Oregon State seems to have a lot of lingering questions before spring practices begin on March 28 -- a "dark cloud" even -- but Beavers coach Mike Riley told The Oregonian that he's feeling "energized."
Still, Paul "Sunshine" Buker pointed out that the Beavers have significant issues. From his story:
1. Jacquizz Rodgers opted to skip his senior year and come out for the NFL draft, and this team has no featured running back at the moment.
2. Starting quarterback Ryan Katz is still rehabbing a broken bone in his throwing hand -- a slow-healing broken bone at that -- and could miss spring football.
3. Slotback Jordan Bishop, who figures to be one of the team’s top receivers next fall, is still having problems with an ankle he sprained in January.
4. The status of star wide receiver/kick returner James Rodgers, who has been out since suffering a serious knee injury last Oct. 9 at Arizona, remains in question with Rodgers currently in full rehab mode at home in Texas after a second procedure on his knee.
That seems like a unhappy handful of hits to an offense that's trying to rediscover its mojo: The starting quarterback, two best skill players and a likely starting receiver.
Still, there is an optimistic counter.
Jacquizz Rodgers made the right decision. He's not going to improve his NFL stock with another year of college ball, and running backs have a short shelf life. It was smart to enter the draft.
Katz's injury might limit him for all or some of spring football -- and that's not good -- but the most urgent issue is improving the running game and the offensive line in general. One of the priorities of spring is a establishing pecking order at tailback because of Rodgers departure. And, by the way, getting backup quarterback Cody Vaz some quality work isn't a bad thing either.
Jordan will be a redshirt junior this fall, so he's mostly a known quantity (though it's time his athletic ability spawned greater production). A key this spring for the Beavers as far as the passing game goes is taking a measure of its young receivers, which will be even more important if James Rodgers isn't ready to go this fall.
There's no way to spin the potential loss of James Rodgers: He's a playmaker as a runner and receiver and return guy. Everybody's crossed their fingers, hoping for a full recovery.
The story provides the most complete picture so far on where Rodgers stands in his rehabilitation after a second surgical procedure.
[Riley] re-iterated that it’s true the Beavers can’t be 100 percent certain Rodgers will come back as the same player.
But Riley said speculation that Rodgers is done, that he isn’t coming back to school, “is absolutely false. … there’s (speculation) going on out there that isn’t true.’’
Said Riley, “the second surgery was delayed for a number of weeks, which was disappointing and I think it made James very anxious. … I talked to him last Friday and he sounded great. He was in rehab, he said he’s got very little pain, and things are going well. … they cleaned out some scar tissue that was causing the majority of his flexing problems. That was the delay into getting into the second surgery. … and evidently the repair (to the ACL) went fine.’’
Riley cautioned, “I don’t want to assume anything yet. All I know is, James is trying to be ready for the season. We all know how James will prepare for it.''
And Riley said that he won't play Rodgers unless "he is really, really healthy."
Riley also told Buker that he is close to naming who will replace Reggie Davis as running backs coach.