Don't be surprised if ... Oregon State
Sixth in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles.
Don't be surprised if ... receiver James Rodgers is a bigger offensive star for the Beavers than younger brother Jacquizz, the defending Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
Funny story: James and Jacquizz, both 5 foot 7 (in cleats), came up to me during a postgame interview after the Beavers beat California in Corvallis last year and sang:
We represent the Lollipop Guild, The Lollipop Guild, The Lollipop Guild
And in the name of the Lollipop Guild,
We wish to welcome you to Munchkinland!
|Jim Rogash/Getty Images|
|James Rodgers could be poised for a breakout year at receiver.|
Hee hee! That's rich.
Actually, that cheap shot on height is based mostly on my own irritation. I was sitting in Beavers coach Mike Riley's office last year when James came by to say howdy. When he left, Riley straight-up said, "He's going to be a great player for us." But all I could think is: "Short."
So, trying to extricate myself from mental Munchkinland, I'm going predict 2,250 total yards and 15 touchdowns for James, which I'm guessing will earn the junior first-team All-Pac-10 honors (as a receiver; he was first-team for kickoff returns in 2008) and a candidacy for national recognition.
I ranked him 22nd on my list of the Pac-10's best players, but he'd go before that if Pac-10 coaches were holding a draft.
That's because of his versatility. Rodgers has shown good skills as a runner (see his production running a fly sweep) and return guy (see his 86-yard kickoff gambol for a touchdown in the win over California).
But the root of my prediction is an expectation he's going to breakout as a receiver this fall for a couple of reasons: 1. He's the returning leader of a young unit of receivers; 2. That young unit is good enough that opposing secondaries won't be able to commit too much to stopping him.
And James Rodgers in space is never a good thing for a defense.
Jacquizz will get his 1,000-yards-plus rushing this year, barring injury. But there are questions on the offensive line. (I know -- there were questions last year. Doesn't mean they won't be answered, but there clearly is reason for concern.) He also may get fewer carries in order to keep him healthy the entire season.
And there are a lot more marquee running backs in the conference than receivers, so the field won't be as crowded for James in competing for the spotlight.
Moreover, Sean Canfield pushed ahead of an injured Lyle Moevao during spring practices. If Canfield hangs onto the starting job, he's a more refined passer than Moevao, which should mean more passing attempts, particularly downfield.
Which makes me believe that James will be the president of the Lollipop Guild this fall.