2012 Oregon State Preview - Offense

Posted Aug 4, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Oregon State Beaver Offense

Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2012 - Offense

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

What you need to know: Run the ball better. That has been the mantra coming down from the coaching staff from the moment last year’s regular season came to a close. When the Beavers were exceeding expectations over the past decade, they always had a 1,000-yard rusher on offense, but last year’s squad normed just 87 yards a game on the ground. The responsibility of restoring some order to the rushing attack could belong to multiple players, though Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew appear to have the most long-term potential. Woods, in particular, had the kind of breakout spring that’s sure to earn him plenty of reps in the fall. Everyone is going to benefit if the offensive line can remain healthy, which was not the case a year ago. OT Michael Philipp, who sat out the entire 2011 season, is the kind of drive blocker who can really spark the unit if he’s able to recapture his pre-injury form. Contrary to the ground game, the passing attack figures to be on far more solid footing. Sean Mannion took some predictable lumps as a redshirt freshman, but is clearly the program’s quarterback of the future. If he can begin to turn the corner, he’ll be on his way to becoming one of the Pac-12’s top young hurlers. It’ll surely help having access to an electric set of hands that includes wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Sean Mannion
305-473, 3,328 yds, 16 TDs, 18 INTs
Rushing: Malcolm Agnew
89 carries, 423 yds, 5 TDs
Receiving: Markus Wheaton
73 catches, 986 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Markus Wheaton
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Malcolm Agnew or redshirt freshman Storm Woods
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Brandin Cooks
Best pro prospect: Wheaton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wheaton, 2) Junior OT Michael Philipp, 3) Cooks
Strength of the offense: Options at running back, the wide receivers
Weakness of the offense: Consistency under center, the ground game, the O-line, turnovers, red-zone offense


Oregon State endured some growing pains in 2011 in order to begin developing its quarterback of the future, sophomore Sean Mannion. He beat out veteran Ryan Katz, who has since transferred to San Diego State, completing 305-of-473 passes for a school freshman-record 3,328 yards, 16 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The son—and grandson—of a coach, he’s exactly the kind of player Mike Riley wants behind center. The 6-5, 215-pounder makes quite a presence in the pocket, is heady beyond his years and will not be outworked. His debut at the controls was predictably erratic, tossing more interceptions than touchdowns, yet completing nearly two-thirds of his passes, and throwing for the fourth highest passing yards in Oregon State history. He’ll have to cut down on the mistakes—and improve his decision-making—in 2012 and beyond, but that should come with experience and more film work.

The Beavers believe that junior Cody Vaz is more than just a garden variety backup. They feel that the 6-0, 198-pounder can win games for the program if his number is called. Although he’s played sparingly and lacks ideal size, he does have a quick release and the poise to hold up under pressure. Vaz’s biggest asset is his accuracy, throwing a catchable ball that makes life markedly easier on his receivers.

Watch Out For .... Vaz to do more than just sit by idly as Mannion builds his legacy in Corvallis. Oh, Mannion is the clear-cut starter, but that didn’t prevent Vaz from outplaying the incumbent in the spring. The junior is going to be good for the macro picture behind center, making sure that complacency doesn’t enter the picture.
Strength: Accuracy. Mannion completed 64.5% of his passes a year, showing a particularly nice touch on intermediate routes. And yet, Vaz is actually considered the more accurate of the two hurlers. Best of all, the situation is expected to improve over time, as both quarterbacks were so green when the 2011 season began.
Weakness: Poor decisions. Mannion threw more interceptions than 115 FBS teams a year ago, one of a number of indications that he forced way too many throws. Now, in his defense, he was just a redshirt freshman, but obviously the program is banking on an entirely new quarterback behind center, one who can limit his mistakes, and better maximize the talent surrounding him.
Outlook: Mannion is the first sophomore in Oregon State history to be named team captain, which is an indication of how highly the staff thinks of its quarterback. He’s big, mature and on the verge of displaying more polish now that he’s absorbed a full season as the starter. The Beavers are banking on more big plays, fewer bad decisions and the next big step for a young passer with a very bright future.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Not unlike this time last year, Oregon State has a slew of contenders for the feature back … and absolutely no frontrunner to rescue a ground game that ranked 118th nationally in 2011. Five contenders entered the ring in April, and all five are still standing as August approaches. The people’s choice, for what that’s worth, is 5-10, 202-pound redshirt freshman Storm Woods. While his next carry will be his first at this level, the buzz around Corvallis is that he has the highest ceiling among the backs. Not only does he have a solid frame and excellent speed, but he showed a penchant in the spring for finishing his runs, which was not lost on the coaching staff.

The Beavers are eager to get a good look at sophomore Malcolm Agnew who had a tantalizing debut that was squelched by a recurring hamstring injury. In his first game on campus, he erupted for 223 yards and three scores on 33 carries versus Sacramento State. However, the injury limited him to 200 yards and two scores on only 56 carries the rest of the way. The 5-8, 204-pounder has the vision to explode through holes, but needs to work on his hands, both as a receiver and with ball-security.

The team’s best third-down option is 6-1, 209-pound senior Jordan Jenkins, a versatile three-time letterwinner and special teams star. More likely to get on the field on third down as a back in the slot than first and second downs, he has the best hands of the group, catching 31 balls for 251 yards and a touchdown in 2011. Jenkins is also a fine pass blocker, one more reason to utilize him on passing downs.

When the offense needs a tough yard, it’s liable to turn to sophomore Terron Ward. A no-nonsense, north-south runner, he hits the hole quickly, and rarely gets taken down for minus yards. Despite being just 5-7 and 192 pounds, his low center of gravity makes him difficult to tee up straight on. In his rookie year, he plugged away for 211 yards and a score on 63 carries, adding 14 catches for 76 yards.

Finally, junior Jovan Stevenson is working his way back from foot surgery. It’s actually the second straight year he’s gone under the knife, raising concerns about his durability. He’s a speedy 5-11, 185-pounder, but needs to take his cue from Agnew, and start hitting the hole with more authority. He had some moments in 2011, like rushing for 99 yards against Arizona and scoring three times versus Washington, finishing with 57 carries for 229 yards and five touchdowns.

Watch Out For .... Woods and Agnew to build some separation from the rest in the summer. In terms of feature back qualities, no one has a more complete skill set than the redshirt freshman and sophomore, respectively. Woods has the locals excited, and Agnew has already showcased his ability in brief spurts in 2011, which should make for a heated Round 2 in August.
Strength: Diversity. The coaching staff has access to a little bit of everything with this disparate collection of backs. Woods and Agnew are capable of shouldering the load. Ward is effective in short yardage. And Jenkins is the jack-of-all-trades, and a quality option out of the backfield for the quarterback.
Weakness: No sure-things. Who is the feature back? The Beavers were asking this question last summer, and have yet to find a solution. It could be Woods. It might be Agnew. Stevenson is a possibility. The reality is that the season is quickly approaching, and Oregon State is still trying to figure out its pecking order in the backfield.
Outlook: When Oregon State has been at its best over the past decade or so, the offense was always led by a gifted back, such as Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard or Quizz Rodgers. If the Beavers are going to get back on track, it’ll have to start here, with the develop of the kind of runner who can spearhead the offense, and take some heat off QB Sean Mannion. A committee is a possibility, but head coach Mike Riley would prefer to have a signature back who can run the ball at least 200 times for at least 1,000 yards.
Rating: 6.5


The Beavers are rather excited about their situation at wide receivers, thanks to the return of three of last season’s top four receivers. The headliner—and one of the premier all-around athletes in the Pac-12—is 6-0, 180-pound senior Markus Wheaton, an honorable mention all-league pick a year ago. A moonlighter on the Oregon State track team, he literally possesses track speed, that extra gear to get behind the defensive backfield. He’s rapidly becoming a more polished all-around pass-catcher, serving notice to Pac-12 coordinators that he’s about erupt in 2012. Wheaton produced 986 yards and a lone touchdown on 73 receptions, adding 190 yards on 25 carries, a level of output he’s capable of surpassing this fall.

While Wheaton is the split end, sophomore Brandin Cooks is locked in at flanker. The 5-9, 177-pound playmaker is bucking to become the modern-day version of former Beaver James Rodgers, vexing opposing defenses with his speed, stop-and-start moves and elusiveness. He’s the kind of athlete, who’ll entice the coaches to get him the ball in space, both as a receiver and on fly sweeps. As a true freshman, he caught 31 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns.

In three-wide sets, the slot receiver will be 6-3, 207-pound senior Jordan Bishop. The three-time letterwinner is returning from ankle surgery, which limited him to nine games in 2011. In those games, he produced 31 catches for 384 yards and a touchdown. His size, strong hands and precise routes make him a natural to work the middle of the field, where Sean Mannion will find him searching for the soft spot in the zone.

There’s a palpable buzz growing regarding Obum Gwacham, who is currently listed as the backup to Wheaton at split end and Bishop at slotback. Just a sophomore, he’s still growing, both physically and as a more polished receiver. While raw, at 6-5 and 224 pounds, the coaching staff is going to find a way to get him up to speed and more involved in the offense. In his first season of action, he caught eight balls for 147 yards.

The Beavers always like to use their tight ends and H-backs, positions that need a successor to ultra-productive Joe Halahuni. The veteran leader of the big men—for now—will be 6-5, 262-pound senior Colby Prince. More steady than spectacular, he caught a dozen balls for 66 yards in 2011. He’s a reliable target, but explosive plays and yards after the catch will not be expected.

Watch Out For .... Wheaton and Cooks to become a major handful for Pac-12 linebackers and defensive backs. Neither receiver was anywhere near his potential in 2011, partially due to having a freshman as a batterymate. At full strength—and on the field at the same time—the Beaver duo is going to help supercharge the Oregon State passing attack.
Strength: Speed and separation. What makes the tandem of Wheaton and Cooks so special is their ability to get to top gear in a hurry. Wheaton is capable of stretching a defense vertically, making defensive backs look as if their standing still. Cooks is a horizontal threat, getting to the edge of the tackles where there’s the necessary space to make people miss. The Beavers should be good for a handful of connections of at least 50 yards this fall.
Weakness: Tight end and H-backs. Yeah, there’s plenty of potential at both positions, but Prince has a limited ceiling, and his competition is still very young and raw. Unless sophomores Connor Hamlet and Kellen Clute are prepared to deliver right now, the Beavers will be pedestrian at both spots.
Outlook: Oregon State has good reason to be excited about its situation in the receiving corps. The development of athletes, like Wheaton, Bishop and Cooks, will have that kind of an effect on a program. Both of the wide receivers harbor all-conference potential, and the ability to exceed last year’s productivity. Overall depth and the situation at tight end are not great, but the frontline wideouts are talented enough to carry this crew a long way.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

It’ll be a busy offseason for the staff of assistants in charge of reshaping an O-line that loses three starters, and played poorly a season ago. The brightest news comes from the return of junior Michael Philipp, who is slotted in at left tackle. Following back-to-back injury-marred seasons, the Beavers are hoping that their best blocker can play an entire year at full strength. The 6-4, 324-pounder had his knee cleaned up last September, and took the year off in the hopes that he can return in 2012 a little stronger and a whole lot healthier. When not being dogged by nagging physical problems, he’s the kind of physical and assertive blocker who makes a backfield markedly more effective. The junior has two more years to bolster the Oregon State line, and improve his NFL Draft grade.

Once he���s all the way back from an offseason ankle injury, 6-5, 298-pound senior Colin Kelly is expected to resume his role as the starting right tackle. He has the size, long arms and light feet needed to improve as a pass protector after playing in spurts last season.

The program’s best guard will be 6-2, 297-pound junior Josh Andrews, who’ll line up on the left side. He started six games last year, and would have been busier had it not been for a midseason injury. One of the more versatile—and assertive—players up front, he can also handle the opening at center if needed.

Right guard is expected to go to 6-5, 282-pound Grant Enger, who sat out the spring to recover from a shoulder injury. Another of the versatile Oregon State blockers, he started six games on the left side in 2011 and another four to the right of center.

The least experienced member of the projected starting lineup is 6-2, 284-pound sophomore Roman Sapolu, the son of four-time Super Bowl champion lineman Jesse Sapolu. What he lacks in ideal size in the trenches, he hopes to make up for with sound technique and fundamentals. Pushing Sapolu is 6-2, 322-pound redshirt freshman Jake Welch. He’s much bigger and stronger than the competition, really excelling in the weight room, but needs to become a more complete and disciplined blocker.

Watch Out For .... the impact of true freshman Isaac Seumalo. The local Corvallis product was rated as the top guard prospect in the country in February, generating quite a buzz about his arrival on campus. He’s the kind of pile-driving run blocker that this O-line needs, which could result in a starting nod on the right side by September.
Strength: Blue-collar work ethic. While the Beavers don’t house the most O-line talent in the Pac-12, it won’t stop them from bringing it on every down. These blockers are coached to play to the whistle, scrapping and clawing in order to make life a little easier on their teammates. Oregon State may get beaten in the fall, but not from a lack of trying.
Weakness: The results. A blue-collar work ethic will get a front wall only so far. The Beavers struggled badly at the point of attack a year ago, blocking for the nation’s 118th-ranked ground game, while ranking 81st in pass protection. Philipp and Seumalo should help, but by how much will depend on health and playbook retention, respectively.
Outlook: After doing an subpar job of blocking last season, Oregon State can only aspire to mediocrity this fall. Corvallis is home to a middling group of blockers facing a severe shortage of quality depth. In a best case scenario, Philipp recaptures his Freshman All-American form, while Seumalo duplicates that honor in his first season on campus. In a worst case scenario, the Beavers get trampled at the point of attack for a second straight year.
Rating: 6
- 2012 Oregon State Preview | 2012 Oregon State Offense
- 2012 Oregon State Defense | 2012 Oregon State Depth Chart