- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our Most Important Players series.
First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying, for example, that Marcus Mariota is Oregon's most important player.
And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good, too. USC’s Leonard Williams might be the best defensive lineman in the nation, but is he the Trojans' most important player considering the talent and depth on their D-line?
Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on them living up to expectations. Or their absence.
Oregon State: WR Victor Bolden
2013 production: 6 receptions, 62 yards
Why Bolden is important: The Oregon State offense is only going to be as good as Sean Mannion. And Mannion is only going to be as good as his wide receivers. With Brandin Cooks gone, the wide receivers are a big question mark for the Beavers.
So enter Bolden. He had a huge spring for the Beavers and came out looking like the go-to receiver for Mannion. He didn’t get a ton of looks last season, but with so many yards to be had, it seems like the trajectory of the offense is going to mimic Bolden’s progress throughout the fall.
New offensive coordinator John Garrett is going to look to utilize Mannion and let him do even more in the offense (if that’s possible). And with Terron Ward, Storm Woods and Chris Brown -- the top three running backs -- returning, the run game should be strong, opening up looks for Mannion in the pass game.
Bolden’s development as a receiver is critical to this offense and this team. He’s the one big question mark in an offense that could do some big things again this year. That makes him the most important player (outside of Mannion) for the Beavers in 2014.
Other Most Important Players:
15hChantel Jennings and David Lombardi