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Oregon State Beavers 2016 Spring Football Preview

Author:
Gary Andersen

Gary Andersen

Year one under Gary Andersen ended up being as rough as expected for Oregon State. Andersen took over a program in need of a complete overhaul. It quickly showed on the field. The Beavers sank to a 2-10 record after losing their final nine games and finished without a win in conference play for the first time since 1997.

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Will things be better for Andersen and Oregon State in year two? Climbing back up the ladder may be a difficult task with major question marks at key positions for the Beavers and a schedule full of Pac-12 foes expected to be as tough as they were a year ago.

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4 Storylines to Watch in Oregon State’s Spring Practice

1. Finding a new quarterback

For the second straight season, Oregon State will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. Seth Collins and Nick Mitchell split starting duties in 2015. Both players transferred out of the program after the season, with Collins heading to Northern Illinois and Mitchell going to Dixie State (Utah).

Utah State transfer Darell Garretson, sophomore Marcus McMaryion and true freshman Mason Moran will be competing to take over the starting quarterback job. Garretson figures to have the inside track because of his experience. The junior was a part-time starter for the Aggies in 2013 and ‘14.

Garretson played in 13 games for Utah State and threw for 2,586 yards and 18 touchdowns before transferring to the Beavers at the end of the 2014 season. He started seven games for the Aggies in 2013, going 6-1 with a Poinsettia Bowl victory over Northern Illinois, and played in five games in 2014 before a season-ending wrist injury sidelined him.

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2. Clune makes his debut

Oregon State also will have a new defensive coordinator for a second consecutive season. Former defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake left to take over as head coach at BYU. For his replacement, Andersen brought in Kevin Clune , who worked as a defensive assistant under him at Utah State from 2009-12.

Clune comes to Corvallis after working as Utah State's defensive coordinator last season. He has a major rebuilding job on his hands in year one. Oregon State ranked near the bottom of most key Pac-12 defensive categories last season and surrendered an average of 642.5 yards per game over its final four contests.

3. Can the offensive line stay healthy?

Injuries hit the Beavers hard in the trenches a year ago. Gavin Andrews, a projected starter at right guard, missed the entire 2015 season with a foot injury. Sean Harlow, a three-year starter at left tackle, also went down with a season-ending foot injury in late October.

Both Andrews and Harlow are back, along with returning starters Dustin Stanton and Fred Lauina. They are joined up front by BYU transfer Brayden Kearsley, who is the team's new starting center. Kearsley appeared in 18 games over two seasons at right guard for the Cougars before transferring in 2014. Oregon State will need the group to stay healthy since depth and experience are both thin on the offensive line after the starting five.

4. Will the receivers blossom under a new quarterback?

Oregon State had one of the worst passing offenses in the Pac-12 last season. If Garretson wins the job as expected, that could change. Garretson is not a run-first type of quarterback the way Collins was at times last season. He is more likely to move the chains through the air.

Garretson will have a talented group of receivers returning to work with as targets. Jordan Villamin totaled a team-high 660 yards and five touchdowns on 43 catches last season. Caleb Smith also is back after missing all but two games last season. Smith has 573 yards and nine touchdowns on 48 career receptions for the Beavers.

Oregon State's Pre-Spring Outlook in the Pac-12

Things can't be any worse for Oregon State in 2016 than how last season unfolded. Expectations aren't high for the Beavers this season, but the potential to surprise people is there. Andersen is starting to put players in place who can run the offense and defense how he wants it to run. He built a program out of the ashes at Utah State and – given enough time – he can do the same at Oregon State. It just might take another season or two before substantial progress is made in the win/loss column.  

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— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.