NCF Nation: Lyle Moevao

Heading into the 2010 season, it was not uncommon for media sorts to volunteer Oregon State as a program that had the best staff of assistant coaches in the Pac-10.

Why? Good numbers without stockpiles of elite recruits. Non-elite recruits becoming NFL draft choices. Thirty-six wins over the previous four seasons. You know, the usual suspects.

Oh, but how two down seasons can change things. After going a combined 8-16 over the past two years, many Beavers fans are either calling for head coach Mike Riley's head, or they are at least calling for the heads of his coordinators: Mark Banker on defense and Danny Langsdorf on offense.

How quickly can things change? Well, I wrote this heading into 2010 as part of a "Don't be surprised if..." series: "Don't be surprised if ... Beavers offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf becomes a hot head-coaching candidate when new starting quarterback Ryan Katz posts surprisingly strong numbers this fall."

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
Steven Bisig/US PresswireAfter two straight lowly seasons, Oregon State coach Mike Riley might call offensive plays in 2012.
Katz posted pretty good numbers in 2010 -- 60 percent completion rate, 18 TDs, 11 interceptions -- but he was promptly and surprisingly displaced as the starter by redshirt freshman Sean Mannion at the beginning of the 2011 season. And Langsdorf is now fighting for his job instead of presiding over his own program.

In fact, there now appears to be some question as to whether Riley will take over play-calling responsibilities from Langsdorf in 2012, which Riley gave to Langsdorf midway through the 2008 season. This question is being -- legitimately -- asked because Riley is calling plays this spring.

Riley was noncommittal -- and a tad uncomfortable -- with this line of inquiry Monday, and you can see video of his thoughts here. He called it "not a big deal." He said he was calling plays so he could see how the offense reacted against certain looks from the defense: "It's a way to orchestrate a big-picture look," he said.

When asked if it was for spring only, he said, "For right now, it's only for spring."

That qualifies as a "maybe," not a "Yes" or "No."

So here's my defense of Langsdorf, who also coaches the Beavers QBs. It might not be completely comforting for Beavers fans, but I think it's fair and accurate: The reason the Beavers offense has struggled the past two seasons ... drum roll please ... is a lack of good players.

I know: Thud.

The 2010 season likely would have been different if receiver James Rodgers hadn't blown out his knee during an impressive win at Arizona on Oct. 9. And the Beavers would have qualified for a bowl game if typically reliable tight end Joe Halahuni hadn't dropped a 2-point conversion that would have beaten homestanding Washington in double-overtime.

2011? Well, that was just pretty lousy. Riley, Langsdorf, Banker, the players -- everyone associated with the program -- surely spent some time wondering where they failed.

Still, as the Pac-12 blog observed while praising Langsdorf just two years ago:

In his six seasons as offensive coordinator, the Beavers have posted five of their top-nine all-time seasons of total offense. Remember the early careers of quarterbacks Matt Moore, Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao? One word: Yucky. Remember their late careers? Two words: Dramatic transformation. Canfield earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and joined Moore in the NFL.


In 2008, with Langsdorf calling plays, the Beavers ranked 32nd in the nation with 30.5 points per game and 30th in the nation with 407.1 yards per game. In 2009, they ranked 26th in points (31.5 ppg) and 34th in yards (410.6 ypg).

In other words, Langsdorf has been a successful coordinator and playcaller. At least when he's shown up for battle with more than a pillow shield and plastic sword.

Things set up fairly well for the offense heading into 2012. Langsdorf has his returning starter at QB in Mannion. He has a good crew of receivers, led by Markus Wheaton. But the offense will struggle if it can't generate a running game, which mostly hinges on improved play on the offensive line, which has been sub-par two years running.

One of the criticisms of Riley has been his loyalty to his assistant coaches, but he's made tough decisions recently, including firing longtime linebackers coach Greg Newhouse in March of 2011 (mostly because of recruiting shortcomings). If Riley takes away play-calling responsibilities from Langsdorf, it will be a painful blow to both men.

But it appears that possibility is at least being considered, so it will be worth asking about in advance of the season opener on Sept. 1 against Nicholls State.
Houston quarterback Case Keenum is done for the year, but is he done for his career? There is a possibility the prolific quarterback could appeal to the NCAA for a medical hardship redshirt and a sixth year of eligibility.

Coach Kevin Sumlin said it was too early to consider such a possibility, which would appear to be a long-shot based on recent decisions the NCAA has made with other players. Under NCAA rules, a student-athlete has five years to complete four years of eligibility. Student-athletes can apply for the sixth year of eligibility should they lose more than a season for reasons beyond their control. Since Keenum took the typical redshirt season as a freshman, Houston could have difficulty making the case.

Here is a look at some of the recent waivers the NCAA has granted, and some it has rejected. Keep in mind each appeal is handled on a case by case basis:

GRANTED

FAU senior running back Jeff Blanchard got a sixth year because he suffered season-ending injuries in 2007 (ankle) and 2009 (knee).

Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis was granted a sixth year after a lacerated kidney forced him to miss nearly all of 2009. He was redshirted as a freshman because an error with his high school grades had him declared academically ineligible.

South Carolina LB Rodney Paulk had his waiver granted after missing most of the past two seasons with knee injuries.

USF running back Moise Plancher was granted a sixth year because he did lose two seasons to injury. He redshirted his freshman year because of a shoulder injury in 2005, then the following season he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

Arizona State WR Brandon Smith got his sixth year of eligibility. He missed the 2007 and 2009 seasons because of injuries.

REJECTED

Ball State TE Madaris Grant had his appeal denied. Grant tore an ACL in the first quarter of the season opener last season against North Texas. Coach Stan Parrish said that the appeal was rejected because the NCAA requires two severe injuries for a sixth year. Grant redshirted his freshman year without injury.

Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk had his appeal denied. Mauk was redshirted as a freshman, then missed almost all the 2006 season with a shoulder injury. He argued he did have an injury in his redshirt season, but the NCAA still said no.

Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao had his appeal rejected. Moevao injured his right shoulder during the 2008 season, then suffered a foot injury in October 2009. The school said his appeal was denied, “due to him not demonstrating the loss of two seasons beyond his control."

Florida RB Dorian Munroe had his appeal denied despite tearing his ACL last year for the second time in his career. The NCAA turned down the appeal because he played in a game in 2009.
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State coach Mike Riley is standing beside a dry erase board in his office. He points to his flanker. That's James Rodgers. He caught 91 passes for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Riley smiles.

He points to his tight end Joe Halahuni. He caught 35 passes and became an offensive weapon after the middle of the season. Riley points at his slot receiver, Jordan Bishop. The 6-foot-3 sophomore can high jump over seven feet. He points at his split end, where Darrell Catchings and Markus Wheaton are engaging one of the more spirited competitions this spring.

Then he points at Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 1,440 yards, caught 78 passes and scored 22 touchdowns a year after being the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman.

Riley agrees with a reporter that Jacquizz should be a top Heisman Trophy candidate.

The main point, however, is the Beavers offense has a lot of guys who can punish a defense.

"Athletically, it's as good as we've ever been," Riley said.

Then Riley circles his quarterback.

"It's our biggest question on offense," he said. "If we can bring our quarterback up to the rest of the offense, then it's going to be good."

That quarterback figures to be sophomore Ryan Katz, who's got a big arm but little experience. While Katz officially is competing with Virginia transfer Peter Lalich for the starting job, Katz started spring practices with the No. 1 offense and he's yet to yield that perch.

"What stands out about Ryan -- always has -- is he's got really good physical ability. A Great arm," Riley said. "It's one of those deals where you're kind of taken aback by the strength of his arm sometimes. He throws the ball so easily with a lot of velocity. He's got to learn a little bit more about taking something off it every once and a while. I tell him all the time, 'You don't always have to throw a 95 miles per hour ball.'"

The good news is Katz, Riley said, has consistently improved since arriving in Corvallis from Santa Monica (Calif.) High School. But there's a caveat hidden in that positive point, because every recent Oregon State quarterback has improved steadily during his career, from Derek Anderson, to Matt Moore, to Lyle Moevao, to Sean Canfield.

But each of those guys started his career slowly and, well, unimpressively. Anderson completed just 47 percent of his passes his first year as the Beavers starter under then-coach Dennis Erickson. Moore threw 19 interceptions. Moevao and Canfield combined for 21 interceptions in 2007.

The question is how steep Katz's learning curve will be.

"There is a process with us," Riley said.

By all accounts, Katz has embraced the No. 1 role, though he admits it goes against his type to be a vocal leader. As a personality, Katz is closer to the quieter Canfield than the effusive Moevao.

"More than vocal-wise, I tried to lead by example," Katz said.

The Beavers offense has evolved in recent years as Riley yielded control to coordinator Danny Langsdorf. The Beavers have increased the role of running backs and the flanker in the passing game. They added the fly sweep. Canfield's accuracy but lack of a strong arm had the offense looking West Coast-ish for a while in 2009.

Katz brings back the big arm of say an Anderson or Moore and adds some athleticism. Katz will move around in the pocket and there will be more designed bootlegs. And there's an increased emphasis of screen passes in order to build his confidence through the air.

And Katz needs to find his rhythm quickly. The opener is vs. TCU in Cowboys Stadium -- a top-10 team playing in a friendly stadium that is far bigger than its home field.

"When the time comes, it's definitely going to be eye-opening," Katz said. "But I'm just going to take it and run with it. I can't stand out there and be star struck."

After TCU, the Beavers play host to Louisville, then visit Boise State, a likely top-five team.

So there's no soft schedule that allows Katz to acclimate himself to the speed of the game. He's bound to make mistakes, which means criticism. Katz is aware that is an inescapable part of playing the position.

"That's definitely in the back of your mind, but if I just work day by day and get better that will play it self out," he said. "I know that comes with the job."

But he said he learned a lot from watching Canfield and Moevao weather the storm and come out strong on the back end.

But if Katz plays well from the start and minimized the growing pains, then Beavers should become a major player in the Pac-10 race.

video

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It's not about revenge. But you know it is.

USC coach Pete Carroll didn't get frothy this week reminding his players what happened last year at Oregon State. He didn't rant and rave about how the Beavers took something from the Trojans and made them look bad on national television in a 27-21 defeat.

 
 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
 Oregon State fans rushed the field following the Beavers' stunning upset of USC last season.
"We've never used that," Carroll said. "We don't use last year or the years before for anything. It's clear to our guys that this is the team that got us last year and all that. That's nothing new. That's just the facts. I'm not going to spend any time on it."

Just the facts: If USC had not lost last year at Oregon State, it would have played for the national title. And it almost certainly would have been favored to win Carroll's third championship.

But Beavers then-true freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers and an inspired offensive line sliced and diced the nation's best defense with a fairly straight-forward zone blocking scheme. Carroll and USC fans surely can remember the endlessly spooled highlights of Rodgers scooting past three completely flummoxed All-American linebackers who would be high NFL draft picks last spring.

The circumstances aren't terribly different heading into this year's game.

USC (5-1, 2-1), ranked seventh in the first BCS standings, is again in the national title hunt. Oregon State (4-2, 2-1) appears to be, once again, finding its rhythm after a middling start.

Rodgers is back and is playing better than ever. He ranks ninth in the nation with 116 yards per game and leads the Pac-10 with 13 touchdowns, four of which he scored during an 189-yard effort against Stanford two weeks ago. He and his teammates also are rested after a bye week, while the Trojans are coming off a long and emotional trip after winning at Notre Dame.

Oregon State had a bye before last year's Thursday night game, as did the Trojans, who were ranked No. 1 after blasting Ohio State 35-3.

There is, however, one main difference this year.

The game is in the Coliseum. USC has won 46 of its past 47 games at home. And the Beavers haven't won at USC since 1960.

(Read full post)


Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


The backup quarterback is just a bruised shoulder or broken jaw away from taking over the most critical position on the field -- just ask USC or UCLA.

There's already been plenty of quarterback movement in the conference -- injuries, depth chart changes, etc. -- so it seemed like a good time to see where the Pac-10 QB depth stands.

Ready to roll

Lyle Moevao, Oregon State: Heck, it's hard to even call Moevao a backup to Sean Canfield, who was Moevao's backup last year. Moevao owns an 11-4 record as a starter and is only on the bench because he's still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.

Tavita Pritchard, Stanford: Pritchard is not going to play in the NFL, but he's a smart and experienced quarterback who started 19 games before being beaten out by talented redshirt freshman Andrew Luck. By the way, his first start was a win over USC.

Matt Scott, Arizona: He started the first three games this season but lost his job to Nick Foles after a poor performance at Iowa. Still, the sophomore has enough experience that if Foles went down the Wildcats wouldn't go into panic mode.

Marshall Lobbestael, Washington State: He started three games last year before a knee injury ended his season and two games this year before coach Paul Wulff opted to go with true freshman Jeff Tuel. He's battle tested, so if he's called upon again, it won't be like he's being fed to the wolves.

Nate Costa, Oregon: Before the 2008 season, Costa was the touted heir-apparent to Dennis Dixon. Then he blew out his knee -- for a second time. A healthy Costa is a nice backup plan for Jeremiah Masoli. And No. 3 Darron Thomas is no slouch -- he nearly led a comeback against Boise State in 2008.

Has the hype

Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: Folks around the Sun Devils program were so excited about the mature, 6-foot-8 Montana native that many thought he'd beat out senior Danny Sullivan for the starting job. The true freshman still might be a factor this season.

Mitch Mustain/Aaron Corp: Corp was the starter coming out of spring. Mustain practically disappeared until reemerging this week as Matt Barkley's potential backup. Both were prep All-Americans. Mustain was good enough to go 8-0 in the SEC at Arkansas, but offenses are more complex in the Pac-10.

Richard Brehaut, UCLA: The true freshman competed -- briefly -- for the starting job during spring practices and was listed as the backup until starter Kevin Prince went down with a broken jaw and coaches opted to go with the more experienced senior Kevin Craft. Brehaut was a top-100 prospect in 2008 and offensive coordinator Norm Chow was supposedly quite taken by his potential. When Prince returns, UCLA would change categories to "Ready to Roll," unless of course Craft implodes at Stanford on Saturday and falls back to No. 3.

Who knows?

Beau Sweeney, California: Sweeney, a redshirt freshman, recently eclipsed sophomore Brock Mansion on the depth chart. He's got great bloodlines. His father, Kevin, was a record-setting QB at Fresno State who had a cup of coffee in the NFL. His grandfather, Jim, was a highly respected college head coach, with tenures at Washington State and Fresno State. But Beau Sweeney hasn't seen any significant game action.

Ronnie Fouch, Washington: New Washington coach Steve Sarkisian went out of his way all through the preseason to praise Fouch, who struggled mightily when he came off the bench to replace an injured Jake Locker for the final eight games last year. He threw 13 picks with just four TDs and was sacked 123 times, plus or minus. But circumstances were awful last season, and Fouch got little support. It's hard to say what kind of player he would be if called upon this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


After consecutive defeats, Oregon State has a lot of uncertainty right now, but one thing is certain. Coach Mike Riley won't panic.

That sounds like a rah-rah, buck-up-the-Beavers assertion. No. Just a fact. No team in the country that has won 28 games over the previous three seasons has had more reasons to panic over slow starts than the Beavers (and, subsequently, done less panicking during the process).

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Coach Mike Riley hasn't been a stranger to slow starts to a season.
The Beavers are at Arizona State on Saturday. They haven't won down there since 1969. That's 40 years of bad history pointing toward a fourth consecutive 2-3 start.

As everyone knows, Oregon State bounced back the previous three seasons and ended up nationally ranked.

Yet, as everyone who owns mutual funds also knows, past performance doesn't guarantee you squat.

Nonetheless, Riley isn't the sort to rewrite a script that has worked. That starts with not having a quick hook for starting quarterback Sean Canfield.

Canfield tossed a pair of critical interceptions in the 37-32 loss to Arizona and has dropped from 14th in the nation in passing efficiency to 58th, but every indication is he still gives the Beavers their best chance to win because Lyle Moevao's shoulder is still not 100 percent.

This is what Riley told The Oregonian:
“There’s no doubt Lyle is a good option, and we’re getting to that point, but I’m not sure at this time (if he would play)... We’re going to let them practice during the week like we have been and I don’t know anything more than that right now. I don’t think Lyle is 100 percent with his arm but he is definitely a viable option (at ASU).’’

Riley knows he's got his 2008 starter on his bench. He knows he's got a good Plan B. But he's not ready to launch it yet.

It's easy but probably not fair to blame Canfield. The offensive line and receivers are young and showing it. The Beavers have given up 15 sacks -- 3.75 per game, which ranks 117th in the nation -- and Canfield doesn't have anyone to throw to on the perimeter who truly stresses a defense.

The entire offense flows through the Rodgers brothers. Receiver James is ninth and running back Jacquizz is 23rd in the nation in all-purpose yards. They are the Beavers top-two rushers and top-two receivers.

Canfield needs more options.

Oh, and the Beaver's defense is struggling mightily to find its rhythm.

Of course, if Moevao gets 100 percent healthy, and Canfield continues to go one-for-one with touchdowns and interceptions, then Riley has a responsibility to give the 2008 starter a chance.

It wouldn't be a sign of panic, though. Just a tough coaching decision.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Oregon State philosophy professor Lani Roberts focuses her research on "ethical theory generally and, specifically, understanding our human propensity to harm one another, individually as well as in social groups," according to her bio on the university's Web site.

Interesting, but what the heck does that have to do with football?

Thanks for asking.

Dr. Roberts happens to be the adviser for a philosophy major named Sean Canfield.
 
 AP Photo/Daniel Gluskoter
 Sean Canfield has thrown for 596 yards and three touchdowns in the Beavers' first three games.


Canfield's social group is a Beavers football team that last Saturday lost to Cincinnati and thereafter inched slightly closer toward a harmful syndrome typically known as a "quarterback controversy."

Before the loss, Canfield was being celebrated as the nation's 14th-rated passer. After he threw an interception and was sacked five times, some folks started calling for Lyle Moevao to start against Arizona on Saturday, even though Moevao is still trying to regain his arm strength after offseason shoulder surgery.

"That goes with the territory with a loss," coach Mike Riley said. "What people don't often take into account is there are a lot of factors with pressure that cause some of that stuff. Sean has played well a good portion of this start of the year. We're not going to panic and throw Lyle in there if he's not ready."

And yet, said Riley, "I don't know exactly how or when or where or what, but there could be a chance [Moevao is] ready to play some or somehow in this game."

And so the curious case of a team with two successful senior quarterbacks who have won a lot of games becomes both a practical and philosophical question.

This is right up Canfield's academic alley. "Stuff like, 'What is right?' and 'What is just?'" he said. "That's the area of philosophy that I'm most interested in."

What is right and what is just when deciding who should quarterback the Beavers offense?

The symmetry here, as often noted, is bizarre. Canfield was the primary starter in 2007, with Moevao going 4-0 when he stepped in as Plan B. In 2008, Moevao was the primary starter, with Canfield winning two starts and also coming off the bench to lead the Beavers to a victory over Arizona State.

Canfield missed the spring and preseason in 2008 because of shoulder surgery. Moevao missed the spring and preseason in 2009 because of shoulder surgery.

Canfield is now 9-5 as a starter. Moevao is 11-4.

It's a complicated situation. Riley couldn't answer -- "I'm going to have to think about that," he said -- when asked if he planned to play Moevao in some capacity against Arizona.

Riley has previously said that Moevao deserves some type of role that is larger than that of a typical backup.

What is right? What is just?

And what is going to win games.

The good news is Canfield and Moevao appear to be working hard not to harm their social group. Both have been good soldiers throughout as far as anyone can tell. And, typically, if there is a locker room schism, that gets out.

Riley admitted that he's specifically addressed how one or the other probably will be frustrated with how he is being used. Or not used.

"There is a burden they bear for this team," Riley said. "I think it's important for them to know that, as far as how they handle it. It's important that it is brought up and talked about."

On the other side of the field, Arizona has its own quarterback, er, questions. Matt Scott started the first three games, but after he struggled in a loss at Iowa, the Wildcats are going with fellow sophomore Nick Foles against the Beavers.

Scott is a better runner, but the passing game has languished during the early going. Scott's charge is to give it a jump start.

"We gave Matt three starts, an opportunity to show us what he can do," coach Mike Stoops said. "Now we want to give Nick that opportunity. We'll continually assess where we are at at that position as we move forward."

Said Foles: "I know what I have to do. I don't need to force anything and I need to be smart with the ball."

Foles won't have the services of All-American tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose season ended due to back surgery, so he'll need the inconsistent receiving corps to rediscover its rhythm quickly.

In the end, coaches don't spend a lot of time debating the ethics of choosing a quarterback, particularly before the Pac-10 opener when the loser will find itself streaking in the wrong direction.

Their fundamental philosophical question is less nuanced: Who gives us the best chance to win?

What we learned in the Pac-10

September, 13, 2009
9/13/09
12:41
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


What did we learn from Week 2 of Pac-10 action?
  1. USC and its freshman QB are good enough to compete for the national title: A massive frown creased across the face of the college football world Saturday evening. Everyone outside of Trojan faithful was ready to relegate -- gleefully -- USC to the rebuilding stage. But true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, with an assist from Joe McKnight, cobbled together a signature game-winning drive at Ohio State, and the Trojans triumphed. It wasn't a beautiful performance, but the nation should be even more concerned because USC showed it also has guts and poise to season its awe-inspiring talent.
  2. In the football part of football, the Pac-10 matches the SEC. Again: Oh, there will be excuses about why Tennessee lost AT HOME to UCLA and couldn't exact revenge for the loss in the Rose Bowl last year. But how much more basic football do you need than a fourth-down stop on the goal line? No matter what happens with Arizona State's visit to Georgia, the Bruins' victory, paired with Washington's 478 yards of offense in a close loss to LSU, not to mention the Pac-10's 11-8 record vs. the SEC since 2000, stands as tangible evidence of the relative parity between the conferences. All else is hot air.
  3. Oregon State QB Sean Canfield is a leader: During his three-year competition with Lyle Moevao, Canfield has always been termed the more skilled quarterback, while Moevao was the gutty, charismatic leader. Moevao is a gutty, charismatic leader. But so is Canfield. Facing a do-or-die possession at UNLV, Canfield led the Beavers 64 yards in 12 plays for the game-winning field goal. On the evening, he completed 25-of-31 for 198 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. Moevao is close to being healthy again. It will be interesting to see how he will be used going forward.
  4. Washington will be competitive in the Pac-10; WSU probably won't: Washington ended its 15-game losing streak with a solid 42-23 win over Idaho. While it wasn't a tour-de-force performance, it's clear that the Huskies won't be an easy out. Meanwhile, a few miles away inside Qwest Field, Washington State was sloppy and couldn't stop the Hawaii passing game in a 38-20 defeat -- it was 35-6 at halftime. The Cougars suffered some unfortunate injuries during the week, and it's hard to win when you turn the ball over seven times. And it's important to note the Cougars fought back in the second half. But two games into the season, it's not unfair to wonder if the Cougs will win a game, much less a conference game, in 2009.
  5. Sept. 19 will be 'Measuring Stick' Saturday: It was a fairly successful -- 7-2 -- weekend for the Pac-10. This coming Saturday concludes the major portion of the nonconference slate and it likely will reveal where the conference will be rated by fans and pundits nationwide. Arizona can prove itself worthy of a top-25 ranking with a visit to Iowa. UCLA needs to avoid a letdown vs. Kansas State. Oregon can move past the disaster at Boise State with a win over visiting Utah. Oregon State can make a statement vs. Cincinnati, the best team in the Big East. California needs to prove it can win on the road at Minnesota. And Washington State will try to get a win vs. SMU, which is 2-0 after winning at UAB.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Oregon State coach Mike Riley is universally considered one of the nice guys in coaching, but he's going to face a potentially cold-blooded decision at some point during the coming weeks.

And he knows it.

Quarterback Lyle Moevao lost his starting job due to injury -- plain and simple. The odds are he would be starting Saturday against Portland State instead of Sean Canfield if he didn't hurt his shoulder late last season and have offseason surgery that knocked him out of spring and preseason practices.

It's long been a sports conundrum: Does an athlete lose his starting job because of an injury?

Sure, ask Wally Pipp.

Moevao isn't ready to play. Yet. Said Riley: "[Moevao has] everything but the final stage, which is the zip on the ball."

While Moevao has been out, Canfield has been impressive. He played great during spring practices and that carried over into the fall. He also grew as a leader, which was a previous shortcoming in the three-season comparison with Moevao.

So, when Moevao gets healthy -- perhaps by the start of the Pac-10 schedule on Sept. 26 -- where does he stand? Does he automatically get some playing time, even if Canfield is playing well?

"That is a great question," Riley said.

But Riley says that a lot to inquiring reporters -- remember: he's a nice guy -- even when the question is far closer to mediocre.

Riley has negotiated this delicate situation well so far, doing everything he can to include Moevao in his commentary about the team.

But, eventually, he's going to have to make the cold-blooded call.

Both are seniors, so we're talking about a major issue in their lives that also could affect their futures.

"I really don't want to think about it right at this time because it won't be easy," Riley said. "We're looking at a guy [Moevao] who had a tremendous year for us last year and is a heck of a quarterback and we're looking at a guy [Canfield] who I think has grown tremendously as a quarterback and has had an outstanding camp and has earned our No. 1 job right now."

There are a handful of options available to Riley based on how Canfield plays while Moevao is sidelined.

If Canfield is lights out, he should remain the full-time starter. Period. If the Beavers are 3-0 when Arizona comes to town, a major change could potentially hurt the team by shaking up its rhythm.

Even before issues of fairness with individual players, the team must come first.

If Canfield struggles, or reverts to the interception machine of 2007 when he hurled 15 picks vs. nine touchdowns as the starter ahead of Moevao, then Moevao deserves a shot and will get it.

But few think that will happen.

Then there's the gray area, when Canfield's performances end up ranging from good to OK, and Moevao looks like his old self in practice.

The guess here is Moevao sees some action in that scenario.

And then, of course, you could end up with the dreaded "quarterback controversy." Beavers fans will head over the Building the Dam en masse and debate the issue like it's health care legislation.

There also is the sneaky, roll-the-dice option: Sit Moevao out, say his shoulder isn't ready and petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.

With Moevao coming back in 2010, the Beavers prospects would be bright. Very bright.

It will be interesting to watch how things play out over the coming weeks.

What would be ideal -- unless you're, say, an Oregon fan -- would be for all the parties to get enough of what they want to be satisfied.

And, of course, for the parties to gleefully combine for what matters most: Lots of victories.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- There have been no press conferences, no dramatic headlines nor any sort of coronation, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Sean Canfield will be Oregon State's starting quarterback on Sept. 5 when Portland State comes to town.

And it's not just that fellow senior Lyle Moevao, the starter in 2008, isn't fully recovered from a shoulder injury.

 
  AP Photo/Wily Low
  Sean Canfield says that he is "that guy who needs to lead this team to where it wants to go."

Canfield, beginning last spring and continuing through preseason practices, has been at the top of his game. Folks who have been watching practices every day use terms like "lights out."

According to coach Mike Riley, Canfield has completed nearly 70 percent of his throws during fall camp, which "has never happened before, for anybody."

Well, somebody, somewhere might have done that, but it's clear that Canfield's play has raised a few eyebrows in the coaching offices.

Canfield doesn't hesitate to agree. He's feeling it.

"I think I'm that guy," he said. "I feel like I'm that guy who needs to lead this team to where it wants to go."

Speaking of going places, it's hard to believe Canfield arrived at this point. If anyone understands what Moevao might be going through, it's Canfield, because last year his career was mostly written off while he was the one recovering slowly from a shoulder problem and Moevao was turning heads.

Moevao passed for 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2008, and almost surely would have eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark if he hadn't gotten hurt.

Meanwhile, Canfield was quietly stuck on the bench, and most folks only remembered him as the guy who threw 15 interceptions while being the the primary starter over Moevao in 2007.

Moevao, at 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, wasn't the pretty picture that the 6-foot-4, 214-pound Canfield was, but he was a charismatic, cool-as-a-cucumber leader who made it abundantly clear he just loved playing football.

Canfield noticed.

"Early on, it was a growth and development thing for me as far as leadership and quarterbacking," he said. "I've always known I had the physical tools. It's a credit to Lyle. He's a great leader and he has a lot of fun when he plays. I picked up on that."

Then Moevao got hurt in the eighth game against Arizona State.

Enter a new-and-improved Canfield, who came off the bench and led the Beavers to a victory over the Sun Devils and then also won games as the starter against UCLA and Arizona.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

What's our preseason projection for the Pac-10? Probably not many shocks here. This mirrors my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.

1. USC: The Trojans are No. 1 until somebody knocks them off the mountain. With nine starters back on offense, including what might be the nation's best offensive line, there will be plenty of help for the new quarterback. And do you really think USC's defense won't be elite again in 2009? Come on.

2. California: The Bears have 17 starters back from a team that went 9-4 in 2009, including a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Jahvid Best. The secondary will be one of the nation's best and the defensive line is as good as any in the Pac-10. Replacing three of four linebackers doesn't seem to be causing much stress in Berkeley. The only issue is how much the passing game improves. If it improves significantly, this is a potential BCS bowl team.

3. Oregon: Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount give the Ducks a strong one-two punch on offense and an athletic corps of linebackers and cornerback Walter Thurmond and end Will Tukuafu will lead the defense. Both lines are questions that, if answered, could push the Ducks to the top of the conference.

4. Oregon State: Rebuild or reload? The Beavers have transitioned to the latter category, which is why most are overlooking a defense that needs to replace eight starters, including the entire secondary, and an offensive line that must replace three first-rate starters. There are two veteran quarterbacks in Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield and the explosive Rodgers brothers -- James and Jacquizz -- leading the offense, while tackle Stephen Paea and linebacker Keaton Kristick lead the defense.

5. Arizona: Losing three offensive mainstays -- quarterback Willie Tuitama, receiver Mike Thomas and tackle Eben Britton --- hurts, but the Wildcats should be even better on defense in 2009, and the general feeling is the offense will be solid whether Matt Scott or Nick Foles wins the job. For one, tight end Rob Gronkowski is the best target in the Pac-10.

6. Stanford: The Cardinal have lots of guys back -- 17 -- from a team that fell just short of bowl eligibility in 2008. They also have seven home games after playing just five a year ago. The key is passing -- on offense and defense. Redshirt freshman Andrew Luck is supposed to be the answer for the offense, while an injection of young talent should improve the athleticism in the secondary.

7. UCLA: The Bruins have two big questions: quarterback and offensive line. The defense should be good, led by tackle Brian Price, linebacker Reggie Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner -- all three are All-American candidates -- but it won't matter if the running game remains anemic. One big reasons for optimism: five offensive players are again available who would have started last year but were out for various reasons back: running back Christian Ramirez, tight end Logan Paulsen, center Kai Maiava, fullback Trevor Theriot and tackle Sean Sheller.

8. Arizona State: Not unlike UCLA, Arizona State has questions at quarterback and on the offensive line while the defense looks solid. Senior Danny Sullivan played well in the spring and looks to be the favorite at quarterback, while new faces could key dramatic improvement on the offensive line. If things fall into place, the Sun Devils could win eight or nine games, but it's hard to project that until the offensive line proves itself.

9. Washington: The good news is the Huskies could be the most-improved team in the conference. Of course, it's hard to regress from an 0-12 season. Moreover, Washington could play much better and still have little to show for it because the nonconfernce schedule features LSU and Notre Dame. Still, the return of 18 starters, as well as quarterback Jake Locker and linebacker E.J. Savannah, suggests the Huskies won't be anyone's patsy this fall.

10. Washington State: The biggest hope for the Cougars lies in a potentially improved running game that could keep a defense that is thin on talent on all three levels off the field. That didn't happen last year -- see an offense that ranked 118th in the country that surrendered 38 turnovers, tied for most in the nation. But there's experience on the offensive line and James Montgomery and Dwight Tardy give the Cougars a pair of solid backs. If either Marshall Lobbestael or Kevin Lopina provides adequate quarterback play, Washington State might surprise some folks.

Moevao throwing again

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
8:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Word out of Oregon State is that quarterback Lyle Moevao, who missed spring practices after shoulder surgery, has been cleared by doctors to begin throwing again and should be ready to renew his competition with Sean Canfield when the Beavers begin preseason camp on Aug. 10.

Moevao, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound senior co-captain, started 11 games last year and is 11-4 as a starter over the past two seasons.

But Canfield, a 6-foot-4, 214-pound senior, seemed to pull ahead during spring drills with Moevao on the sidelines. Canfield, 7-4 as a starter, played well while starting twice and coming off the bench for an injured Moevao last year.

Canfield fell behind in the competition in 2008 because of his own shoulder surgery, so the symmetry here is notable.

There was some concern about how fast Moevao would heal and whether he would be ready for full-go action by fall camp. While it's premature to judge him to be 100 percent by the first practice -- shoulders can be tricky -- it's fair to say that the competition between the two capable players appears back on in earnest and will be of major interest before opening day.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The number crunchers at Docsports.com have come up with the common statistical traits that the BCS national championship winners have shared.

1. Be a member of a "Big Six" conference or Notre Dame:

Teams still fitting the profile: 67.

2. Have at least eight wins in the previous season. Of the 11 BCS title winners nine teams (and the past six consecutive) have had at least eight wins the season prior to winning the championship. All have had at least seven.

Teams still fitting the profile: 37

3. Have a winning regular-season record after November. Winning games late in the season usually ensures a strong finish. Only LSU in 2002 -- with a 2-2 record in November and December -- claimed a BCS national championship without a winning record in those two months.

Teams still fitting the profile: 25.

Among those still standing are: Alabama (4-0), Boston College (4-1), California (3-2), Cincinnati (5-0), Florida (5-0), Georgia Tech (3-1), Iowa (3-1), Michigan State (3-1), Mississippi (4-0), Missouri (3-1), Nebraska (3-1), Northwestern (3-1), Ohio State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Oregon (3-1), Oregon State (4-1), Penn State (3-1), Pittsburgh (4-1), Rutgers (4-0), Texas (3-1), Texas Tech (3-1), USC (5-0), Wake Forest (3-2), West Virginia (3-2) and Virginia Tech (3-1).

4. Have a junior or senior quarterback with some playing experience. All 11 teams that have won BCS national titles have had a junior or senior playing. All but Tee Martin of Tennessee had starting experience entering the season.

Teams still fitting the profile: 17.

Among those still alive are: California (Kevin Riley), Cincinnati (Tony Pike), Florida (Tim Tebow), Georgia Tech (Josh Nesbitt), Iowa (Richard Stanzi), Mississippi (Jevan Snead), Northwestern (Mike Kafka), Oklahoma (Sam Bradford), Oregon (Jeremiah Masoli), Oregon State (Lyle Moevao), Penn State (Daryll Clark), Pittsburgh (Bill Stull), Texas (Colt McCoy), USC (Mitch Mustain), Wake Forest (Riley Skinner), West Virginia (Jarrett Brown) and Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor).

5. Have six returning defensive starters from a unit that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense in the previous season. Eight of the past nine teams to have won the BCS title have had a defense in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense the previous season (Florida was 46th in 2007) and all but one team (1998 Tennessee) returned at least six starters from their previous season's defense.

Teams still fitting the profile: 6.

Those teams that are eligible include Florida (fourth in scoring defense, 11 returning starters), Iowa (fifth in scoring defense, eight returning starters), Mississippi (20th in scoring defense, eight starters), Texas (18th in scoring defense, seven starters), West Virginia (11th in scoring defense, eight starters) and Virginia Tech (ninth in scoring defense, seven starters).

The formula has been accurate over the years. Of the seven teams that fit the profile coming into last season -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Rutgers, USC, and Wake Forest -- all won at least eight games and Florida won the national championship. The team the Gators beat for the national title, Oklahoma, was not included among those on the list.

So keep these trends in mind this season. It might be the reason why we end up seeing Texas and Florida playing for the national championship, if not Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia or Virginia Tech at the Rose Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

We've discussed positions of concern a lot. But where are teams (almost) worry-free?

Here are some spots.

USC's offensive line: The Trojans welcome back all five starters, including the nation's best center, Kristofer O'Dowd. And, oh by the way, super-sophomore Tyron Smith might displace returning starter Butch Lewis at tackle. The Trojans averaged 195 yards rushing per game last year and surrendered only 18 sacks, fewest in the conference.

California's secondary: All four starters are back, including first-team All-Pac-10 cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, from a unit that finished third in the nation with 24 interceptions and ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense. And the backups are so good that a couple of returning starters are hearing footsteps.

USC's secondary: Start with Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard, the best safety combination in the nation -- though Pinkard played corner last year. Sure, two starters -- Kevin Ellison and Cary Harris -- are gone. But three players -- safety Will Harris and corners Shareece Wright and Kevin Thomas -- have starting experience. And a couple of the youngsters turned in impressive springs.

Oregon State's quarterbacks: The Beavers have two successful starting quarterbacks in Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao, though Moevao is coming back from shoulder surgery. They also have an impressive No. 3 in redshirt freshman Ryan Katz, and Virginia transfer Peter Lalich is a wildcard who had disappeared before coming up big in the spring game. His questionable attitude won't help him climb the depth chart, though.

UCLA's tight ends: Ryan Moya earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors last year, and he was Logan Paulsen's backup until Paulsen's season ended with a foot injury in the opener against Tennessee. The Bruins also like sophomore Cory Harkey, and then there's touted freshman Morrell Presley, who's more a hybrid receiver-tight end. Lots of options here. Just got to get them the ball.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

They are just a twisted knee or rung bell away from running your team's offense, so backup quarterback is not a position to just shrug about.

Ask Oregon fans. Before Saturday, they had a backup quarterback with significant experience who'd led a 2007 Sun Bowl victory and looked great in the spring game. Now Justin Roper is headed elsewhere, opting to transfer instead of backing up Jeremiah Masoli, and suddenly Masoli's physical running style feels a lot riskier.

Of course, ranking backups is tough. Does experience matter most? Because a few backups have lots of experience -- the bad kind.

Obviously from our list, we decided that experience is critical. My guess is some of you will howl about that.

So who will be holding their breath every time their quarterback dashes from the pocket? Here's a look.

1. Oregon State: Sean Canfield or Lyle Moevao? Lyle Moevao or Sean Canfield? It doesn't matter because the Beavers not only have two quarterbacks with significant starting experience, they have two quarterbacks who are good.

2. Stanford: It appears that the Cardinal will go with redshirt freshman Andrew Luck as the starter, which means 19-game starter Tavita Pritchard is a quality backup.

3. Oregon: Despite Roper's defection, the Ducks aren't in too much trouble here, particularly if Nate Costa -- the projected 2008 starter -- comes back healthy in the fall. Sophomore Darron Thomas is the quarterback of the future and looked good in the limited action he saw last year, including an inspired effort against Boise State.

4. USC: True freshman Matt Barkley is officially the backup, but I'm not so sure that Mitch Mustain wouldn't be the guy if Aaron Corp went down with an injury at Ohio State. Mustain saw a lot of action as a true freshman at Arkansas. And if it is Barkley, he's a big-time talent with a lot of poise.

5. California: We're not supposed to know who the backup is as the competition between Kevin Riley and Brock Mansion is officially ongoing. The fact Jeff Tedford won't say that Riley is his starter probably speaks to Tedford's belief that Brock Mansion is a pretty good talent.

6. UCLA: Much like USC, UCLA is listing a true freshman (Richard Brehaut) as Kevin Prince's backup. And, much like I wrote about USC, my guess is that Kevin Craft would be the guy if Prince went down. Craft set a school record with 20 interceptions last year, but he also led the Bruins to comeback wins over Tennessee and Stanford. That counts for something.

7. Washington State: Assuming that Marshall Lobbestael comes back healthy and wins the starting job, as expected, that makes senior Kevin Lopina, who started eight games in 2008, the backup. The experience is nice, but Lopina threw 11 interceptions and zero touchdown passes, which is not so nice. He did have one shining moment: His 48-yard pass to Jared Karstetter in final minute of the Apple Cup led to game-tying field goal, and the Cougars went on to win in overtime.

8. Washington: Sophomore Ronnie Fouch looked overmatched when he was forced into action last year when Jake Locker went down. He completed only 45 percent of his passes with 13 interceptions and four touchdowns, and ended up the Pac-10's lowest-rated quarterback. He, however, looked better this spring.

9. Arizona: Matt Scott owns a slight lead over Nick Foles heading into the summer. While neither has started a game, both have at least seen the field. Scott accounted for three touchdowns in 2008, while Foles threw eight passes for Michigan State in 2007. Not sure Arizona coaches would trade either for the more experienced backups we've listed ahead of the Wildcats here.

10. Arizona State: Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is a good athlete, and Sun Devils insiders are excited about true freshman Brock Osweiler, but neither has played a down of college football. Szakacsy was No. 2 coming out of spring. Osweiler could challenge him in the fall, but the guess here is he'll redshirt. Of course, one or the other also could push senior Danny Sullivan for the starting job, too.

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