2014 CFN Preview - Oregon State Beavers
Oregon QB Sean Mannion
Oregon QB Sean Mannion
Posted Jul 25, 2014

Preview 2014 - Can the Beavers break through and challenge for the Pac-12 North? (Getty Images)

Oregon State Beavers

Preview 2014

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By Rich Cirminiello
- 2014 Oregon State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

- VOD: College football breakdowns on Campus Insiders

Head coach: Mike Riley
14th year: 88-73
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Oregon St Players
1. QB Sean Mannion, Sr.
2. LB Michael Doctor, Sr.
3. C Isaac Seumalo, Jr.
4. CB Steven Nelson, Sr.
5. FS Ryan Murphy, Sr.
6. WR Richard Mullaney, Jr.
7. SS Tyrequek Zimmerman, Sr.
8. RB Storm Woods, Jr.
9. DE Dylan Wynn, Sr.
10. LB D.J. Alexander, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Portland State
Sep. 6 at Hawaii
Sep. 20 San Diego State
Sep. 27 at USC
Oct. 4 at Colorado
Oct. 16 Utah
Oct. 25 at Stanford
Nov. 1 California
Nov. 8 Washington State
Nov. 13 Arizona State
Nov. 22 at Washington
Nov. 29 Oregon

Oregon State—long on consistency, yet short on respect.

The Beavers are perennially a break or two away from winning nine games in a season. However, living in the shadow of Oregon—and Stanford—in the Pac-12 North can be a daunting challenge for a program. Yeah, Oregon State has become accustomed to the postseason, bowling 11 times since 1999, but mid-tier bowl games are as good as it gets in Corvallis. The Beavers haven’t won an outright league title or appeared in the Rose Bowl in a half-century. Or beaten the rival Ducks in the last six tries, capped by last November’s excruciating 36-35 loss in Eugene.

Mike Riley and his staff have had a knack for doing more with less, routinely turning marginal high school recruits into NFL-caliber players. But the Beavers want to be more than overachievers. Winning the North every four or five years and snapping the Civil War losing streak would be undeniable progress at Oregon State. The team caught a break when next-level QB Sean Mannion decided to return for his senior year. The prototypical pocket passer threw 37 touchdown passes in 2013, but he wasn’t the same in the second-half of the year. Not coincidentally, neither were the Beavs.

Last season was a topsy-turvy one in Corvallis. Oregon State opened with an inexcusable loss to Eastern Washington, reeled off six straight wins to crack the Top 25 and then dropped the final five regular season games. By the time the Beavers defeated Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl, Riley needed a dose of maximum strength Dramamine. This year, the team is striving for more stability, at quarterback and on a macro team level.

The Beavers will seek out higher ground in 2014 without their best players, WR Brandin Cooks and DE Scott Crichton, who left school following their junior seasons. While Mannion is the face of the squad, the staff wants to give him more help, especially from a running game that was non-existent last fall. OSU will also need to protect the franchise with a line that’s breaking in three new starters. The D will be sound in the back seven, but who replaces Crichton’s pass rush production? And how does a team that was gashed for more than five yards a carry survive the loss of three starting linemen and both tackles?

Oregon State wants more this fall; more than a pat on the head for an Alamo Bowl berth. And more than attaboys for close calls with the Pac-12 elite. Achieving loftier goals will mandate a higher level of consistency from a program with a growing reputation for starting fast before petering out once the schedule toughens.

What to watch for on offense: The pursuit of balance. When the Beavers have peaked through the years, they always had a prolific runner coming out of the backfield. But that has not been the case in recent seasons. In 2013, OSU averaged just 94 yards a game and 3.4 yards per carry. Yeah, the offense is in good hands now that Sean Mannion has returned for his senior year, but it can be much more potent if it exploits defenses that commit to stopping the pass. The good news is that Storm Woods and Terron Ward are both capable of shouldering the load. The concern? Three new starters will comprise a questionable offensive line.

What to watch for on defense: Welcome aboard. Oregon State is turning to newcomers to help address old problems that haunted the defense in 2013. Starting tackles Mana Rosa and John Braun have graduated from a D that yielded a whopping 5.1 yards per carry last fall. Hope comes in the form of a couple of first-time Beavers, Miami transfer Jalen Grimble and Cerritos (Calif.) College transfer Kyle Peko. The staff is particularly excited to turn loose Grimble, the Las Vegas native and former five-star recruit. He sat out last season, but dominated on the scout team, setting the stage for what could be a breakout junior year.

The team will be far better if… running plays aren’t so problematic. Oregon State was 118th nationally on the ground, and 89th at stopping the run, one of the worst rushing combinations in America. While passing games dominate, particularly in Corvallis, the Beavers will remain ordinary if they don’t improve at the line of scrimmage. Not only does this team need more offensive balance, but it must stop being gashed for more than five yards a carry. Line play, in general, will dictate whether or not OSU reaches its goals in 2014.

The Schedule: As long as the Beavers don’t fall asleep, they should be able to blow through the non-conference schedule against Portland State, at Hawaii and San Diego State, and then it’s time to dive right in with a road game at USC. Don’t cry for the Beavers – there’s no UCLA and the only other games against the South are against Colorado and Utah in the first part of the season, and the Arizona State game is at home. Four of the final five games are at home, getting Cal and Washington State in Corvallis along with the regular season finale against Oregon. However, there’s one huge downside to so many good home games – Stanford and Washington are on the road.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Sean Mannion. There are a small handful of pocket passers with a chance to play their way into the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Corvallis is home to one of them. Mannion scratched the surface of his potential in 2013. Now, he’s back, having put off the pros for a year to clean up some of the mistakes that plagued him down the stretch. Mannion is a luxury for a coaching staff. He’s a three-year starter, with the live arm and the career trajectory to post monster numbers from start to finish this season.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Michael Doctor. By design, coordinator Mark Banker’s linebackers are small, fast and always near the ball. Doctor is the prototype for a Beaver linebacker. He’s set to shake off some rust after missing all but two games with an ankle injury, just as he was set to become an All-Pac-12 performer. Doctor’s athleticism and straight-line speed allow him to be a major factor against the run as well as the pass. Plus, his experience and hands-on leadership are invaluable to his coaching staff and his teammates.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OT Bobby Keenan. You want to neutralize Beaver QB Sean Mannion? Expose his limited mobility. Mannion is no different than any other quarterback, whose effectiveness dips when he’s forced to throw. The OSU O-line is in transition, including at left tackle. Sophomore Sean Harlow can start, but the staff would prefer to use him at guard. If Keenan delivers in his first year out of American River (Calif.) College, everyone on offense is going to benefit.

The season will be a success if ... Oregon State peaks in November. If the Beavers snap a recent trend of collapsing late, they’ll be good for eight or nine regular season wins. The schedule will allow the offensive and defensive lines to gel long before the grueling final stretch begins. Sure, trips to the Coliseum and the Farm will be nasty, but OSU avoids UCLA, and the non-conference schedule should produce a 3-0 mark. This team’s final grade squarely hinges on how well it plays in the last three games with Arizona State, Washington and Oregon.

Key game: Nov. 29 vs. Oregon. The Beavers had the Ducks buried last season, but couldn’t protect a five-point lead in the final minute. In the long line of disappointing Civil War finishes, 2013 ranks near the top of the list of heartbreakers. This year, Oregon State gets to host, as it once again attempts to snap a nagging six-game losing streak in the series. On so many levels, from recruiting to the general climate around Corvallis, the Beavers desperately need to take down the Ducks one of these years.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Oregon State 34.8 – Opponents 31.4
- Yards per carry: Oregon State 3.5 – Opponents 5.1
- Touchdown passes: Oregon State 38 - Opponents 20

- 2014 Oregon State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players