OSU CFB Projected record: 7-5 (6-3)
Wins: Nicholls State, @UCLA, @Arizona, Washington St., Utah, Arizona St., California
Losses: Wisconsin, @BYU, @Washington, @Stanford, Oregon
Bowl Game: Will be eligible
After going 8-16 over the last two seasons, OSU is desperate for a winning year.
Luckily, they enter 2012 a year old, a year stronger and hopefully a year smarter. Most of 2011′s standouts return, with the exception of James Rodgers and Joel Halahuni.
They’re not going to go undefeated, and they’re not going to win the division. However, they should win more games than they lose and have a pretty good season overall.
Here’s a comprehensive preview of the Oregon State Beavers and their 2012 football season.
Always the gentle giant of OSU, Mike Riley enters 2012 as the longest tenured head coach in the Pac-12, with this representing his twelve year with the Beavers.
Many have called Riley’s job into question, as the last four years have ended in disappointment for Beaver Nation. While the concerns have merit, there should be no doubt 2012 will see improvements.
One interesting development is Riley calling plays in practices. Rumor has it he may be calling all the shots for 2012. Whether that’s a good thing or not has yet to be seen.
One thing we can be sure of is Riley will do whatever he can to put this team over the top in 2012.
Last season the Beavs thought they had a gem in Ryan Katz. Two games into the season, when Katz proved far from the answer at quarterback, the responsibilities fell on redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.
He responded by completing 64.5% of his passes for 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Believe it or not, but Mannion will only be better in 2012.
He’s got a year with the offense and receivers under his belt. There’s no doubt from day one he’s the starter. With a stronger O-line, he’s going to see less pressure and should be able to cut back on his mistakes.
If the Beavers expect to make a title run in the coming years, it all starts here with Mannion. With his big accurate arm, he should challenge all of Derek Anderson’s records well before his Beaver days are over.
If the Beavs have one flaw on offense it’s here. The rushing game was nonexistent last season, with the OSU putting up a Pac-12 worst 1,043 rushing yards.
That’s not to say they’re without talent. Second year back Malcolm Agnew returns, and if healthy he could put up strong numbers. Redshirt freshman Storm Woods has made waves in camp, impressing the coaches and press alike. Rounding out the possible starters is true freshman Chris Brown, whose perhaps the most talented of the bunch.
While there’s still no clear starter, the fact remains that OSU has depth here. It’s just finding the right combination with that depth that’s important.
While no single player is going to rush for 1,000 yards, with a combined effort this group should be miles ahead of last season’s.
This is the most talented part of OSU’s game, and the team might have the best corp in the Pac-12.
Leading the bunch is veteran Markus Wheaton. He enters 2012 a senior looking for his first 1,000 yard receiving season, as well as a candidate for the Biletnikoff award—given to the NCAA’s best receiver.
Behind him is sophomore Brandin Cooks. Cooks had a strong freshman season in 2011 (12.6 yds/catch, 3 touchdowns), and he’ll look to take that big next step.
Backing these two is a litany of weapons for the Beavers. From the vertical leap of Obum Gwacham, the experience of Kevin Cummings or the high upside of Richard Mullaney the Beavers have an infinite amount of ways to hit opposing defenses.
After the wideouts, the receiving talent thins out a bit.
Tight end will be a weaker position than in years past. Colby Prince is the most experienced at the position, and he had just 66 yards receiving last year. I can’t say enough about freshman Caleb Smith, but we’ll see if Riley feels the same.
Strong offensive line play used to be a trait of OSU. I’m not sure what changed, but over the last two seasons this has not been the case. Last season they allowed 27 sacks for a total of 213 yards.
Beaver fans can only hope for improvement in 2012.
It’s not hard to imagine that this is going to be a stronger squad this season. 5-star recruit Isaac Seumalo—the best o-line prospect in the nation—has already been named the starting center. 6’3 and 302 pounds… aint nobody getting through that brick wall.
Flanking Seumalo is plenty of experience. The Beavers will field three juniors and one senior, and the depth chart is rounded out with second year players.
Even with the loss of Garrett Weinreich to injury, this is a well experience squad with plenty to prove. Expect much better play in the coming season.
D-Line and Linebackers
Despite outstanding play from freshman Scott Crichton in 2011, the Beavers D-line was a major source of misery. The team was last in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, surrendering 196.8 yards per game.
Though Crichton enters 2012 a year older, it might not make much of an impact. There are no new defensive ends on the line this year—two seniors and one other sophomore return. This means OSU will just have to player better if they want to stop the run.
Despite flaws at the line, the Beavers return a very strong corp of linebackers.
That group is led by senior Feti Unga and junior Michael Doctor. Both players ranked amongst the top 15 in tackles per game in the Pac-12 last season, with a combined 13.9/game and 145 total.
Doctor remains overshadowed, but he had a very strong 2011. Outside of his 78 tackles he posted 2.5 sacks, a pair of interceptions and pass deflections and one fumble recovery.
Running backs destroyed the defense in 2011, and that needs to change. Despite bolstering some of the Beaver’s best defensive players, this unit will have to be better in 2012 if this team hopes to go anywhere.
On one hand, the secondary is the thinnest spot on the depth chart. On the other, it features OSU’s most dynamic player.
First, let’s talk about that depth thing. It’s nonexistent. Not only is the team thin at these positions, but they’re also lacking talent. Once you break through the starters, there’s not much there.
Mike Riley is so desperate to find depth that he’s moved running back Jovan Stevenson to cornerback. These kinds of moves aren’t unheard of from Riley, and it will either save the season or bust it.
Now let’s talk about the one secondary weapon OSU has: Jordan Poyer. This kid is an elite cover corner and legitimate NFL prospect. He’s the reason OSU was second in the Pac-12 in passing yards allowed per game.Believe it or not, but Mannion will only be better in 2012.
In 2011, Poyer posted 57 tackles, four interceptions—one for a touchdown—and 12 pass deflections. That’s one more interception and one less deflection than the other three secondary starters had combined. Not too shabby.
While Riley scrambles for depth, he can sleep easy knowing he can rely on Poyer in the backfield. While it still remains an area lacking depth, as long as he’s there this group should be fine.
Despite some defensive flaws, the team should improve on their abysmal 2011. A lot of the young standouts of last season return, and they should play better. The offense will be dynamic and high flying—perhaps one of the best in the Pac-12.
The true test will be on defense. If the Beavers can’t stop the run in a run-savvy division, how can they expect to succeed?
Overall, the Beavers will play good offense and beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, ending in an 7-5 record and a trip to a bowl game.