OSU FALL FOCUS: Running Backs

OREGON STATE has not customarily had the luxury of multiple, plug and play talented running backs. But in 2010, the Beavs just may have four solid options. And of course, one of those options, is a Heisman Trophy candidate.

RB: Jr. Jacquizz Rodgers, So. Jovan Stevenson, Jr. Ryan McCants, So. Jordan Jenkins
: Jr. Will Darkins, So. Clayton York, RFr. Dylan Parsons



OVERVIEW:  Coach Mike Riley has been downright giddy about depth at running back - and you can't blame him. Since coming back to Corvallis in 2003, he hasn't had a solid one-two punch in the backfield.

The best depth the Beavers have had under Riley since the turn of the century was in 2007 with Yvenson Bernard as the starter and Matt Sieverson and Clinton Polk serving as the backups.

The 2010 Beaver backfield features a Heisman Trophy candidate, a longtime player looking to break through, an underclassmen looking to build on a solid freshman season and a hard running walk-on turned scholarship player.

BBELIEVE IT OR NOT, but Rodgers has increased his strength and speed and that bodes very well for the Beavers.

The 5-foot-9 dynamo can do a little bit of everything as he was the team's leading rusher and second leading receiver last season.

Quizz' patience behind the line of scrimmage, his powerful legs, and his ability to make the first guy miss makes him one of the best in college football. Throw in the fact that he has just one fumble in over 600 touches and he is almost the perfect back.

And while his running and catching are fantastic, it is his blocking ability, plus ability to get that one extra yard after contact when pushing from a standstill, that really separates himself from the rest of the pack. Indeed, Quizz' blocking ability is paramount to Ryan Katz's success since teams will be daring the youngster to beat them with his arm.

Quizz is on pace to move up several school lists. He needs 1,169 yards and eight touchdowns, both very attainable numbers in 2010, to move into second on the school's career yards and career rushing touchdown lists.

5.1 ypc career average
99 carries for 0 yards or less - 18.6%

140 carries 1-4 yards - 26.3%

201 carries for 5-9 yards - 37.7%

74 carries for 10-19 yards - 13.9%

18 carries for 20 plus yards - 3.4%

And if he continues his per game average (112.2 ypg) over the next two years he will finish with 5,498 career yards - the second most in Pac-10 history and just 747 yards short of USC's Charles White's record. Recently he was on the The Petros and Money radio show where he was asked if he would leave early for the NFL - he confidently replied he was going to play his senior year.

WHILE YOU HAVE to search long and hard and make a couple leaps to find something to complain about, the one aspect that Quizz would like to improve are his long runs -- something he focused on last year as well.

Of his 532 career rushes he has only had 18 or 3.4% of his carries go for 20 or more yards.

"I'm working on reading defenses more," Quizz told HeismanPundit.com. "I try to learn every detail of every play, not just for myself but to see what others have to do. Like what each of the linemen have as an assignment on each play.

"I also want to work on being a better blocker."

Quizz enters the year averaging a FBS high 22.2 carries per game - a number the coaches don't mind, but also a number they wouldn't mind see drop. If Rodgers can take a handful of plays off he will be fresher later in the game and more apt to break off a long run.

TURNING TO THE stable behind Quizz, the rejuvenated Ryan McCants and the upstart underclassman Jovan Stevenson along with Jordan Jenkins are all in the mix for playing time.

McCants turned in a solid spring running with purpose and power. Riley noted that he was running with "reckless abandon" and a real desire for playing time. He attacked his rehab with ferocity and it spilled over onto the playing field.

Although McCants had a good spring he still had trouble holding onto the ball at times and is a liability when he has to block or catch.

DID YOU KNOWQuizz' 32 rushing touchdowns ranks fourth among active FBS players.

of got lost in the shuffle, but he received plenty of snaps with the first and second teams. He has soft hands and is a shifty runner with an extra gear in the open field. 

He, like McCants, is a liability when asked to block and at 183-pounds he just gets steamrolled by most linebackers.

THE WILDCARD IS Jenkins, who earned both a scholarship and lots of post-spring praise from Riley in the summer.

Tough, hard nosed and reliable Jenkins may be the most well rounded back besides Quizz. He isn't going to blow anybody away with his speed, but he has solid hands, hits the holes quickly and can block.

While Riley doesn't want any player to be pigeon holed while they are in the game look for McCants, along with Jenkins, to be used in short yardage situations, Stevenson for passing downs and Jenkins for everything.

AND THEN, THERE is also the Beavs' version of the forgotten man, the one who toils endlessly outside of the limelight, but will be integral to the team's success.  Junior Will Darkins enters his second year at fullback and figures to have an expanded role on offense.

Primarily used as a blocker, and a darned good one at that, Darkins gives Quizz a split second more to survey the field while clearing out a defender or two.  Since Darkins has year of playing time notched into his belt and is more comfortable with the offense he may even get his first career carry this year.

With Quizz a threat to run, pass or throw look for Jenkins, McCants, Stevenson or even Darkins to be wide open for a big play.

Since the coaches have a tantalizing variety of players to work with look for many two back sets.  That means Darkins and Quizz, Stevenson and Darkins, Quizz and Jenkins or McCants and Stevenson could line up together at any one time in the backfield.

STATS: Jacquizz Rodgers (273 rushes 1,440 yards, 21 touchdowns, 5.3 ypc | 78 catches for 522 yards, one touchdown), Jovan Stevenson (26 rushes, 138 yards, one touchdown | 5 catches for 59 yards), Ryan McCants (6 rushes for 26 yards, one touchdown | 1 catch for four yards), Jordan Jenkins (2 carries for 6 yards)



SPRING STAR Ryan McCants. The junior worked very hard during the season and off season to get healthy. He showed no ill effects of his knee injury running with purpose to the pleasure of the coaching staff.
THE FUTURE STAR Jovan Stevenson. He may or may not be the featured back of the future, but one thing is for certain - the staff loves what he can do with the ball in his hands.
WHO TO WATCH Ryan McCants. Will he be able to continue his strong running in fall camp and the season?
COMING IN THE FALL Malcom Marable. Riley has already said that Marable isn't an every down back, but Quizz wasn't supposed to play as much as he did as a freshman, so only time will tell.
There's a little bit of everything in the Beaver backfield giving the coaches a ton of variety on offense.
Quizz is the only accomplished blocker while the others struggle.




Jr. Jacquizz Rodgers (5-7, 191) - a strong contender for the Heisman trophy...on every publication's All-American team...selected as the top player in the Pac10 by ESPN.com...only returning two time first team all-conference pick...competed in the UW Last Chance Meet in the 60-meter dash checking in at 7.24...first team all-conference in 2009...23 career starts, 13 straight...tied a school record for the most points for a season by a Beaver with 132...his 22 total touchdowns, (21 rushing) tied for third in the nation...fourth at OSU with 2,693 career rushing yards...school record holder for single season rushing touchdowns 21...Associated Press third team All-American...the fifth player in school history to post multiple 1,000 yard rushing seasons

So. Jovan Stevenson (5-11, 186) - one of eight true freshman to play in 2009...ran for 138 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries (5.3 ypc), caught five passes for 59 yards...only tackled once for loss of yardage...solid hands...hits the hole quickly...needs to work on his blocking to become a well rounded back

Jr. Ryan McCants (6-1, 229) - had a strong showing in 2010 spring practice running hard and with purpose...still needs to work on ball security and blocking...played in four games in 2009 after coming off of knee surgery he suffered in the spring...carried the ball just six times for 26 yards...three career starts...for his career he has 91 carries for 363 yards (3.8 ypc) and two touchdowns with a long of 35 yards, seven receptions for 34 yards...needs to run with authority and purpose if he wants playing time

So. Jordan Jenkins (6-1, 211) - turned in another solid spring camp in 2010...earned a scholarship in summer of 2010...had a strong showing last spring and fall...a powerful runner...named offensive scout MVP in 2009...Riley calls him one of the most versatile players on the team...played in nine games last year carrying the ball two times for six yards



Sr. Will Darkins (6-1, 230) - three career starts...used exclusively as a blocker in 2009 as he did not get one carry...started two of the last three games of the season...had a good offseason in the weight room according to strength coach Bryan Miller...Riley said he will use the fullback more in 2010...moved from linebacker to fullback in spring of 2009...also plays on special teams

So. Clayton York (6-0, 225) - has added 12 pounds since arriving on campus in fall of 2008...did not carry the ball during the regular season last year...played on special teams making one tackle...will play on special teams in 2010

RFr. Dylan Parsons (5-9, 202) - blue collared, hard nosed runner...did not carry the ball during the regular season last year

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