2011 Record: (3-9, 3-6 in Pac-12)
Head Coach: Mike Riley (72-63 at Oregon State, 46-47 in Pac-10/12)
Four Year Trend: 6.25 wins and 6.25 losses overall; 5 wins and 4 losses in Pac-10/12
Last Bowl Game: 2009 Las Vegas Bowl: lost to BYU 44-20
Must Win: 9/1 vs Nicholls St
Out of Conference: 9/8 vs Wisconsin, 10/13 at BYU
Stat to Cheer: 2011 is over, that’s kind of a stat isn’t it?
Stats to Fear: turned the ball over 31 times in 2011 (last in Pac-12), scored TDs on 48.89% of trips to red zone (last in Pac-12), allowed opponents to score TDs on 80.77% of trips to the red zone (last in Pac-12)
Phil Steele’s Returning Starters: (Offense: 7; Defense: 8; Specialists: 1)
Key Defensive Returnees: CB Jordan Poyer (57 tackles, 4 INT), DE Scott Crichton (74 tackles, 6 sacks), LB Michael Doctor (78 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT), SS Anthony Watkins (85 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Sean Mannion (16 TD, 18 INT), WR Markus Wheaton (73 rec), RB Malcolm Agnew (423 yds rush, 5 TD)
CFBZ: Oregon State had issues stopping the run last year. Do you see any improvement in this aspect of the game this season?
BeaverBlitz.com: The Beavers welcome back two freshman all-american defensive ends (Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn-honorable mention), return two starting linebackers (MLB Feti Unga and OLB Michael Doctor), a senior defensive tackle (Andrew Seumalo) and are expected to have a healthy 330 pound senior in Castro Masaniai in the middle. With that front seven it’s hard to imagine that the run defense wouldn’t see drastic improvement. OSU ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in 2011 allowing just over 200 yards per game on the ground. Only Colorado was worse, allowing 203.7/ypg. Coach Riley also brought on former OSU linebacker Trent Bray this off season to coach the linebackers and should benefit greatly from that hire. Bray was previously the linebacker coach at Arizona State and was one of the best to ever play at MLB for OSU from 2002-2005. Some argue that returning the same bodies from one of the nation’s worst run defenses isn’t a good thing, but folks around Beaver Nation should expect a much more stout front seven in 2012.
CFBZ: Oregon State played a lot of young players last season. Do you see any budding stars from that group of players that are ready to take off this season?
BeaverBlitz.com: Experience can’t be taught and in 2011 OSU had 10 true freshman that saw considerable action along with 13 redshirt freshman who earned playing time for the first time in their collegiate careers. OSU has quite a few youngsters expected to have breakout seasons but there are a few that certainly stand out:
– WR Brandin Cooks played in all 12 games (started 3) and was third on the team in receptions (31) and receiving yards (391). Cooks is lightning quick and can take the top off a defense and is also a big time thread in the return game.
– OLB Donnell Welch was a standout on special teams and played in 10 games in 2011 totaling 18 tackles and a sack. Welch is a fast, athletic and aggressive style of linebacker that OSU has become accustomed to having over the past decade. Welch should be the starting OLB opposite Michael Doctor.
– S Ryan Murphy is a star in the making and has seemed to lock down the starting safety spot heading into fall camp. Murphy started two games last season, played in all, had 29 tackles, an interception and is equally adept at stopping the run with his physicality.
Hard to call them “budding stars” because of their successes last season, but defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn have only scratched the surface of what they’re capable of. Wynn has put on 15 pounds and will play around 260 without losing a step and is your battering ram, non stop motor style d-end. Scott Crichton is a whole ‘nother beast in his own right, packing incredible athleticism in his 6-3 260 pound frame. Both earned Freshman All-American honors and totaled seven sacks (Crichton had 6), recovered six fumbles, and had 20 tackles for loss in their first year starting.
You could even lump returning sophomore QB Sean Mannion in that bunch. By Oregon State first time starting quarterback standards, Mannion far exceeded what was expected of him and looks to be the typical pro-style QB that flourishes in Coach Riley and o-coordinator Danny Langsdorf’s offense. Mannion also earned Freshman All-American status.
CFBZ: Outside of Oregon, what game does the fanbase want to win more than any other this season?
BeaverBlitz.com: People close to the program know the difficulties OSU has had getting out of the starting blocks and this year, on the surface, looks to be no different. Time and time again, OSU has seemed to take on “payday” games, only to be embarrassed on national television. As a player or fan, you have to have the September 8th match up with Wisconsin at home in Reser Stadium circled on your calendar. The game is set to be televised nationally and will be an early indication of where the 2012 team stands. The lifeblood of college football is recruiting and if OSU can handle their business and come out of week two 2-0 with a win over a nationally ranked Wisconsin Badger squad, you can bet that recruits will take notice. Not only that, but it’s momentum heading into their BYE week and gives them two weeks to scout and prepare for the new-look Jim Morra-led UCLA Bruins in their Pac-12 opener.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for 2012 and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
BeaverBlitz.com: It’s hard to truly gauge where this team is, especially with such a big question mark on the offensive line and big things expected from athletes who just set foot on campus a week ago. That said, the Beavers seem to have the pieces to compete with just about anybody in the Pac-12. Everyone knows that USC and Oregon will again be the teams to beat, but with the experience gained last season from one of OSU’s best recruiting classes in their history they should be a factor in the Pac-12 North. A successful season is getting back to post season play, which by no means will be easy. Exposure throughout the bowl season and added practice time for the team are benefits that OSU has not reaped for the past two seasons. I think the bar needs to be set at 6 wins in order to call this season a success. Anything over that is a tremendous turn around from a team that won just three games the year before, and anything under six wins and you have to seriously consider the direction that the coaching staff is taking the program.
From 2006 to 2009 Mike Riley built up quite a bit of credit with the Oregon State fanbase by winning at least eight games every year, winning at least six conference games every year and taking the Beavers to a bowl every year. Over the last two years, Oregon State’s performance has left some wondering. In the last two years, the Beavers have a combined record of 8-16 and have seen their record decline for the last three years.
The Beavers have started an underclassmen at QB each of the last two seasons (Ryan Katz in 2010 and Sean Mannion in 2011) and they will again this year as Mannion will look to improve on his freshman campaign. Mannion finished fifth in the conference in passing yards and fifth in completion percentage but he also finished with the most interceptions in the league. As a sophomore he will look to minimize his mistakes. Senior WR Markus Wheaton returns and that will be a big benefit for Mannion. Oregon State finished last in the league in rushing yards but also had the least amount of attempts. Generally speaking that’s what happens when you find yourself playing from behind. Oregon State needs to be more balanced offensively (like they were in 2008 and 2009) and establishing a solid running game would really help the offense grow and take some pressure off of Mannion.
Defensively, the Beavers weren’t the worst in the conference but they got killed by the run. In their nine losses they gave up a whopping 229 yards per game and 17 rushing TDs. The Beavers have a good core of defensive players returning as they only had two seniors in their top ten tacklers but they need for some new blood to step up if they want to see significant improvement.
Oregon State has a tough schedule this year. For starters they play in the Pac-12 North so they have Oregon and Stanford. Also, in the Pac-12 North is a talented Washington team, a Cal team that should be better than last year and a Mike Leach coached Washington State team that will be unpredictable. Out of conference they have two really tough games against Wisconsin and BYU and then they have two additional road tests against the Pac-12 South. The only good thing about the schedule is they don’t play USC but after last years loss to Sacramento State, the Beavers can’t take any game for granted.
One thing that could potentially be a turning point for the Beavers is health. Last year, they lost 54 starts to injury and that was the fourth most in the FBS. Because of that a lot of youngsters got action in 2011 and according to Phil Steele, Oregon State is now the third most experienced team in the Pac-12. Two big questions are: can the Beavers stay healthy in 2012 and will that experience translate on the field?
2012 Prediction: 5-7
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