Pac-12: Fred Thompson

Oregon State spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 3-9

2011 conference record: 3-6 (fifth in North)

Returning starters: offense: 8; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Sean Mannion, DB Jordan Poyer, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Brandin Cooks, DE Scott Crichton, DB Rashaad Reynolds, OL Josh Andrews, S Anthony Watkins.

Key losses
WR James Rodgers, S Lance Mitchell, C Grant Johnson, DT Fred Thompson (passed away last December, could have been in contention for starting spot).

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Malcolm Agnew* (423 yards)
Passing: Sean Mannion* (3,328 yards)
Receiving: Markus Wheaton* (986 yards)
Tackles: Anthony Watkins* (85)
Sacks: Scott Crichton* (6)
Interceptions: Jordan Poyer* (4)

Spring answers

1. Running game revival: Head coach Mike Riley has been adamant that his team will be better at running the ball in 2012. The Beavers rotated through four backs last season -- mostly because of injuries -- but redshirt freshman Storm Woods has come on strong in the spring. Though a pecking order hasn't been established, it's safe to say that the Beavers will have a deep rotation.

2. Secondary depth is solid: With Watkins sidelined during the spring with a shoulder injury, it opened up opportunities for Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman to replace the graduated Lance Mitchell. Murphy, last year's nickelback, looks like he's won the job to start along Watkins. Pair that with Poyer and Reynolds and the Beavers should be solid in the defensive backfield.

3. LB corps filling out: D.J. Welch looks like the heir apparent to Cam Collins on the strong side. Feti Unga, who was among the conference leaders in tackles last year prior to a knee injury, appears to be back and ready to go for the fall. Michael Doctor also appears more comfortable as he readies for his second year as a starter. Rueben Robinson and Cade Cowdin should provide the Beavers with some good depth across the board.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line issues: With only eight healthy linemen this spring, there wasn't much of an opportunity to fill out a starting five. Riley said he doesn't like leaving spring without knowing who his starters are, but it's just something they have to deal with. Andrews helps solidify the line and Grant Enger and Colin Kelly will be in the mix when they return from injury. But with a big influx of freshmen, Riley has essentially said all positions are up for grabs.

2. Has Mannion taken the next step? If you ask Riley, he has. If you ask Mannion, he has. But it won't be known until he steps on to the field. He showed last season that he has the potential to be an A-list quarterback in this conference. Better decisions should improve his 16-to-18 touchdown to interception ratio and an improved running game will almost certainly be a plus.

3. Who is No. 3 at WR? We know about Wheaton. We know that Cooks is up and coming. But who is going to be that No. 3 option for Mannion? Jordan Bishop is penciled in as the slot guy, but he missed his second straight spring. That opened the door for Obum Gwacham to emerge as the potential No. 3. He's Wheaton's immediate backup on the outside, but Riley couldn't help but gush about Gwacham's performance this spring.

Pac-12 lunch links: Wynn healthy by spring

January, 9, 2012
I ain't like that no more. I ain't the same, Ned. Claudia, she straightened me up, cleared me of drinkin' whiskey and all. Just 'cause we're goin' on this killing, that don't mean I'm gonna go back to bein' the way I was. I just need the money, get a new start for them youngsters.

Lunch links: Will Huskies remember Alamo?

December, 22, 2011
It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!

Saying goodbye to Fred Thompson

December, 19, 2011
Family, friends and former teammates said goodbye to Oregon State freshman Fred Thompson in a memorial service at Oakland Tech High School over the weekend, and the only thing that counterbalances the sadness is that this 19-year-old touched so many people in his too-short life that 800 showed up to pay their respects.

Thompson died Dec. 7 of a heart attack while playing basketball on campus. He would have turned 20 on Dec. 11.

From the Oakland Tribune:
"Look at how many people are in the stands today," said Thompson's high school coach, Delton Edwards. "How many young men do you know who can bring so many people together — people from Richmond, Oakland and Oregon."

More than a few of you have asked if I ever talked to Thompson. I didn't, and it feels as if that was too bad for me. We typically try to say nice things about people who die, but it's clear that people said nice things about Thompson before he passed.

OSU punter Johnny Hekker presented Thompson's football helmet, which had been signed by his college teammates, to his mother.
"This facemask was always filled with a smile during practice," Hekker said, his voice quivering with emotion. "He still touches my life and I'm going to miss him so much."

That a senior punter felt comfortable talking about a freshman defensive lineman is meaningful. Those two years and position groups wouldn't cross paths often, unless there was a reason to reach out and take note. So this gentle giant — 6-foot-4, 317 pounds — who had so much now-unrealizable potential on the football field, apparently stood out to his teammates in a positive way as more than another guy standing around at practice.

Despite his imposing size, Thompson's high school classmates, including Ilse Martinez and Shanisha Perkins, praised him for going out of his way to disarm people with a smile and big bear hugs.
"He was the most lovable free-spirited guy I've ever known," Martinez said. "He was a sweet guy who was always dancing."

Pac-12 links: Leach, Rodriguez make moves

December, 13, 2011
"If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

Links: Riley shaken by Thompson's death

December, 9, 2011
Happy Friday.

Pac-12 links: Mourning OSU's Thompson

December, 8, 2011
Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,

Oregon State freshman Fred Thompson dies

December, 8, 2011
Tragedy hit Oregon State on Wednesday as freshman Fred Thompson died after collapsing while playing basketball.

It appears Thompson had a heart attack, according to local reports.

Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 317-pound defensive tackle from Richmond, Calif., would have turned 20 on Sunday.

Unimaginably sad. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family.

More on the Beavers reaction here.