Oregon State coach Mike Riley believes he has talent and depth at running back. He just doesn't know how much and from whom. He has "viable" bodies for every position on the offensive line. But he's pretty sure the starting five coming out of spring won't be the same at the start of the season.
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.