Reversal of fortune: Canfield takes QB lead while Moevao watches

April, 14, 2009
4/14/09
5:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

When Oregon State headed off to Stanford for its 2008 season opener, Sean Canfield, the Beavers starting quarterback in 2007, was back in San Diego asking his doctor why his shoulder was still aching and weak nearly eight months after surgery to repair his torn labrum.

And when the Beavers started a disappointing 0-2, Canfield couldn't step up and offer a possible solution off the bench. He could throw, but the velocity that had made him a hotshot recruit in 2005 wasn't coming back.

Yes, Canfield did wonder more than a few times if the thunder in his arm had gone silent.

"There absolutely was a point when I thought maybe it will never be the same," he said. "But at the same time, I didn't stop working hard and didn't stop rehabbing."

Then, when his arm started to show some of its old snap and he could put consecutive good practices together in October, the Beavers started to find their rhythm, which isn't when teams typically reexamine their quarterback situation.

So if anyone knows what Lyle Moevao, the Beavers starting quarterback in 2008, is going through while sitting out spring practices this month, it's Canfield.

Like Canfield a year ago, Moevao is sidelined while rehabbing a shoulder injury, watching his chief competition move to the top of the quarterback depth chart.

And yet.

While this might sound counterintuitive, perhaps the frustration of watching will make Moevao a better player, a better teammate and a better competitor. That's what it did for Canfield.

"The main thing for me at the time was being patient," Canfield said. "It was nothing I could control, other than rehabbing. It was hard on me mentally. But I'm also thankful for the injury because it made me just that much stronger mentally.

"My first year [2007], I think, in a way, I took things for granted. But when I was sidelined with the injury, I realized it can be taken from you like that. So when I came back I felt like more of a competitor."

No Pac-10 team has a more curious quarterback situation than Oregon State, which has two legitimate, successful starters who expect to run the show during their senior seasons.

Canfield, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback prototype, started nine games in 2007 and two in 2008 and is 7-4 overall. Moevao, a 5-11, 220-pound scrapper, started four in 2007 and 11 in 2008 and is 11-4, though that includes two times Canfield came off the bench early to lead the Beavers to a victory when Moevao got hurt.

"I think coach [Mike] Riley is just happy to have two guys who he can look at and go, 'I can win with either of these two guys.'" said Canfield, parroting what Riley says whenever asked about his quarterback situation.

"You look over the years, there have been a lot of injuries at quarterback in the Pac-10. I think having two guys is an advantage."

True. But neither envisions himself as the insurance policy, sporting a baseball cap on the sidelines while the other runs the offense. It's not easy for a competitor to watch.

For example, Canfield completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 703 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions when he stepped in for an injured Moevao last year. His 155.8 efficiency rating would have ranked second in the Pac-10.

But when Moevao came back from his shoulder injury, he retook the starting job. It was particularly tough watching the Beavers offense labor in the 3-0 Sun Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. Moevao was clearly out of sorts, but Canfield didn't come off the bench.

"Yeah, I was disappointed. It was frustrating," Canfield said. "But I was still there rooting the team on and being Lyle's first supporter and biggest fan. At the end of the day, that what it's about. It's not about who's in. It's about how the team is doing."

Better teammate, better competitor.

There are no guarantees that Moevao will be 100 percent full-go and ready to renew the competition when fall camp begins. Rotator cuff surgery is tricky, so Moevao's experience could mirror Canfield's even more.

Canfield, however, doesn't sound like he's eager to win the job by default.

"Lyle and I love competing with each other," he said. "We have a good time with it. We are great friends. But at the same time, we both understand how it is. We're the same year, competing for the same spot and both have proven we can win. Whoever is starting, I know the other guy will be rooting him on."

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