2012 Oregon State Preview
Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton
Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton
Posted Aug 4, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2012

- 2012 Oregon State Preview | 2012 Oregon State Offense
- 2012 Oregon State Defense | 2012 Oregon State Depth Chart

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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head Coach: Mike Riley
12th year: 72-63
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 29, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Oregon St Players
1. CB Jordan Poyer, Sr.
2. WR Markus Wheaton, Sr.
3. DE Scott Crichton, Soph.
4. QB Sean Mannion, Soph.
5. S Anthony Watkins, Sr.
6. OT Michael Philipp, Jr.
7. DE Dylan Wynn, Soph.
8. LB Feti ‘Unga, Sr.
9. LB Michael Doctor, Jr.
10. WR Brandin Cooks, Soph.
2012 Schedule
Sep. 1 Nicholls State
Sep. 8 Wisconsin
Sep. 22 at UCLA
Sep. 29 at Arizona
Oct. 6 Washington State
Oct. 13 at BYU
Oct. 20 Utah
Oct. 27 at Washington
Nov. 3 Arizona State
Nov. 10 at Stanford
Nov. 17 California
Nov. 24 Oregon
The little engine that could just might be running out of diesel.

The Beavers, the Pac-12's one-time perennial overachievers, have failed to qualify for the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the end of the last century. Head coach Mike Riley, one of the most popular figures in Corvallis, will need to stem the tide immediately in order to quiet his increasing number of critics. He should have the troops to at least get his program back to the .500 mark and into a bowl game. Or at least that's the hope around campus.

A spate of injuries on both sides of the ball forced Oregon State to use far more true freshmen and unproven players in 2011 than it would normally prefer. The upshot, of course, is that this year's roster is considerably more seasoned, welcoming back 16 starters and nearly five dozen Beavers who saw action last fall.

The program is guaranteed of being a year older, but will it be a year better on Saturdays? The poster child of last season's youth movement was then-redshirt freshman QB Sean Mannion, who endured some rocky on-the-job training as he started every game, but threw more interceptions than touchdowns. He is one of many young Beavers being tasked with the responsibility of turning around a program that sunk to a new recent low after going 3-9. Riley and his staff have to parlay their improved depth and talent into results that show up in the standings … or else.

No one associated with this program, from the players and their parents to the administration and the backers want to contemplate a new figure on the sidelines. However, can a third straight losing season be tolerated at a school that used to script the manual on how to exceed expectations? The hope around Corvallis is that a winning campaign can make that question unnecessary.

What to watch for on offense: The evolution of Mannion. After suffering through growing pains in 2011 as a rookie, the hope around the program is that sophomore QB Sean Mannion can begin walking erect this fall. He has a world of physical ability, and received an impressive vote of confidence by being named the first sophomore team captain in school history. However, he has to start making better decisions in the passing game, and limiting his forced throws. Only then will he be able to maximize a collection of receivers who have a chance to be especially dangerous in 2012.

What to watch for on defense: The ends to provide the spark on defense. The Beavers are ecstatic about the potential of their two sophomore defensive ends, Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn. Crichton was a revelation as a rookie, leading the team with 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and six forced fumbles. Wynn got better as his debut progressed, recovering five fumbles, and bringing non-stop energy to the pass rush. With both a little bigger and wiser in Year 2, Oregon State is going to visit constant heat upon opposing quarterbacks this fall.

The team will be far better if… it runs the ball better … much better. Oregon State ranked 118th nationally on the ground in 2011, while averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. This program is simply not built to survive by putting up the aforementioned numbers. If the Beavers are able to tap into their old habits on offense, everyone, from Mannion to a worn-out defense, is going to reap the benefits. The program needs more balance, longer drives and more third-and-short conversions in order for it to take a step forward this fall.

The Schedule: The Beavers get a tune-up against the Nicholls State running game, but that's not exactly going to prepare them for when Wisconsin rolls into town. Going to BYU won't be a much easier non-conference date, but that doesn't come until mid-October. The key will be getting through the first half of the Pac-12 season with, along with the date at BYU, has four road games in six weeks. However, three of the last four games, including the date with Oregon, are at home. Missing USC from the South is a major plus, and getting contender Utah at home should help.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Markus Wheaton. The Beavers burner is coming off his best season in Corvallis, despite playing catch with an unseasoned quarterback. He's made the journey from the fastest player on the team to a polished pass-catcher, making 73 grabs for 986 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball 25 times for 190 yards, encouraging the staff to invent new ways to get the ball in his hands. With a little more cooperation from young quarterback Sean Mannion, Wheaton has an All-Pac-12 ceiling in 2012.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Jordan Poyer. The buzz has already begun to circulate that Poyer could be among the first cornerbacks chosen in next April's NFL Draft. He's that good in coverage. A fantastic all-around athlete, and instinctive pass defender, he parlayed his best season at Oregon State into a spot on the All-Pac-12 Second Team. The 6-0, 190-pounder made 57 tackles and a team-high four interceptions, even though opposing quarterbacks were resigned to avoid his side of the field whenever it was possible.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore RB Malcolm Agnew or redshirt freshman RB Storm Woods. If there's only one thing Oregon State does with greater effectiveness in 2012 it has to be running the ball. The Beavers, a team that prides itself on its ground game, averaged a paltry 87 yards per contest last fall. Agnew and Woods, among others, are being asked to ignite this area of the offense immediately. Both underclassmen have shown flashes over the course of the past, lending hope that they provide answers to the school's nagging issue on offense.

The season will be a success if ... the Beavers make a return to the postseason. After being home in December the last two years, the bar is set at qualifying for a 13th game. Oregon State faces a difficult schedule that includes the rugged Pac-12 slate and non-conference games with Wisconsin and BYU, but it's bowl or bust for a program that has way too much returning talent to remain below the .500 mark for third year in a row.

Key game: Sept. 22 at UCLA. After going 1-5 outside of Corvallis in 2011, Oregon State has got to make more of a statement away from Reser Stadium. The trip south to Pasadena will be the school's first road trip of 2012, a potential tone-setter for the final two months of the regular season. The Bruins and the Beavers are in relatively similar places these days. Both are young, coming off uncertain pasts and eager to rebound with a much-needed winning season. This is going to be a key conference game for both schools.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: Oregon State 86.9 – Opponents 196.8
- Red-zone touchdowns: Oregon State 48% – Opponents 81%
- Second-quarter scoring: Oregon State 95 - Opponents 163
- 2012 Oregon State Preview | 2012 Oregon State Offense
- 2012 Oregon State Defense | 2012 Oregon State Depth Chart