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Predicting the OSU Beavers 2012 strengths & weaknesses

Offensive Unit Headlines Beaver Strengths

After a 3-9 showing in 2011 it’s easy to point out the Oregon State Beavers weaknesses.

Did you know they actually have some strengths too?!

I know it sounds crazy, but this team isn’t as horrible as their 2011 record shows. These Beavers aren’t complete pushovers, and hopefully they’re ready to prove it in 2012.

Below is a list of the top three Beaver strengths and weaknesses heading into 2012.

Strengths

Offensive Potential

Offensively, the OSU depth chart oozes potential.

There’s Sean Mannion, who as a red-shirt freshman surpassed the incumbent quarterback by completing over 64% of his passes for over 3,300 yards.

There’s Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, two of the Pac-12′s biggest burners and premier wide outs.

At tight end is freshman Caleb Smith who graduated high school early to ensure he’d be in Corvallis by spring; the Rob Gronkowski comparisons might not be too far off.

With a committee of running backs who have impressed this Spring, and a retooled offensive line, Mike Riley has plenty of weapons at his disposal for 2012.

Move over Derek Anderson, there’s a new gun slinger in town!

Wide Outs

Relying primarily on the run game from 2008-2010, a pantheon of wide receiver recruits have allowed OSU to establish one of the most high flying programs in college football.

Returning to the team are starters Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Both have huge back burners—making them ample weapons in a conference that favors speed.

In 2011, these two wide outs combined for 1,377 yards, averaging 13 yards per catch.

Also worth keeping an eye on is Richard Mullaney. Considered by many as the top recruit of the 2011 class, Mullaney has been turned a lot of heads during spring practices.

With depth and speed, OSU feature’s one of the Pac-12′s premier passing games.

Quarterback

When it comes to quarterback, Mike Riley never fails to deliver.

Looking at last year’s stats, it’s impossible to discount Sean Mannion.

He threw for 3,328 yards, completed a near 65% of his passes and threw 16 touchdowns. He did all this despite starting in only the team’s last 10 games.

Oh, and did I mention he was just a red-shirt freshman?

With further improvement, Mannion could easily supplant every Derek Anderson—arguably the best OSU quarterback of all time—record.

If any position is a strength for the Beavers, it’s this one.

Weaknesses

Offensive Line

Despite a retooling, the O-line is still a major concern for OSU.

Over the last two seasons, the Beavers have allowed 62 sacks for 445 yards. The increase of pressure put on by opposing defenses have created numerous offensive turnovers while limiting the run game.

While names like Gavin Andrews and Isaac Seaumalo stick out, they enter 2012 as true freshman prospects. It’s unknown how much of an immediate impact they can make on the team.

Until the rookies prove they have what it takes, line play remains a concern for the Beavs.

Beavers fans are asking themselves “where is Steven Jackson when we need him?!” (photo oregonlive.com)

The Backfield

Since 2010, the Beavers have managed to barely average over 100 rushing yards per game. That’s good for, well, pretty much last in the Pac-12 in that time span.

If OSU wants to succeed in 2012, they need to step up the rushing production.

I’m not saying they need to be the Oregon Ducks, but they need to be averaging at least 150-170 yards per game. They have a great running back committee, and those players need to do what they’re supposed to do.

In the long run it’s only going to make the offense better, taking pressure off Mannion and helping to establish option plays.

For the offense to truly take that next step the running backs need to step up their game.

Defense

At first glance the Beavers defense doesn’t seem too awful.

They have been pretty good at limited scoring and the passing game.

Standouts like Michael Doctor, Scott Crichton and Jordan Poyer—one of the best corners in the Pac-12—anchor a pretty solid unit.

Then you look at rush defense.

Last season, the Beavers ranked last in the Pac-12 in defending against the run, allowing 196.8 yards per game.

In a division that features programs like UO, UCLA and Utah, if you’re giving up almost 200 yards per game you’ve already lost.

That’s what makes defense the Beaver’s biggest weakness.

In a lesser division it might not be as big an issue.

In the Pac-12, it’s a game changer.

Until the unit can limit the run, don’t expect much improvement from the Beavers in 2012.

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