NCF Nation: Colin Kelly
Ted Miller: Oregon State’s offense was bad last year. That’s the obvious bad news. More obvious bad news: It was bad for a fundamental reason: It couldn’t run the ball, ranking 118th in the nation with just 86.9 yards per game. The end result was an offense that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (21.8 points per game) and 10th in total offense (373.7 yards per game). And while we’re being party poopers, why not note there are only eight healthy offensive linemen this spring, which makes it impossible to field a full second team?
Ah, but we come not to bury the Beavers, but to praise them! This half of the Pac-12 blog is providing Oregon State fans an iron-clad guarantee: The Beavers' offense will be better in 2012. Perhaps much better. And that’s why we believe they will win enough to earn a bowl berth after consecutive seasons at home during the postseason.
Mannion’s supporting cast at receiver is strong. Three of the top four receivers are back, including Markus Wheaton and speedy flanker Brandin Cooks. And essentially the entire cast at running back is back.
So, really, it comes down to the offensive line, where three starters are back, not including tackle Michael Philipp, a 2010 starter who is trying to get a once-promising career back on track. Don’t expect to hear glowing reports this spring. Tackle Colin Kelly and guard Grant Enger, both returning starters, are out with injuries, so there’s a lack of bodies. But in the fall they should be healthy just as a pair of intriguing reinforcements arrive: touted freshman Isaac Seumalo, rated the No. 19 overall player in the nation in 2012 by ESPN Recruiting, and junior-college transfer Stan Hasiak, who saw plenty of action during his tumultuous time at UCLA. Both are potential – even likely -- starters.
Mannion flashed plenty of potential in 2011. He will be far more seasoned in 2012. The offensive line will be better, too, which means at least a mediocre running game to keep defenses from pinning their ears back and going after the quarterback.
In other words, the Beavers offense will be much improved overall in 2012. Now ... about that defense ...
Kevin Gemmell: I'm glad you brought up Osweiler, because he's somewhat pertinent to the team I'm picking to improve offensively -- UCLA.
All together now: "Ding, dong, the pistol is dead." And not a half-snap too soon. Time to make way for the shotgun.
To see where the Bruins are headed on offense, you need only to look back at what Osweiler did the past two seasons with the Sun Devils -- specifically what he was able to do with Noel Mazzone running the show.
Now Mazzone is new coach Jim Mora's offensive coordinator at UCLA. I know there is a multi-quarterback competition in the works. That certainly will have some bearing. But even so, it's almost impossible for the Bruins not improve on last year's 23.1-ppg scoring average with this time-tested offense.
Consider the Sun Devils of 2009, pre-Mazzone: 90th in total offense (334.4 yards per game) and 91st in scoring average (22.3 points per game). Now, look at Mazzone's first season in 2010: 29th in total offense (425.6) and 28th in scoring average (32.2). Last year: 25th in total offense (445.8) and 28th in scoring offense (33.2).
Translation: The guy knows how to move the ball and create points.
I talked earlier this week with Brett Hundley, one of those quarterbacks in the hunt for the starting gig, he says this offense is much simpler and allows the quarterback to play more quickly and think less. Makes sense. And whoever wins the gig will have an experienced running back in Johnathan Franklin beside him. The fifth-year senior was 24 yards short of a 1,000-yard season despite an impressive 5.9 yards per carry average.
The Bruins were in the bottom half of the nation in sacks allowed last year, but the return of tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who is back after an LDS mission, should help bolster the line. All indications out of spring are that he looks solid. Jeff Baca and Greg Capella both saw significant playing time last season (Capella started 14 games and Baca 13), so that experience should help cut back on the sacks.
Now, to the quarterback spot. Kevin Prince has the most experience, followed by Richard Brehaut. Both are seniors. But there is a call from fans to completely cleanse themselves of the previous regime and start fresh with Hundley, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback who might be the most athletic of the bunch.
Whoever wins the job is destined for a pretty good season. Because given Mazzone's history of turning slugs into sluggers, UCLA looks like the team to drag itself up from the Pac-12's offensive cellar.
These are a few of the concerns Riley is pondering as the Beavers set to open spring practice on April 3.
"I think we have good depth," Riley said in a conference call with media on Tuesday. " ... It's definitely the biggest question mark, but it's a good group. I feel good about it. Sorting it out will be very important for us."
Which leads to another issue. The backs will be getting lots of work -- but who is going to do all of the blocking? With Grant Enger (shoulder) out for spring and Colin Kelly (ankle) expected to miss most or all of spring, the Beavers have very limited depth to work with over the next month.
"The hardest part about spring ball is that we're very thin on the offensive line," Riley confirmed. "We have the starters that are out rehabbing ... we have some good young talent that will get a lot of good work to see if they can play. We're looking -- not necessarily how it will look as a whole in the fall -- but as an individual development of those guys at that position. We'll just have to be careful how we practice."
Riley went on to say that as a result, there won't be much chemistry with whatever starting five opens the year Sept. 1 against Nicholls State in Corvallis.
"I think we'll develop toward that line that we'll have in the fall," he said. "The hard part is we won't have a whole synchronized group. I doubt the starting lineup coming out of spring ball will be the starting lineup necessarily in the fall. But there is a viable guy at each position this spring so let's see what they can do with it and we'll put up some better depth in the fall and we'll see who wins the job then.
"I think we have good candidates. That's good enough for right now."
Riley has said in previous interviews that restoring the ground game is a top priority in the upcoming year. Oregon State ranked last in the Pac-12 last season, averaging just 86.9 yards per game while managing just 12 touchdowns on the ground -- second worst behind Colorado (10).
Other roster notes:
- Safety Anthony Watkins (shoulder), cornerback Brian Watkins (shoulder) and defensive tackle Castro Masaniai (leg) will either miss spring completely or have very limited work. Defensive end Blake Harrah and cornerback Larry Scott will workout on a limited basis. Wide receiver Jordan Bishop will practice and Riley hopes he'll be full speed by the end of camp.
- Offensive lineman Darryl Jackson (hip) and linebacker Tony Wilson (stingers/numbness) have applied for medical waivers to finish school but no longer play football due to continuous injury.
- Malcolm Marable (excessive speeding citation), Sean Martin (alleged DUI) and Mishawn Cummings (internal team violation) remain suspended.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Which Pac-10 newcomers might make a name for themselves this spring and put themselves into position to start or see significant action in 2009?
Let's take a look.
- QB Nick Foles & OT Phillip Garcia: Foles is a sophomore transfer from Michigan State who will compete with Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne to replace Willie Tuitama. Garcia was a JC transfer last January, but the 6-foot-7, 340 pounder hurt his knee and missed the season. He's in the mix at left tackle.
- S Keelan Johnson, RB James Morrison, DE Dean DeLeone: Johnson, a redshirt freshman, is the sort of athlete who could end up playing both ways. Morrison was a true freshman walk-on destined to play last year before he broke his ankle. He's back this spring. The 25-year-old DeLeone, a JC transfer, is already drawing raves for his weight room work.
- WR Marvin Jones & LB Mychal Kendricks: Jones was a touted true freshman last year but hurt his knee and never broke through. Kendricks had 16 tackles and a sack as a true freshman and is a frontrunner to fill one of the three vacancies at linebacker.
- DE Zac Clark & WR Lavasier Tuinei: Oregon has big-time needs on the D-line and at receiver, and these JC transfers will be given an opportunity to immediately ease those needs. Tuinei, at 6-foot-5, should give the Ducks receiving corps some size, while Clark will be eyeballing the vacancy left by Nick Reed.
- WR Jordan Bishop & OT Colin Kelly: Receiver is a need area for the Beavers, and Bishop, a redshirt freshman, impressed on the scout team and during Sun Bowl practices. Kelly, a redshirt freshman, is in the mix on an offensive line that lost both starting tackles.
- QB Andrew Luck, OG David DeCastro, TE Konrad Reuland: Luck almost lost his redshirt last year while Tavita Pritchard struggled, and he'll have a good chance to win the starting job. DeCastro is presently No. 1 on the depth chart, while Reuland is a transfer from Notre Dame.
- QB Kevin Price & TE Morrell Presley: Prince, a redshirt freshman, is the most likely candidate to unseat returning starter Kevin Craft. Presley, a true freshman, could make an immediate impact as a hybrid TE/WR.
- QB Matt Barkley, DE Nick Perry, RB Curtis McNeal: Barkley, the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2009, could jump over Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp in the quarterback competition, while Perry, a redshirt freshman, is almost certain to be in the mix at end or perhaps outside linebacker. McNeal, a redshirt freshman, was a late arrival last year but made an impression with his explosiveness.
- LB E.J. Savannah, C Mykenna Ikehara , WR Anthony Boyles: Savannah is not a newcomer -- he was the Huskies leading tackler in 2007 before finding his way into Tyrone Willingham's spacious doghouse and getting kick off the team. Pencil him in as a starter. Ikehara, a redshirt freshman, could replace Juan Garcia at center. Boyles, a redshirt freshman, was a touted recruit who didn't break through last year but is expected to be sharper this spring.
- DT Bernard Wolfgramm, CB Brandon Jones, RB James Montgomery: It's not unreasonable to go ahead and pencil in all three of these guys in as starters. Wolfgramm is a 2008 JC transfer who redshirted last year, while Jones and Montgomery both transferred from California.