowski had a very bright future ahead of him. And he's only become more of a weapon for Arizona over the course of this season.

"He obviously needs to garner some attention," said Mike Riley.

The Beavs are expected to throw a variety of looks at Gronkowski and the Arizona offense. The key will likely how well they are able to crowd him in space. Stanford did such a good job of it that Willie Tuitama found few times to even throw to him, the tight end finishing with just two catches for 30 yards.

Arizona has plenty of weapons, and Gronkowski is only one. And the Beavs don't have to limit him to those numbers, and other teams have beat Arizona when Gronkowski goes wild. But it would certainly help the Beavers' cause if they're able to keep Gronkowski in check.

THE NO-SHAVE NOVEMBER idea was the brainchild of Beaver tight end Gabe Miller -- build up a little more unity, keep on winning, seems like a good idea. It started with the offense and has spread to the defense, and the coaching staff.

Riley isn't taking part but others on the coaching staff are, much to the amusement of the head man.

"I think some of the coaches are wishing it never happened at this point," Riley quipped.

Offensive guard Gregg Peat, who is quietly having a standout season, has Riley beat in the quote department. This, from the Statesman Journal a few days ago; ""Some of us can grow a beard better than others," said Peat. "I'm participating at the expense of my breathtakingly good looks."

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