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You can read the entire Oregon State preview in Athlon Sports' 2013 Pac-12 magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
#25 Oregon State
Pac-12 North PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mike Riley, 81-67 (12 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Danny Langsdorf | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mark Banker
Coach Mike Riley plans to pick a starting quarterback — either Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz — the week before the first game. It’s going to be a difficult decision, but Riley believes he can’t make a bad choice because both possess the know-how and ability to run the offense and win games.
Mannion took over as the starter two games into his redshirt freshman season in 2011. He showed a ton of upside and was named a Freshman All-American after passing for 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns. Mannion’s sophomore season began even better as the Beavers jumped out to a 4–0 record, but a minor knee injury that required surgery forced him out of two games and began the quarterback competition when Vaz won both of his starts.
The quarterback, whether it’s Mannion or Vaz, will have many targets in the receiving corps. Brandin Cooks is the big-play threat. He had 1,151 receiving yards and is elusive after the catch. Kevin Cummings and tight end Connor Hamlett started to emerge as reliable options at the end of last season.
Running back Storm Woods should improve in his second season as a starter. He nearly topped 1,000 yards despite a lingering bruised knee. He’s healthy now and showed improved speed during spring practice. He will have the luxury of running behind a veteran offensive line that returns four starters.
The Beavers typically move the ball with ease; it’s just a matter of scoring.
Washington or Oregon State: Who Will Finish Higher in the Pac-12 North?
The Beavers rebuilt the defensive line with junior college transfers. Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva transferred midyear to learn the tackle position in spring practice. They’ll take up blockers, which will allow aggressive defensive ends Scott Crichton, who had nine sacks, and Dylan Wynn to get after the quarterback. More junior college defensive linemen arrive in the fall. The Beavers plan to rotate up to eight players on the line.
Both starting outside linebackers return. Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander are hard-hitting and quick. They made plays in space and covered backs out of the backfield. A middle linebacker needs to emerge, and sophomore Joel Skotte will be given a shot. If he doesn’t stick, Josh Williams is an option.
The secondary returns two safeties and a cornerback. Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman are back as safeties. Both like to support the run but also are effective in coverage. Rashaad Reynolds is the cornerback opponents avoid. He intercepted three passes and broke up 13 last season. Sean Martin and junior college transfer Steven Nelson are in competition for the other corner position. Both will play significantly now that the Beavers use nickel and dime packages on a regular basis.
Brandin Cooks, WR - Gained 1,151 yards as the second receiver by being elusive and gaining yards after the catch.
Rashaad Reynolds, CB - Teams went after him, and he responded with three interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Michael Doctor, LB - The athletic, hard-hitter led the team in tackles last year with 83. He intercepted a pass and broke up four others.
Kicker Trevor Romaine addressed the inconsistencies that plagued him as a freshman in 2011. He returned to hit 16-of-18 field goals. Punter Keith Kostol secured his position with an average of 41.9 yards on 59 attempts. Oregon State’s return game needs a boost. Jordan Poyer, the punt returner, is gone, and the Beavers’ kickoff return unit was the worst in the Pac-12 at 18.3 yards per return.
The Beavers started strong and reached the Alamo Bowl last season. One year removed from a 3–9 season, Oregon State finished in the top 25 for the first time since 2008. Riley went young two years ago, and most of those players are now upperclassmen.
Oregon and Stanford are the class the Pac-12, but Oregon State is near the top of the next tier. Contending for a league title will be tough — especially since the Beavers play in the North — but Oregon State has the talent and experience to flirt with the 10-win mark.
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