CORVALLIS -- With Pac-10 Player of the Year Jacquizz Rodgers sitting out of contact drills for the duration of the spring, and sophomore Ryan McCants going down in the last week of practice, it's hard to accurately gauge the status of the running back position headed into offseason workouts and fall camp. But freshman Jovan Stevenson used the opportunity to full advantage.

When Ryan McCants went down with a knee injury, Jovan Stevenson got his reps and extended coaching time. McCants did not have impressive rushing totals in the official scrimmages but one thing that did not get enough notice -- he was quite impressive the last week he practiced and looked like the big, bruising back Beaver fans count on.

Before that, however, McCants did not show much as far as being that powerful and physical running back. But the offensive line didn't do him any favors either.

The first team scrimmage for McCants yielded 27 yards on nine carries and it did not help the running back's cause that the defense was swarming him all day, with linebackers Keaton Kristick and David Pa'aluhi all up in his grill for most of the afternoon. The second scrimmage was not much better for the sophomore, bringing in only 29 yards on 11 carries as he again ran into heavy resistance from the defensive front seven.

Stevenson, a true freshman from Tuscan, Arizona, showed speed, quickness from sideline to sideline, and a pretty good set of hands coming out of the backfield. His blocking, however, needs work.

Although the first two positions on the depth chart are seemingly solidified by Quizz and McCants, Stevenson would seem very likely get his repetitions in the fall.

MEANWHILE, SOPHOMORE Will Darkins switched from linebacker to fullback at the end of last season, and will line up in the backfield with Quizz and McCants in the Beavs' two-back set.

His job will be to open holes for the running backs and the 6-1, 224 pound Darkins showed good power out of the backfield, creating lanes between the linemen for McCants or Stevenson to run through. It's early in the offseason but Darkins could become a key part of the Beaver offense this year, particularly with the talent Oregon State has in the backfield.

Redshirts Jordan Jenkins and Clayton York were the other freshmen running backs to take part in spring practices. Although both players will be stuck down on the depth chart, their performances, mostly against backups, were both impressive. Both players are big, strong runners who create with their bodies. Both could potentially end up on special teams this season.

WITH BOTH QUIZZ and McCants out, and the younger running backs getting a chance to show their worth, how will the depth compare to that of the wide receiving corps?

Although Rodgers and McCants, assuming he is 100 percent by fall, will continue to create a formidable 1-2 punch for defenses, Oregon State looks to have plenty of players to fill out the depth chart at the position.

How the offensive line develops in fall camp, and how Quizz follows up his sensational frosh season remains to be seen. But it's not far fetched to wonder if the Beavers rushing attack may be as good as it has ever been come this year.

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