2011 Oregon State Preview
Oregon State QB Ryan Katz
Oregon State QB Ryan Katz
Posted Jul 17, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2011

- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Oregon State Offense
- 2011 Oregon State Defense | 2011 Oregon State Depth Chart

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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head Coach: Mike Riley
11th year: 69-54
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 24, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Oregon State Players
1. WR James Rodgers, Sr.
2. QB Ryan Katz, Jr.
3. WR Markus Wheaton, Jr.
4. S Lance Mitchell, Sr.
5. OT Mike Remmers, Sr.
6. HB Joe Halahuni, Sr.
7. OT Michael Philipp, Jr.
8. DL Dominic Glover, Sr.
9. DT Kevin Frahm, Sr.
10. CB Brandon Hardin, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Sacramento State
Sep. 10 at Wisconsin
Sep. 24 UCLA
Oct. 1 at Arizona State
Oct. 8 Arizona
Oct. 15 BYU
Oct. 22 Washington State (Seattle)
Oct. 29 at Utah
Nov. 5 Stanford
Nov. 12 at California
Nov. 19 Washington
Nov. 26 at Oregon

Oregon State is coming off just its third losing year since 1998. In the season following the last two, the Beavers went 8-5 and 10-4. Can they rebound once again under Mike Riley and his underrated staff?

Since returning to Corvallis in 2003 following a stint in the NFL, Riley has become an institution at the school. He and his assistants have had a penchant for taking modest talent from up and down the West Coast, and transforming them into all-star performers. Few have been better than the Beaver staff at maximizing the talent it signs, an assertion that's going to be put to the test again this fall.

Eyeing another overachieving season in 2010, the Beavers fell short in a disappointing 5-7 campaign. They collapsed down the stretch, winning just one time over the final five games. The combination of injuries and a prickly schedule caught up to Riley's kids, who missed the postseason for the first time since 2005. The situation doesn't figure to get much easier this year.

The slate includes landmine trips to Wisconsin, Arizona State, Utah, and Oregon, and the trainer's table remains flush with rehabbing Beavers. The good news is that unlike a year ago, the program welcomes back a returning starter under center. Now that Jacquizz Rodgers is an Atlanta Falcon and older brother James is on the mend from a major knee injury, it'll be up to junior QB Ryan Katz to be the offensive sparkplug.

On defense, Oregon State is in the process of replacing seven full-timers, including monster DT Stephen Paea. Known for molding overlooked, no-name units over the years, coordinator Mark Banker faces one of the toughest challenges of his career with the school. Above all else, he'll need to take a ratchet to the pass defense and third-down D.

Riley and his Beavers have made a living out of making preseason predictions look silly by early December. Pegged as a second-division Pac-12 squad this year, an argument could be made that Oregon State has skeptical prognosticators exactly where it wants them. Or that the Beavs are in serious danger of missing the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the 1997-98.

What to watch for on offense: The attempt to replace Quizz. Over the last decade, Oregon State has been sneaky-good at birthing 1,000-yard rushers, like Rodgers, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard, and Ken Simonton. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that a worthy successor to that lineage is currently on the roster. The Beavers' have numerous options, from senior Ryan McCants to rookie Terron Ward, but none appear capable of keeping defenses from focusing on QB Ryan Katz and the passing attack. The possibility of a committee approach is code for mediocrity in the backfield.

What to watch for on defense: The hunt for edge rushers. While Oregon State ranked 24th nationally in sacks a year ago, much of that pressure came from the interior linemen and linebackers. End Gabe Miller collected five sacks, but he's since graduated. In desperate of more support for the pass defense, the Beavers are counting on a trio of marginal juniors to ignite the pass rush. Taylor Henry started four games, yet had just one sack. Rusty Fernando spent last season in junior college. And Andrew Seumalo is a former walk-on. If these guys can't get to the backfield more regularly, an already sketchy secondary is going to pay the biggest price.

The team will be far better if… it gets more efficient on third downs … on offense and defense. The Beavers lacked efficiency a year ago when it mattered most. The team struggled throughout 2010 at extending its own drives and halting the other team's. Oregon State was 87th nationally in third down conversions, while its D ranked a miserable 109th at making timely stops. With those kinds of results, it's no wonder the program got crushed in time of possession last season.

The Schedule: Why does it seem like Oregon State never gets a major break when it comes to schedules? The Beavers have to deal with a road trip to Wisconsin after an opening day tune-up against Sacramento State, and the third non-conference game, BYU, isn't a breather and comes in the middle of the Pac 12 season. On the plus side, missing USC from the South is always going to be a plus, but going to Arizona State and Utah are going to be challenging. The key will be a midseason stretch away from Corvallis starting off with the Washington State game being played in Seattle, and with road trips to Utah and Cal coming up as a part of three road games in four weeks. On the plus side, OSU gets Stanford and Washington at home, but the Civil War against Oregon is in Autzen. The last five games (at Utah, Stanford, at Cal, Washington, and at Oregon) are just tough enough that a big base of wins from the first half of the year have to be built up.  

Best offensive player: Senior WR James Rodgers. The fifth-year senior is easily the Beavers' best weapon when he's healthy. The concern around Corvallis is if and when Rodgers will be at full-strength in 2011. The good news is that he's jogging again and walking without a limp, but the effects of last October's left knee injury are still lingering. Prior to getting hurt, the 5-7, 185-pounder was the definition of a playmaker. As a receiver, runner, and return man, he's amassed 5,784 total yards and 27 touchdowns during his career. Fingers are crossed that he can get back on the field in September and recapture his old form.

Best defensive player: Senior S Lance Mitchell. Mitchell stands out as the top defender in an otherwise average collection of talent. The 6-2, 207-pounder is entering his third year as a starter, with an eye on earning All-Pac-12 recognition. Operating with a solid combination of size, speed, and ball skills, he's an ace centerfielder for the Beavers. In run defense, the senior is akin to having another linebacker on the field, making 74 tackles, two picks, and three pass breakups last fall.

Key players to a successful season: The cornerbacks. Not only was the Oregon State pass defense bad a year ago, but it got worse as the season progressed. Over the final eight games, the Beavers yielded 16 touchdown passes while picking off just four. The safeties have an anchor in veteran Lance Mitchell, but the corners aren't quite as fortunate. Brandon Hardin returns with starting experience, much of which saw him getting exposed through the air. He'll likely be joined by Jordan Poyer, who's looking to turn his enormous athleticism into air-tight coverage. The probable starters need to progress in a hurry or else it's going to be another long and frustrating season for the D.

The season will be a success if ... the Beavers return to the postseason. Unlike the past few seasons, there are no lofty expectations in Corvallis for 2011. There are too many question marks and not enough breathers on the schedule. After the opener against Sacramento State, there isn't a sure-thing on the difficult slate. Oregon State will still be clawing for bowl-eligibility in November, a major concern since Stanford, Cal, Washington, and Oregon comprise the final third of the campaign.

Key game: Nov. 26 at Oregon. The Civil War has always held immense meaning for both schools, especially since each has been in the hunt for a league championship in recent years. The Beavers have lost the last three in the series, drifting further behind their rivals from Eugene. For Oregon State, this year's game could decide its postseason fate since the six wins needed to bowl will not be a certainty.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Fourth quarter scoring: Oregon State 74 – Opponents 43
- Time of possession: Oregon State 28:08 – Opponents 31:53
- Third down conversions: Oregon State 37% - Opponents 47%
- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Oregon State Offense
- 2011 Oregon State Defense | 2011 Oregon State Depth Chart