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2013 Oregon State Preview - Offense
Posted Jul 1, 2013 2013 Preview - Oregon State Beaver Offense

Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Oregon State Preview | 2013 Oregon State Offense
- 2013 Oregon State Defense | 2013 Oregon State Depth Chart

What you need to know: Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion? It’s the question that’ll dominate the football chatter around Corvallis for the next couple of months. Both veteran quarterbacks played last year, to mixed reviews, and neither was able to padlock the job in the spring. The closely-watched competition continues in August. Whoever gets the ball from Mike Riley will spend most of his fall looking for superstar WR Brandin Cooks, and handing the ball off to downhill runners Storm Woods and Terron Ward. The Beavers will again be balanced this season, keeping defenses on their heels with a mix of the run and the pass. They might also be salty at the point of attack for a change as well. Four starters return to the O-line, led by C Isaac Seumalo, LT Michael Philipp an RG Grant Enger. Oregon State is loaded with potential and physicality in the trenches, but now needs to block with more consistency in order to unleash the team’s best skill position players.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Sean Mannion
200-309, 2,446 yds, 15 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Storm Woods
192 carries, 940 yds, 13 TDs
Receiving: Brandin Cooks
67 catches, 1,151 yds, 5 TDs

Star of the offense: Junior WR Brandin Cooks
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Sean Mannion or senior Cody Vaz
Unsung star on the rise: Junior HB Connor Hamlett
Best pro prospect: Cooks
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Cooks, 2) Sophomore C Isaac Seumalo, 3) Senior RG Grant Enger
Strength of the offense: Experience at quarterback, running back depth, tight end, interior of the line, red-zone conversions
Weakness of the offense: Consistency in the passing game, wide receiver depth, pass protection, third-down conversions


Corvallis will be home to one of the country’s tightest quarterback battles this summer, a too-close-to-call competition between 6-5, 214-pound junior Sean Mannion and 6-1, 202-pound senior Cody Vaz. Both Beavers played extensively a year ago, though neither was able to gain much separation in the spring.

Mannion was the clear-cut started when 2012 began, but he went with a knee injury and was lost for a couple of games. He never relocated his groove, finishing the year 200-of-309 for 2,446 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 picks. Over two years, he’s now thrown as many interceptions—31—as scoring strikes. The son—and grandson—of a coach, Mannion possesses the size, arm strength and intelligence to be a prototypical hurler for head coach Mike Riley. But he has got to become much more consistent with his reads and his accuracy.

When Mannion went down, Vaz stepped in and provided an immediate spark for the offense. However, he, too, got derailed by an injury, a bum ankle that cost him momentum and a couple of games. He was clutch at times, showcasing poise and the quick release needed to offset modest measurables. Vaz was also inconsistent, and too stationary for a player his size. Still, he did appear to be a little more consistent and mistake-free than the players around him.

Watch Out For .... Riley to not rush his decision. The coach and his assistants are perfectly content to patiently evaluate all of the performances and intel that come in between now and the opener with Eastern Washington. In Mannion and Vaz, he’s dealing with a couple of mature veterans who won’t become unnerved by a protracted duel for the job.
Strength: Two quarterbacks with starting experience. The bright side of last season’s turbulence and injuries is that Mannion started eight games and Vaz was in the opening huddle for the other five. Both are battle-tested and have played in meaningful contests. Although the staff has yet to anoint one of the two, it remains confident that both players can lead the team this fall.
Weakness: A lack of consistency from the passing attack. The bottom line here is that Riley is going to give the ball to that Beaver who can deliver in the passing game on a week-in, week-out basis. A year ago, the quarterback play was a little too sporadic, producing three or more picks in three different games.
Outlook: This is going to get very interesting in August. The Beavers have two viable choices at quarterback, but no obvious one at this stage. Mannion makes the most sense because of the fact that he’s eligible through 2014, is a two-time team captain and looks as if he was handcrafted to play for Riley. However, his mistakes through the air are major concerns that need to be corrected. Vaz is ready to go, and has proven himself in crucial situations. More than anything, Oregon State hopes that it doesn’t have to juggle its quarterbacks the way it was forced to last year.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

At this time last year, Oregon State was staring at a messy situation in the backfield. Today, the Beavers believe they house a feature runner, young Storm Woods, to build around. A brief midseason injury was the only thing that kept the 6-0, 197-pound Texas native from rushing for 1,000 yards. He went for a team-high 940 yards and 13 touchdowns on 192 carries, adding 38 catches for 313 yards. Woods has good size, speed and cutback vision, with the potential to bloom into a complete back as early as this season. He also finishes his runs, a characteristic that the coaches, in particular, adore about him.

Just behind Woods on the depth chart will be 5-7, 200-pound sophomore Terron Ward who’ll be counted on even more now that Malcolm Agnew has transferred to Southern Illinois. The thick-legged Ward is a very physical runner, a low-to-the-ground smasher who won’t go down with an arm tackle. Last year’s second-leading rusher powered his way to 415 yards and six touchdowns on only 68 carries.

Junior Tyler Anderson is an ideal option for the Beavers when a fullback is required on the field. An assertive and selfless blocker, with a strong base, he’ll spend most of his time opening holes for Woods and Ward. However, the 5-10, 211-pounder is also an underrated athlete, carrying the ball 13 times for 51 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.

Watch Out For .... Woods’ health. He got his bell rung in April and sat out the spring game with a concussion. That’s cause for concern, especially with head injuries drawing much attention these days. Woods is expected to be fine for August, but another hard hit during the season could immediately change the roles of Ward and redshirt freshman Chris Brown.
Strength: Downhill runners. Neither Woods nor Ward wastes much movement when entering the hole, efficiently busting into daylight. The pair combined to average more than five yards a carry, while producing 19 touchdowns on the ground. Very rarely does either back get caught behind the line, helping make the Beavers formidable in short-yardage situations.
Weakness: Consistency. The Beavers showed flashes on the ground last season, but the staff still wants to see more out of this group. While Woods is the likely starter, he’s still young, which means that picking up the blitz and exploiting the right hole still isn’t a sure-thing. Oregon State just needs to tighten up some loose ends, which ought to come with another year of experience.
Outlook: The Beavers’ backfield has grown markedly since this time last year. In Woods and Ward, it now features two quality runners, both capable of shouldering the load. A committee cannot be ruled out, though Woods should get the majority of the carries in the fall. When Oregon State flourished in the past, it always had a gifted back in the stable. The program houses two good ones entering 2013.
Rating: 7.5


Now that Markus Wheaton has graduated, junior flanker Brandin Cooks is going to face more pressure than ever to ignite the Oregon State passing game from the outside. As the complement to his star teammate, the 5-10, 181-pound speed merchant was outstanding. He caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards and five scores to nab honorable mention All-Pac-12 recognition. Cooks runs tight routes, rarely drops balls and will make defenders miss. And when the track star gets separation, the race is already over. Still, he’s going to need help this fall now that Wheaton is no longer around to absorb heat and attract the attention of the other team’s top corner.

The pivotal battle is taking place at split end, where is going to need to take heat off Cooks. Junior Obum Gwacham received most of the first-team reps in the spring, but that was largely because sophomore Richard Mullaney sat out the session following shoulder surgery. Gwacham is hard to miss at 6-5 and 227 pounds, an imposing target. However, he’s extremely raw with his routes and his blocking, and his hands are inconsistent. The 6-3, 192-pound Mullaney, on the other hand, does a lot of little things well, plays with a nasty streak and rarely drops passes. He caught 13 balls for 156 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

In the slot, a position Oregon State calls “R”, Kevin Cummings is in the driver’s seat. The 6-1, 180-pounder is more steady than spectacular, runs good routes and isn’t going to hurt the rest of the offense. He caught a career-best 18 balls for 208 yards and a touchdown, numbers he’s capable of exceeding in an expanded role.

One of the underrated weapons of the passing game is 6-7, 264-pound junior Connor Hamlett, an H-back who can also play tight end when the need arises. He’s obviously enormous, but also has very soft hands and the good wheels to beat linebackers down the seam. In his breakout season, Hamlett caught 32 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns. The more traditional tight end on the roster is 6-6, 258-pound sophomore Caleb Smith, who has impressed the staff throughout the offseason.

One of the more seasoned veterans coming off the bench will be Cooks’ backup, 6-1, 180-pound senior Micah Hatfield. The three-time letterwinner, who has spent most of his career on special teams, did make nine grabs for 86 yards and two scores in 2012.

Watch Out For .... the battle between Gwacham and Mullaney to generate plenty of headlines. This is a huge competition because of the impact it’ll have on Cooks. And it’s a classic case of Gwacham’s upside potential versus the steadiness of Mullaney. The winner could have a chance to catch 50 balls in 2013.
Strength: Cooks. No. 7 is a dynamite all-around receiver, and not just because he’s blazing fast. He does everything well, the kind of complete playmaker who has to think long and hard about entering the NFL Draft following his junior year. Cooks is more than Oregon State’s best offensive weapon; he’s also the guy who’s going to help create more space for his fellow receivers.
Weakness: Supporting wide receivers. The Beavers have Cooks and a budding collection of tight ends and H-backs, but not a whole lot else in the receiving corps. The fall-off from Cooks to the rest of the wide receivers is so enormous that it’s going to affect the play of the quarterbacks. This is a dramatically different corps now that Wheaton is a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Outlook: Oregon State has one superstar, Cooks, one emerging H-back, Hamlett, and a whole lot of question marks. The quarterbacks will have viable targets, but they won’t be the same if another receiver or two doesn’t emerge into a consistent playmaker. The Beavers hope that the pending tilt between Gwacham and Mullaney can bring out the best in both split ends.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

One of the underlying causes for optimism on offense can be traced to an O-line that loses just a single 2012 starter, RT Colin Kelly, to graduation. Sure, the unit must get bigger, stronger and, well, better, but four regulars are back, including a pair that was recognized as honorable mention All-Pac-12. One of those honorees, versatile 6-6, 290-pound senior RG Grant Enger, brings 21 games of starting experience into this season. More steady than spectacular, the Beavers are counting on their fundamentally-sound three-time letterwinner to help anchor the right side of the line.

Spectacular in the trenches is far more likely to come this year from Oregon State’s center, second-year riser Isaac Seumalo. The local blue-chipper was as good advertised in his debut, quickly earning the job, before going on to earn Freshman All-American plaudits. The 6-3, 300-pound prodigy has all of the necessary tools for long-term success, from his agility and strength to the way he prepares for the game. And he’s just one year into his tenure, meaning he’ll just keep improving with additional snaps, reps and coaching.

While LT Michael Philipp was not one of the all-star Beavers in 2012, that situation is capable of changing in 2013. The one-time can’t-miss recruit, and veteran of 35 starts, has had an erratic career impacted by knee injuries. But after missing all of 2011, he returned last year to start every game. And in the spring, the powerful and assertive 6-4, 329-pounder was at his peak throughout the session. If Philipp can remain healthy, he’ll have a shot to use this year as a launching point to becoming an NFL guard.

Joining Philipp on the left side is senior G Josh Andrews, a blue-collar and underrated member of the unit. He returned from an injury midway through 2011 to start all 13 games last fall. A strong and no-nonsense 6-3, 303-pounder, he plays with good pad level, quickness and get-off once the ball is snapped.

Working to become the newcomer of the starting unit is 6-5, 327-pound RT Gavin Andrews, the frontrunner to succeed Kelly. While just a sophomore, with limited experience, the coaching staff likes his size and his intensity in the trenches. Still, he’s going to get targeted by opposing teams if he remains atop the depth chart.

The Beavers have a little more depth than they’re usually accustomed, with most of it residing on the interior. Two guards, 6-2, 286-pound sophomore Josh Mitchell and 6-2, 329-pound sophomore Justin Addie, and C Roman Sapolu lettered last season. The technically-sound Mitchell is the most valuable of the reserves, backing up Andrews and Seumalo.

Watch Out For .... the development of Gavin Andrews as a possible starter. He’s obviously the biggest question mark up front, a player who’ll need plenty of support on the right side from Enger. If Andrews regressed, it’ll either require some shifting of players or a rookie, like Nolan Hansen or Tyler Ropp to step up.
Strength: The interior. The ingredients are in place for the Beavers to boast one of the top interiors in the entire Pac-12. Seumalo is already one of the league’s premier centers, and Enger and Andrews form a solid tandem at guard. Backs Storm Woods and Terron Ward ought to have a lot of success running the ball between the tackles in 2013.
Weakness: Tackle … after Philipp. The senior has an all-star ceiling, but Gavin Andrews is an unknown on the right side, and the bench is very young and unproven. After ranking 94th nationally in sacks allowed—and getting barraged for 10 sacks by Texas in the Alamo Bowl—Oregon State has to do a better job of protecting the pocket.
Outlook: Is this the year that the Beavers’ production finally matches their experience and self-made work ethic? Fingers are crossed around Corvallis. Oregon State has a solid base of first-string talent, with Seumalo, Enger and Philipp all capable of contending for postseason honors. If Gavin Andrews can swim instead of sinking in his debut in the deep end of the pool, this unit could be a very pleasant surprise for a change.
Rating: 7.5

- 2013 Oregon State Preview | 2013 Oregon State Offense
- 2013 Oregon State Defense | 2013 Oregon State Depth Chart