Well Beaver fans, the 2002 football season is over on somewhat of a sour note. The Beavers fell to 8-5 after their 38-13 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday night in front of a national audience. Two out of three of Oregon State's prime time football players did not have the games we would have hoped for and the Beavers continued to rack up the penalty yards. Minutes after the conclusion of the Insight Bowl my mind wandered to the possibilities of the 2003 football season.
The 2003 campaign is only 246 days away. 246 days until the Beavers kickoff against Sacramento State. 246 days until Steven Jackson makes his debut for his 2003 Heisman campaign. 246 days until Kirk Yliniemi hits another field goal. 246 days until James Newson makes another incredible catch. 246 days until another Beaver football victory.
The offense returns nine out of eleven starters to a unit that averaged 418 yards a game. An offense that broke five Oregon State game records, nine season records, and two team records.
The offensive line is in excellent shape for the next football season. Senior guard, Mike Kuykendall, is the only starter that the Beavers will miss from the o-line. Senior Lee Davis will also graduate, but Davis was injured for most the year and did not play a significant amount.
Most likely, three out of the five offensive lineman next year will be juniors and due to injuries more players had the opportunity to play, which will benefit the offensive line in '03.
The Beavers will lose one of their tight ends, Jermaine Jackson, but Tim Euhus (6-5, 247) and Dan Haines (6-4, 245) might be the best tight ends at Oregon State in a long time. As a matter of fact, the tight end position may be one of the deepest positions on the team. Euhus and Haines have shown the ability to get down field and make the great catch, but highly recruited Joe Newton (6-6, 231) has redshirted and is hungry for some playing time.
As for the OSU running backs not much needs to be said. Steven Jackson (6-1, 227) is a legit 2003 Heisman candidate. Dwight Wright (5-9, 197) is a solid backup. Neither fumbles the ball, and both are quick enough to outrun the defense. Look for another bruising, stiff arming, year from Steven.
Derek Anderson (6-6, 235) will have a full year of experience under his belt. He will learn to set his feet, he will learn to not lock onto a receiver, he will learn when to throw the ball away and when to run. As someone said on the message boards, "Remember, Anderson is ten times better than Palmer was when he was a sophomore and look at Palmer now, a Heisman trophy winner." Well put.
The receiving core is very deep. With James Newson (6-1, 201) returning and looking to break his own records at OSU the Beavers are in good hands. Sure handed sophomore Cole Clasen (5-9, 182) will return along with junior Kenny Farley (6-3, 225). George Gillet (6-1, 208) and Jayson Boyd (6-3, 181) saw limited action during 2002, but should see increased playing time due to Shawn Kitner's and Seth Trimmer's graduations. Josh Hawkins (6-1, 184) redshirted the 2002 season after playing in 2001 and should help the Beavers immensely in 2003. Look for Hawkins to have a big year as the opponents focus on Newson and Steven Jackson.
On paper, the Beaver offense looks to be ready to shatter all of the records they set in 2002. Only game time will tell if the 2003 Beaver offense can become one of the most explosive offensive units in OSU history.
The Beaver defense is almost on the opposite end of the spectrum as the Beaver offense. The "D" loses six starters including numerous key players, including future NFLers Eric Manning and Dennis Weathersby.
The defensive line will lose only one starter, Eric Manning, but Manning's presence in the middle demanded two offensive linemen's attention, which allowed the defensive ends to take more risks. The line will also lose big James Lee, who also has a shot in the NFL. Although the loss of of Manning will hurt, the Beavers will return three d-line starters: sophomore end, Bill Swancutt (6-5, 251), who lead the team in sacks, junior tackle Dwan Edwards (6-3, 294), and junior end Noah Happe (6-5, 238). Junior Jayson Jean-Baptiste (6-5, 238) who saw significant playing time in '02 will also return.
The line backing corp will lose leading tackler, Nick Barnett, and the hard working, Erik Tuma. Richard Seigler (6-3, 230) will be the only returning starting linebacker, but there is nothing to worry about. Fiery sophomore Jonathan Pollard (6-1, 227) has the skills to pick up where Barnett left off and looks to take a place along side Seigler in '03. Freshman Trent Bray (6-1, 224) saw a significant amount of playing time during the season and looks to make his way into the starting lineup, but sophomore Seth Lacey (6-1, 213) will compete for a starting position as well.
Oregon State may be hit the hardest at the corner back position where they will lose four year starter and their all-time pass breakup leader, Dennis Weathersby, and Terrell Roberts, who was second on the team in pass deflections with 10. Both had solid years in 2002 and will be sorely missed. Junior Shamon Jamerson (5-11, 181) looks to take Robert's position, as sophomore Aric Williams (6-0, 174) looks to take Weathersby's position. Both have little experience at the corner back position during game time. This could be the Beavers weakest position on the team.
Senior Calvin Carlyle will also graduate, but Carlyle and junior Lawrence Turner (5-11, 193) shared the strong safety position, so the Beavers should not see a drop off in talent at the strong safety position. Free safety Mitch Meeuwsen (6-3, 205) will return once again to solidify the backfield.
The Beaver defense will lose many integral members, but should still be a decent squad. The linebackers will be ferocious as ever, the defensive line will have the skills to put pressure on the opposing quarterback, and the backfield should be sufficient.
All in all, the Beaver Nation has many things to look forward to in 2003. Another 8 win season, another bowl game, and another dominating performance against the Ducks! Go Beavs!
Note: Look for coverage of the Insight Bowl later in the day and this week.