Quarterback – #8 Matt Moore
Matt Moore spent the 2005 season coming up with every conceivable way to put his team in a hole and make it difficult for them to win. He took sack after sack, fumbled the ball away and tossed an astounding 19 interceptions, including six in a game against Arizona. But that game against the Wildcats perfectly illustrated Moore's up-and-down career. Despite a sack and those six interceptions, Moore completed nearly 75% of his passes for 436 yards and a touchdown, somehow single-handedly both losing the game and keeping his team within just two points, at 29-27. This season, Moore seems to be a little less turnover prone while maturing into a veteran quarterback. He's up above a 60% completion percentage for the season and is showing that he understands his role as a compliment to the Beaver running game. Although, Moore has been more careless with the ball of late, throwing four of his six interceptions this season during the past three games. He is a far better quarterback when the running game is working and he is asked to simply protect the ball. Against Washington and Arizona (their previous two opponents), Moore threw the ball just 19 and 22 times respectively, completing more than 72% of his passes in each game. Yet, Moore still managed to throw three interceptions in those two games. Moore has also been sacked 15 times this season and isn't exactly a threat to take off if the pocket collapses. The Trojans always try to take away their opponents' running games and force the quarterback to beat them, but that strategy was absolutely made for quarterbacks like Matt Moore.
Running Backs – #26 Yvenson Bernard, #22 Clinton Polk
Yvenson Bernard has been hobbling around on crutches this week after suffering an ankle injury against Arizona. He could be ready to go against the Trojans, but if he is unable to do so, the Beaver offense will be scrambling for answers. Bernard is basically a one-man-band when it comes to the running game. On the season, he has 155 of Oregon State's 237 carries, 746 of the team's 892 yards on the ground and seven of the ten rushing touchdowns. Bernard also ranks second on the team with 24 receptions. He burst onto the scene last year with 1,321 rushing yards and is on pace for an even better year in 2006. His short, compact frame makes it tough for defenders to wrap him up, while his speed and strength make it tough for them to catch him in the first place. If he does go on Saturday, he'd better be sure that ankle is 100%, because he will be the main focal point of the entire Trojan defense.
If he doesn't go, however, it will be Clinton Polk who gets the bulk of the carries for the Beavers. Polk has accounted for just about all the other rushing offense this season, with 29 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Polk is a much bigger back than Bernard, but isn't nearly the same elusive runner.
Wide Receivers – #19 Sammie Stroughter, #17 Anthony Wheat-Brown, #82 Brandon Powers
Sammie Stroughter is the big-play guy in the Beavers' passing game. He leads the team by a comfortable margin in receptions (34) and receiving yards (643). He is a speedster with good hands coming off three consecutive big games. Against Washington State, he caught six passes for 124 yards. He burned Washington's secondary for 223 yards and a touchdown on seven grabs, and scored another touchdown and 91 yards on five grabs against Arizona. The Trojans haven't given up many big offensive plays this season and keeping Stroughter in check should keep that going.
Anthony Wheat-Brown will line up opposite Stroughter and provides a decent second receiver. He probably won't make many huge plays, but he can definitely find openings in a zone and make catches when called upon. He hasn't had a true big game this season, but his 190 yards on 13 catches are good for third on the team.
Brandon Powers is much more of a possession receiver than the other two. He's bigger than both Stroughter and Wheat-Brown, but lacks the same playmaker ability. He has 17 catches for 167 yards this season, but his productivity has fallen off of late.
Tight End – #89 Joe Newton
While Sammie Stroughter is the biggest threat in one sense, Joe Newton will be the biggest threat in quite another way. At 6-7 and close to 260 pounds, Newton is able to create space for himself all over the field. He began the season quickly, catching three touchdown passes in the first two games, but has cooled off, making a real presence in just one game since then (a five-catch, 84-yard performance against Cal). For the season, he has 21 grabs for 236 yards and a team-high, three touchdown receptions. The Trojans have done a pretty decent job against opposing tight ends this season, a trend that must continue against Joe Newton.
Offensive Line – LT #61 Adam Koets, LG #62 Jeremy Perry, C #75 Kyle DeVan, RG #67 Roy Schuening, RT #66 Andy Levitre
The Beavers' offensive line was one of the most experienced in the nation heading into the 2006 season. They returned all five starters, who had 126 starts between them. But heading into Saturday's game, things aren't going exactly as they had planned. The Beavers lost starting right tackle Josh Linehan, and then Kyle DeVan suffered a knee injury against Arizona. If he is unable to go against the Trojans, sophomore Marcus Henderson will take his place. In the meantime, the offensive line hasn't been all that great. The 15 sacks they've allowed are nearly double what the Trojans have given up and if DeVan can't go on Saturday, look for USC to throw plenty of heat at Moore. Jeremy Perry is probably the Beavers' best offensive lineman, so look for running plays to head that way.
Beavers on Defense
Defensive Line – #27 Joe Lemma, #97 Ben Siegert, #98 Curtis Coker, #49 Jeff Van Orsow, #93 Dorian Smith
It may not be full of guys who are easily recognizable to most college football fans, but the Beavers' defensive line is stacked with playmakers. There is a solid eight-man rotation and each member of the line is more than capable of getting to the quarterback and making a play in the backfield. Oregon State ranks second in the Pac-10 in sacks, with 26, and third in the nation in sacks per game. The Beavers have also been piling up tackles for loss. With 38 such stops, in addition to their 26 sacks, Oregon State has moved opposing offenses back 320 yards this season, which is the most in the nation.
The sack leader on the team is Dorian Smith, with five, but Joe Lemma has chipped in with three sacks and Jeff Van Orsow has seven tackles for loss among his 47 total stops.
The Trojan offensive line began forming an identity for itself during the final drive of the game against Arizona State, but they will be severely tested against the Beavers' defensive line. If USC is able to run the ball successfully, the offensive line should be very pleased with themselves.
Linebackers – #45 Derrick Doggett, #43 Alan Darlin, #42 Joey LaRocque
As good as the Beavers' defensive line has been this season, the linebackers have played even better. Derrick Doggett and Alan Darlin are tied for the team lead in tackles, with 45 each. Doggett leads the team with nine tackles for loss, including three sacks. He's also intercepted two passes, forced and recovered a fumble. Darlin ranks second on the team in both tackles for loss, with 8.5, and sacks, with four, to go along with two fumble recoveries.
By those standards, Joey LaRocque's 38 tackles and an interception look fairly average.
These three linebackers will offer Chauncey Washington and the rest of the Trojan tailbacks an opportunity to prove themselves against some solid competition. While the front seven of the Beavers probably doesn't stack up with Nebraska's defensive front, playing at Reser Stadium may go toward evening that up.
Cornerbacks – #36 Brandon Hughes, #6 Keenan Lewis
Starting cornerback Keenan Lewis has been nursing a sore shoulder over the past few weeks, but saw playing time against Arizona and could be ready to go against the Trojans. He, along with Brandon Hughes, will be going against a Trojan wide receiving corps that should be as healthy as they've been all season. Dwayne Jarrett has been missing from the gameplan for too long, and in a contest where the passing game may need to set up the running game, Jarrett should be involved early and often. Neither corner has the size to neutralize the Trojan wide out, but Lewis plays much bigger than his stature, willing to jam receivers at the line and deliver a big hit after the catch.
With that said, however, the Beavers have given up tons of yards through the air this season. Even though the Trojans look to be settling on a power running game, opening Saturday's game by attacking the secondary may get John David Booty and the USC receivers in an early rhythm.
Safeties – #24 Sabby Piscitelli, #9 Al Afalava
Sabby Piscitelli is the veteran leader of the defense. He is very quick and has the ability to break on the ball, step in front of a receiver and come away with the interception. This season, because of the play of the front seven, Piscitelli has been asked to play more in the passing game and has responded with three interceptions and four pass breakups. While he is very adept at jumping routes, he can often overreact and take himself out of a play. John David Booty will need to take responsibility for making sure that Piscitelli isn't getting any reads on where the ball is going and jumping routes.
Al Afalava joins Piscitelli in the secondary. Afalava has earned a reputation as a hard hitter. For the season, he's picked up 20 tackles despite missing some time due to injury. He plays much better against the run and is another reason that the Trojans might try to air it out against the Beaver secondary.
Beavers on Special Teams
Kicker – Alexis Serna has quickly become one of the best kickers in the nation. In fact, last season Serna was chosen as the best kicker in the nation, and honored with the Groza Award. This season, Serna has connected on all 21 of his extra point attempts and has hit on 8-11 field goal tries. After missing his first two tries of the season, Serna has made eight of ten, including a 58-yarder against Cal. His only miss was a 52-yard attempt against Washington State. Serna has the leg to make any kick on the field and his putting about half of his kickoffs into the endzone.
Punter – Kyle Loomis handles punting duties for the Beavers and has performed well this season. He's averaging just under 40 yards per kick with a long of 62.
Kick Returner – #4 Coye Francies
Backup cornerback Coye Francies handles the kick return duties and has been fairly average through seven games. His long for the season is 37 yards, while averaging 22.6 yards per return.
Punt Returner – #19 Sammy Stroughter
Punt returns have been a different story however, as Sammy Stroughter has become one of the most dangerous return men in the country. On 17 returns, Stroughter is averaging just under 18-yards per return and has taken two back for touchdowns. The Trojans' punt coverage team was able to play a positive role against Arizona State last week and will need to be at its best again in containing the Beavers' dangerous return man.