The high-flying pro-style attack Oregon State offense went missing in 2010.
By: Athlon Sports | 6/6/11, 4:29 PM EDT
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#53 Oregon State
PAC-12 North PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mike Riley, 69-54 (10 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Danny Langsdorf | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mark Banker
The high-flying pro-style attack Oregon State possessed with the likes of Jonathan Smith, Derek Anderson, Matt Moore and Sean Canfield at quarterback went missing in 2010.
“We barely scratched the surface of what we wanted to do,” says coach Mike Riley, who had a strong-armed sophomore quarterback at the throttle in Ryan Katz but a suspect offensive line and a receiving corps that took a huge hit when James Rodgers was lost for the season on Oct. 9 at Arizona.
Katz is a year older, a year wiser, and he might possess the strongest arm in college football. And if Rodgers and slotback Jordan Bishop can come back 100 percent from injury, the Beavers have a potentially explosive group of receivers that also includes lightning-quick Markus Wheaton.
About that run game: OSU’s beleaguered offensive line has been challenged to dramatically improve its performance, and that will be a must for whichever tailback — and it looks like senior Ryan McCants is the frontrunner — tries to fill the cleats of Jacquizz Rodgers, who skipped his senior year for the NFL
The Beavers lost NFL-bound defensive tackle Stephen Paea, but Riley is excited about a re-vamped defensive line that doesn’t scare anybody with its size but has great speed. Junior college transfers Rusty Fernando and Blake Harrah figure to see plenty of time at defensive end. The interior of the line doesn’t have a Paea-type run-stuffer, but veteran tackle Kevin Frahm is a bull and converted defensive end Dominic Glover will be alongside him at tackle.
The linebackers will be converted safety Cameron Collins and Michael Doctor on the outside, and it looks like junior and part-time 2010 starter Tony Wilson will take over in the middle.
If OSU can stop the run and put pressure on opposing passers — trouble areas during key times last season — the secondary should benefit. Riley believes OSU has outstanding athleticism at the corners with Brandon Hardin and Jordan Poyer, and he likes the look of the new safety combination of Lance Mitchell and Anthony Watkins.
Former high school quarterback Johnny Hekker might have the strongest arm of any punter in college football. He’s got a good leg, too. The new face in the mix is freshman placekicker Trevor Romaine, a confident sort who wears a big diamond earring. Special teams coach Bruce Read — the former special teams coach of the N.Y. Giants and Dallas Cowboys — believes the Beavers won’t miss a beat from previous kickers Alexis Serna and Justin Kahut.
Much of Beaver Nation went into panic when Jacquizz Rodgers announced he was skipping his final season at OSU. The head coach, however, didn’t seem overly concerned. “It’s the nature of football,” says Riley. “People were asking me the same question when we lost Ken Simonton and when we lost Steven Jackson. What are we going to do? Well, we did just fine. How did Stanford do (in 2010) without Toby Gerhart? Stanford was actually better. … Life goes on.”
Life will be a lot easier if Quizz’s brother James can return from his knee troubles. A healthy Rodgers combined with an improved Katz at quarterback and a more effective offensive line should equate to a more productive offense. The Beavers will also be facing a much more manageable schedule. Don’t expect OSU to threaten Oregon and Stanford in the Pac-12 North, but a return to a bowl game is a realistic goal.