CFN Preview 2013 - Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
Posted Jul 1, 2013 Preview 2013 - Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2013

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

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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head Coach: Mike Riley
13th year: 81-67
Returning Lettermen
Off. 30, Def. 30, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Oregon St Players
1. WR Brandin Cooks, Jr.
2. DE Scott Crichton, Jr.
3. LB Michael Doctor, Sr.
4. C Isaac Seumalo, Soph.
5. CB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr.
6. RG Grant Enger, Sr.
7. RB Storm Woods, Soph.
8. LT Michael Philipp, Sr.
9. FS Ryan Murphy, Jr.
10. HB Connor Hamlett, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Eastern Wash.
9/7 Hawaii
9/14 at Utah
9/21 at San Diego St
9/28 Colorado
10/12 at Washington St
10/19 at California
10/26 Stanford
11/1 USC
11/16 at Arizona State
11/23 Washington
11/29 at Oregon
Forget the Alamo.

Oregon State has spent this offseason attempting to scrub the memory of its 2012 finish, while channeling the exploits of the team that started 6-0 and climbed as high No. 7 in the BCS rankings. The Beavers authored a very nice—and much-needed— rebound from the previous two seasons, when they went 8-16, to go 9-4. However, the ending left a sour taste in the mouth, including a fifth straight defeat to Civil War rival Oregon and a gut-wrenching Alamo Bowl loss to Texas.

The goal this season will be to build on 2012, maintaining—or even surpassing—the success that the team enjoyed last September and October. Head coach Mike Riley and his staff of underrated assistants believe they harbor the right mix of talent on both sides of the ball and on special teams to once again be bowl bound and a fly in the Pac-12 North ointment.

Riley is welcoming back 16 starters, a nice foundation on which to build. On offense, the only question on everyone's mind will be whether Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz gets the opening day start at quarterback. The veterans, both whom started games in 2012, were running dead-even as spring drills came to an end. The Beavers are talented everywhere else, with RB Storm Woods and WR Brandin Cooks emerging into playmakers, but the growth of the unit will be stunted if the quarterbacks are unable to perform at a higher level of consistency.

Coordinator Mark Banker piloted quite a turnaround on defense last fall, a microcosm for the stabilization of the program as a whole. He had stars at each level of the D, a luxury he's likely to enjoy this season as well. The Beavers will be stout on the perimeter with ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn and outside linebackers Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander. However, they could be vulnerable up the gut now that both defensive tackles and the middle linebacker have used up their eligibility.

Oregon State had two identities a year ago, the one that briefly looked like a Rose Bowl threat and the one that got exposed once the level of competition was raised. The Beavers are determined to channel their early-season version, while remaining firmly in the postseason hunt. Now that the program has located solid footing, it can ill-afford to retreat with a team that returns so much ready-made talent.

What to watch for on offense: The competition at split end will have a profound impact on the passing attack. The Beavers are staging a heated battle at quarterback, which is garnering all of the headlines, but the pending race at "X" between Obum Gwacham and Richard Mullaney is going to be pretty darn important as well. Oregon State needs a complementary target to star Brandin Cooks now that Markus Wheaton has graduated. Gwacham brings a rare combination of size and athleticism, but the toughness and sure hands of Mullaney ensure that this duel may take time to decide.

What to watch for on defense: The development of the new defensive tackles. Oregon State is scrambling to replace starters Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai, who did an unheralded job against the run the last two years. The staff was forced to go the free agent route in the offseason, signing a pair of junior-college transfers, Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau. Both newcomers participated in spring drills, and both ended the session atop the depth chart. Still, more growth and improved conditioning will be required between now and opening day.

The team will be far better if… the D improves when its back is against the end zone. The Beavers played so well on defense throughout last season, yet had this nagging penchant for caving in when opponents began to drive deep. In fact, the team that was No. 2 in the Pac-12 in points allowed also ranked 81st in the country in red-zone touchdown percentage. Of the 41 times that the other team crossed the 20-yard line, an intolerable 26 trips resulted in a touchdown.

The Schedule: Beaver fans should expect nothing less than a 7-0 start. Eastern Washington might be potent, but it's Eastern Washington. Hawaii is still trying to figure out what it's doing, and road trips to Utah and San Diego State have to be wins if the team is planning on taking any sort of a step forward. With Colorado at home and a week off to get ready for road trips to Washington State and Cal, that means six of the first seven games are against teams that didn't go bowling last year.

Getting at least a split of home games against Stanford and USC will be vital to have any hope of staying in the Pac-12 North chase. There isn't a true break over the final six weeks, but there's a wonderfully placed bye week in early November to get ready for a trip to Arizona State followed up by Washington and the Civil War regular season finale at Oregon.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Brandin Cooks. Last season's top offensive performer was a wide receiver in his final year of eligibility, Markus Wheaton. The Beavers' best weapon will again be a dynamic pass-catcher on the outside. After taking flight as the apprentice to Wheaton in 2012, Cooks is poised to be the go-to guy of the passing game this fall. Blazing fast, yet also extremely polished with his hands and his routes, he parlayed 67 catches into 1,151 yards and five touchdowns. In a starring, more visible role, he's set to go national in 2013.

Best defensive player: Junior DE Scott Crichton. It's official. Crichton is no fluke or one-hit wonder. The improbable breakout star of 2011 followed up on his rookie year by collecting 44 tackles, 17.5 tackles for minus yards and a team-high nine sacks. Despite bulking up to 6-3 and 260 pounds since arriving as a skinny kid from Tacoma, Wash., he's maintained the athleticism and explosive get-off needed to blow past opposing tackles. With another disruptive season up front, Crichton could consider entering the 2014 NFL Draft a year early.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Sean Mannion or senior Cody Vaz. No matter who ultimately gets the ball from Mike Riley, Oregon State absolutely, positively needs more efficiency from behind center in 2013. This program was far too erratic from behind center a year ago; one week it was torching Arizona for 433 yards and three touchdowns, while it was throwing three picks against Wazzu on the next Saturday. Mannion or Vaz holds the key to unlocking the potential of the offense. It's incumbent upon one of the vets to capture this job in August and never let it go in the fall.

The season will be a success if ... the Beavers win eight regular season games. Sure, it's one less than in 2012, but duplicating last year's improbable run isn't likely. Oregon State wants to maintain the success it had a season ago, and going 8-4 with another quality bowl trip would do just that. The Beavers get Stanford, USC and Washington at Reser Stadium, which is a big scheduling plus, and the first really tough road trip doesn't happen until Nov. 16 in Tempe. There's enough veteran talent in Corvallis to believe that 7-5 would be missing the mark in 2013.

Key game: Nov. 1 vs. USC. Sometimes, all it takes to elevate a season from good to great is one victory in a game many believe will be a loss. This visit from Troy has the potential to be one of those opportunities for Oregon State. The Beavers may not even be the underdog in this one, but USC is USC. And any time there's a chance to knock off the Trojans, especially at home in a nationally-televised Friday night affair, it's a very big deal in Corvallis.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Oregon State 32.5 – Opponents 20.6
- Yards per catch: Oregon State 12.7 – Opponents 10.5
- Red-zone touchdowns: Oregon State 71% - Opponents 63%
- 2013 Oregon State Preview | 2013 Oregon State Offense
- 2013 Oregon State Defense | 2013 Oregon State Depth Chart