Spring Practice Primer: Oregon State Beavers

College football never ends, and during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Oregon State Beavers and what they'll be working on this spring.

Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks return for the Beavers.  (USATSI)
Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks return for the Beavers. (USATSI)

Spring practice began: April 1

Spring game: April 26

2012 record: 9-4

Returning starters: 15 (eight offense, seven defense)

Oregon State improved from 3-9 in 2011 to 9-4 in 2012, the best one-year turnaround in school history. Coach Mike Riley has a veteran squad that should compete for the Pac-12 North division title in 2013. He'll spend the spring trying to establish depth, while looking for replacements at a few key spots. 

The Least You Should Know about Oregon State This Spring

-- The quarterback competition will be fierce. Junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz both played a lot for the Beavers last season. The pair combined for over 3,900 yards and 26 touchdowns. Mannion is taller and a more accurate passer, while Vaz is more mobile and less prone to throwing interceptions. Riley would like one of them to step up and claim the job, but he may not name a starter until August. Mannion starts out first on the depth chart this spring, but the quarterbacks will get equal reps.

-- The interior of the defensive line must be rebuilt. The Beavers finished 28th nationally and third in the Pac-12 in rushing defense in 2012, but they must find new bodies along the defensive line if they are going to again be effective stopping the run. Defensive tackles Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai (who combined for 38 career starts) are gone, as is back up defensive end Rudolf Fifita. Junior college transfers Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau are in for spring and penciled in to replace them. They are expected to contribute right away and this spring will be a big test for their readiness. Delva has the physical skills to develop into one of the conference's best interior linemen.

-- Who's going to replace All-American CB Jordan Poyer? One of the best defensive players in Oregon State history is gone and now a replacement must be found. It's not going to be easy, as Poyer was a leader who did it all for the Beavers' secondary. Senior Sean Martin and junior college transfer Steven Nelson are the front runners to take over his spot, with Martin posting 43 tackles and two interceptions last year as a reserve. With three other starters returning, this secondary has a chance to be pretty good if Martin or Nelson can step up.

-- The Beavers need to find another receiver. One of the most underrated receiving duos in the country has been broken up. Markus Wheaton's 91 catches for 1,244 yards and 11 scores are off to the NFL, leaving behind junior Brandin Cooks, who grabbed 67 passes for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns. Cooks is primed to make a big jump in production this season, but he'll need someone to emerge on the other side of the field to keep the pressure off of him. Sure-handed sophomore Richard Mullaney might be the front-runner to start opposite Cooks, but he'll miss spring due to shoulder surgery. That leaves 6-foot-5 Obum Gwacham and 6-foot-3 freshman Malik Gilmore to compete in spring drills, with Gilmore being the most intriguing prospect of the two. 

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