Will tight ends take next step this year?

OREGON STATE HAS a rich recent history at the position, with Beaver tight ends leading or sharing the top spot for receiving touchdowns in 2006, 2004 and 2003. But the last two seasons have not seen anywhere near the same level of production. And if the Beaver tight ends are going to emerge as bigger receiving threats in '09, they'll have to do so under the tutelage of a new coach.

Given the NCAA mandated limit of nine full time assistants, and because Mike Riley and Oregon State like to go with a special teams coach, another position is in effect required to be coached by a graduate assistant.

The OSU tight ends were coached last season by Tim Euhus but graduate assistants don't get a salary and he's leaving the Beavs to take a job in the private sector selling medical supplies.

The Beavs will likely bring in a new graduate assistant to be tight ends coach sometime between now and fall camp.

Prior to last season, Riley predicted the tight end position would account for 60 catches but it never materialized. They finished with less than half that number, with 29 receptions.

To be fair, Riley probably wasn't expecting Jacquizz Rodgers to run for 1,253 yards on 259 carries -- he was the first freshman to be named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. And the OSU receiving group of James Rodgers, Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales was sure handed and better than advertised.

HEADED INTO 2009, the Beavs have Howard Croom and Brady Camp listed 1-2 at tight end, with John Reese and Joe Halahuni the top two at h-back.

The blocking of the quartet, like last year, figures to be key to the Beavers' success.

But they're also an experienced group, with all but Halahuni a junior or senior.

And Halahuni, a sophomore, might be the best pure receiver of the four. He's one of the most athletic players on the team with great hands and a solid upper build. He has three receptions in the spring game including a touchdown.

IT'S PROBABLY EXPECTING lot to ask for Quizz to duplicate his rushing total from last year, especially given that o-linemen Andy Levitre, Adam Speer and Tavita Thompson have all graduated.

Grabmasters Morales and Stroughter are also gone.

It's also doubtful Riley would plan or predict 60 catches from the tight ends/h-backs again this season.

But it also wouldn't be a surprise to see them nab 45-50 receptions, and that might prove the difference between winning and losing in 2009.

In 2006, tight end Joe Newton led the Beavs in receiving touchdowns. That was the season Stroughter tore up the league with 1,293 receiving yards.

In 2004, Joe Newton tied for the team lead in TDs with Mike Hass, who torched opponents for 1,379 receiving hashes.

In 2003, Tim Euhus shared the Beaver touchdown lead with Hass. That season, both Hass and James Newson went over the 1,000 receiving yard mark.

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