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Oregon State Football: 2017 Beavers Preview and Prediction

Gary Andersen, Oregon State Football

Gary Andersen, Oregon State Football

Oregon State won only four games last season, but the Beavers’ progress in head coach Gary Andersen’s second season goes beyond just the wins and losses. Oregon State won its final two Pac-12 games and in the process identified some building blocks. There is still plenty of work to be done, especially when it comes to the offensive and defensive lines, but a productive running back and solid secondary are reasons to be hopeful that the Beavers may win enough games to make it to their first bowl game in four years.

Previewing Oregon State Football’s Offense for 2017

The Beavers are still looking for stability and production at quarterback after another season in which they ranked near the bottom nationally in nearly every passing category and cycled through three signal-callers due to injury or performance. Though both Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson return, the frontrunner to win the starting job could be junior college transfer Jake Luton, who boasts a 6'7" frame and strong arm. Offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven said it was a priority to identify a starter “early,” but that did not happen during or immediately after spring practice.

Running back Ryan Nall is the offense’s centerpiece and the face of the program. He’ll aim to hit 1,000 yards as a junior, after using his blend of power and speed to compile 951 yards (6.5 per carry) and 13 touchdowns in 2016. TCU graduate transfer Trevorris Johnson and former Oregon standout Thomas Tyner are expected to join the team this offseason. Both players should bolster the depth behind Nall.

The receiving corps loses do-it-all playmaker Victor Bolden but returns big-bodied Jordan Villamin and welcomes four-star early enrollee freshman Isaiah Hodgins. The wild card is the health of Seth Collins, who missed the final two games of the season after being hospitalized with an illness and whose status for 2017 remains uncertain. Tight end Noah Togiai, who is coming off a torn ACL, also provides a unique pass-catching option because of his size and athleticism.

The offensive line must replace three starters, including standout left tackle Sean Harlow. And the Beavers are turning to a unique contender at center, with former defensive lineman Sumner Houston flipping sides to snap the football for the first time since elementary school.

Previewing Oregon State Football’s Defense for 2017 

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A unit that made strides in most categories in 2016 is looking for improvement up front, as the Beavers allowed 218.0 rushing yards per game and recorded 18 sacks in 2016. The defensive line returns nearly every contributor from last season and should get a boost from highly touted junior college transfer Craig Evans, a 330-pound tackle.

Linebacker is one of the more intriguing position groups, as veteran playmakers like the rangy Bright Ugwoegbu and tackling machine Manase Hungalu return, and youngsters like Andrzej Hughes-Murray, Shemar Smith and Doug Taumoelau could be primed for significant roles.

The back end loses two major pieces in cornerback Treston Decoud and safety Devin Chappell but welcomes back a Freshman All-American in cornerback Xavier Crawford, who must now match up against the opponent’s best receiver. Cornerbacks Jay Irvine and Christian Wallace and safety Jalen Moore are also promising young players. The Beavers also signed seven defensive backs, including touted in-state product David Morris, in its 2017 recruiting class.

Head coach Gary Andersen verbalized his lofty defensive goals during the spring — 30 sacks and 30 turnovers. 

Previewing Oregon State Football’s Specialists for 2017

The Beavers return punter Nick Porebski, an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection in 2015, and Jordan Choukair, who took over field goal duties late in 2016. But they must replace Bolden, who was a huge weapon on kick returns. Trevon Bradford is an early candidate to fill that void.

Final Analysis

College football rankings: Oregon State

Following a disastrous 2–10 debut season for Andersen, Oregon State showed noticeable progress in 2016 by doubling its win total, notching three Pac-12 victories and closing the season with a blowout of Arizona and a come-from-behind win over Oregon. The Beavers identified some clear strengths, with Nall pacing a tough-minded rushing attack and a secondary spearheading a defense that ranked in the top 50 nationally in pass defense.

Though this program is still in the thick of its rebuild, there’s reason for optimism in 2017. Returning to a bowl game for the first time since 2013 is not an outlandish expectation.

National Ranking: 65

Pac-12 North Prediction: 5