Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Oregon State.
Spring Practice Starts: April 3
Spring Game: Saturday, April 28
Three things to look for:
1. Looking for balance in the offense. The Beavers received a surprising boost at quarterback with the breakout of quarterback Sean Mannion. As a freshman in 2011, Mannion was one of the top quarterback's in the conference completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,328 yards. Oregon State's coaching staff is hoping that Mannion will show improvement across the board in his second season, particularly cutting down on the league-leading 18 interceptions. One thing that will help will be the return of senior Markus Wheaton, who returns after leading the team in receiving with 73 catches for 986 yards.
But the success through the passing game is not worth much without a complimentary ground attack. Oregon State had one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation (No. 118 of 120) in 2011, averaging just 86.75 yards per game. With no clear-cut starter for 2012, this spring will be a time for someone to step up in the backfield. Malcolm Agnew returns after starting as a true freshman in 2012, but didn't play much near the end of the season due to hamstring and fumbling issues. Junior Jovan Stevenson is back, but will be limited recovering from foot surgery. That will open up plenty of backup snaps for senior Jordan Jenkins, sophomore Terron Ward, and true freshman Storm Woods. If no one steps up this spring, look for highly-touted freshman Chris "Downtown" Brown to make competition interesting in fall camp.
2. Plenty of help needed along the offensive and defensive front. Establishing that running game will be a challenge unless they are able to improve their depth and play along the offensive line. Keeping that unit healthy will be a key this spring, with only eight healthy lineman in the rotation. The lack of veteran presence this spring should give young players like Justin Addie, Jake Welch, and Michael Beaton a chance to earn a spot in the rotation. On the other side of the ball, the coaching staff will be looking to beef up the interior line with starting defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn - along with their backups - returning for 2012. Defensive tackle Castro Masaniai is still recovering from a leg injury last season, which leaves convered ends Andrew Seumalo and Mana Rosa left to anchor the unit.
3. A sense of urgency. For the first time since since 1999, Oregon State enters spring practice after consecutive losing seasons. Only once before 2010 had head coach Mike Riley missed the postseason with Oregon State, and the Beavers' 8-16 record in the last two seasons should be concerning for the fans in Corvallis. The competition in the Pac-12 looks to be improving through expansion and the additions of new head coaches like Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez. The Beavers' finished in the top half of the conference seven out of eight seasons from 2002-2009, but their stock in the league is trending down right now. If there isn't a sense of urgency this spring, there probably should be.