Top 25 Team Previews
Oregon State Beavers"/>
Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Oregon State Beavers
2009 Record: 8-5 (6-3 in Pac-10)
Head Coach: Mike Riley
Jacquizz Rodgers :: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
TCU (Arlington, TX)
at Boise State
at Arizona State
at Washington State
BYU (Las Vegas Bowl)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Stephen Paea, DT: The first-team All-Pac-10 pick tied for the team lead in sacks despite facing constant double teams.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB: The All-American has topped the 100-yard mark 14 times in his two years in Corvallis.
James Rodgers, WR: Quizz's big brother is a versatile weapon in the passing attack and the running game.
David Pa'aluhi, MLB: He joined the military, forgoing his final two years of eligibility.
Sean Canfield, QB: The first-team all-conference pick threw for 3,271 yards in '09.
Keaton Kristick, OLB: The emotional leader of the defense led the team with 95 tackles.
25: The Beavers have 25 Pac-10 wins since 2006, when the conference went to a nine-game schedule and a true round-robin format. Only USC (27) has more league wins than the Beavers in that span.
With veterans Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao gone, the QB spot will have a new look this seasons. Barring the unforeseen, sophomore Ryan Katz and junior Peter Lalich will battle for the starting job. Both have limited game experience, although Lalich, a transfer from Virginia, was the Cavs' opening-day starter in 2008. "I like the talent there," coach Mike Riley said. "Now we'll see who emerges."
Junior tailback Jacquizz Rodgers again will anchor the offense. In addition to rushing for 1,440 yards, Rodgers became an accomplished receiver (78 catches for 522 yards) and stayed healthy all season after missing most of three games in 2008 with a shoulder injury.
Senior flanker James Rodgers remains the go-to receiver and a threat to run on the fly sweep (58 rushes for 303 yards). The Beavers have plenty of depth at wideout despite the loss of starter Damola Adeniji to graduation and backup Casey Kjos to recurring back injuries.
The offensive line should be a position of strength, as left tackle Michael Philipp, left guard Grant Johnson, center Alex Linnenkohl and right tackle Mike Remmers all return. Johnson missed spring practice with a shoulder injury but should be good to go.
The Beavers recorded only 17 sacks in 2009 after having 130 in the previous three seasons combined, so becoming more physical up front is a major priority. Senior tackle Stephen Paea is the reigning winner of the Morris Trophy, awarded to the Pac-10's top defensive lineman.
Linebacking is now an area of concern. Starting outside linebacker Keith Pankey tore his right Achilles' tendon on Feb. 10, although he is expected to be recovered and play this fall. Starting middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi withdrew from school in February to join the military. Pa'aluhi started every game and was second on the team in tackles (77), so he'll be missed.
The Beavers had only eight interceptions last season and gave up 23 touchdown passes. The secondary isn't entirely responsible for those bad numbers, though; part of the blame must go to an anemic pass rush. Starting left corner James Dockery and starting safeties Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins are back.
Virtually every starting specialist returns, led by senior placekicker Justin Kahut, who was 22-of-27 on field goals overall and 21-of-24 inside of 50 yards. Junior punter Johnny Hekker matured in 2009 after an inconsistent freshman season and averaged 40.1 yards per kick. James Rodgers averaged 23.3 yard per kickoff return and is always a threat to take one all the way.
For the third straight season, the Beavers are in position to contend in the Pac-10. They will be one of the most experienced teams in the country, with 19 position players and specialists who have started at some point in their careers.
Three factors will determine whether the Beavers finally break through to a first-tier bowl: the emergence of Katz or Lalich at quarterback; identifying the next set of NFL-caliber linebackers and defensive backs; and developing a more consistent pass rush. If those things happen, a team that lost its final regular-season game against rival Oregon with the Rose Bowl on the line in 2008 and '09 could return to Pasadena for the first time since the 1964 season.