Pac-12: Greg Laybourn

Ranking the Pac-10 safeties

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Pac-10 is solid at safety -- it's not all about Taylor Mays either.

In fact, the stockpile in the secondary likely will make choosing an All-Pac-10 team a big challenge.
  1. USC: It doesn't matter if Josh Pinkard stays at safety or moves to corner: The Trojans are stacked here, starting with Mays, a two-time All-American. Will Harris is hardly a stop-gap if he steps in for Pinkard, and there's good depth.
  2. California: While the Bears lack the Trojans' star quality, they are experienced, productive and deep with Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson leading the charge.
  3. Arizona: Cam Nelson is an all-conference-type player, while Robert Golden is an all-conference-type talent who is transitioning from cornerback.
  4. Oregon: T.J. Ward is one of the conference's premier hitters. He figures to become a complete player this fall. Javes Lewis won the competition at rover to replace Patrick Chung.
  5. Stanford: Bo McNally is a reliable veteran and Delano Howell, albeit green as the former running back switches to defense, will improve the Cardinal's athleticism.
  6. UCLA: Sophomore Rahim Moore looks like a budding star. Tony Dye leads the battle at strong safety over fellow sophomore Glenn Love.
  7. Oregon State: Junior Suaesi Tuimaunei will replace Al Afalava at strong safety and Lance Mitchell will set in for Greg Laybourn at free. While they lack experience -- Tuimaunei started twice in 2008 -- they are more athletic than their predecessors.
  8. Arizona State: Perhaps it's a sign of the Sun Devils' depth that expected starters Clint Floyd and Ryan McFoy are listed second-team on the depth chart behind Jarrell Holman and Keelan Johnson. Coach Dennis Erickson said Monday he hasn't decided who will start. This gives us pause, though there's no lack of athletic ability here.
  9. Washington State: The Cougars probably feel pretty good about Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, a solid pair of returning starters.
  10. Washington: Nate Williams is a solid strong safety and redshirt freshman Greg Walker has flashed ability at free, but the Huskies have a long way to go in the secondary.

Oregon State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:25
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon State Beavers
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 7-2

Returning starters

Offense 6, defense 3, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, QB Lyle Moevao, WR James Rodgers, C Alex Linnenkohl, LB Keaton Kristick, DT Stephen Paea

Key losses

WR Sammie Stroughter, WR Shane Morales, LT Andy Levitre, DE Victor Butler, DE Slade Norris, CB Keenan Lewis, CB Brandon Hughes

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jacquizz Rodgers* (1,253)
Passing: Lyle Moevao* (2,534)
Receiving: Sammie Stroughter (1,040)
Tackles: Greg Laybourn (113)
Sacks: Victor Butler (12)
Interceptions: Keenan Lewis (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 Portland State
Sep. 12 at UNLV
Sep. 19 Cincinnati
Sep. 26 Arizona
Oct. 3 at Arizona State
Oct. 10 Stanford
Oct. 24 at USC
Oct. 31 UCLA
Nov. 7 at California
Nov. 14 Washington
Nov. 21 at Washington State
Dec. 3 at Oregon

1. Canfield can get on field: With 2008 starter Lyle Moevao out with a shoulder injury, Sean Canfield took advantage of the opportunity and showed he's good enough to start. While he was off during the spring game, tossing three interceptions, Canfield ran the huddle well and was in sync with a rebuilding receiving corps.

2. Catchings on: Speaking of receivers, Darrell Catchings turned in a strong spring, and the unit as a whole eased worries about losing Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales. Jordan Bishop, Geno Muoz and Casey Kjos, among others, showed that the Beavers appear plenty deep at the position, with lead Beaver James Rodgers coming back from a shoulder injury in the fall.

3. Reload at LB: While the defense lost eight starters, there are few worries at linebacker. Keaton Kristick was the known quantity going in, while sophomore middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi was one of the breakout performers this spring. Keith Pankey and Dwight Roberson will continue to be a two-headed monster on the weak side.

Fall questions

1. Corner questions: The Beavers are replacing two cornerbacks who were drafted by NFL teams. Their high-pressure defense requires the cornerbacks to be able to lock down receivers one-on-one. For much of spring, the new guys didn't do that -- they got burned. Over and over again, though no-hit rules on the quarterbacks might have skewed things a bit. The pecking order here feels unresolved.

2. Sack men: Ben Terry, Kevin Frahm and Gabe Miller looked good this spring at defensive end. But they are replacing Victor Butler and Slade Norris, who combined for 22 sacks last year. Yes, big shoes to fill. And, with green corners, it might be even more important for the pressure to get to the quarterback as fast as possible. This is a wait-and-see until the games begin.

3. Who's the QB? It should be a positive that the Beavers have two capable senior quarterbacks with starting experience. That's the way coach Mike Riley sees it. But it also becomes a tough issue, because there is only one starting job. Does Moevao slide because he missed spring while Canfield played well? Or does Moevao prevail if things are close because of the way he played last year? And will the loser of this competition be able to keep it together and be a "team" guy?

Free-agent signings thus far

April, 28, 2009
4/28/09
9:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A list of free-agent signings, though more are likely to come.

Arizona
LB Ronnie Palmer, Washington Redskins
S Nate Ness, Cleveland Browns
CB Marquis Hundley, St. Louis Rams

Arizona State
QB Rudy Carpenter, Dallas Cowboys
WR Michael Jones, Houston Texans

California
DE Rulon Davis, Denver Broncos
LB Anthony Felder, San Diego Chargers
FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, Chicago Bears

Oregon
RB Jeremiah Johnson, Houston Texans
OL Mark Lewis, Miami Dolphins
WR Jaison Williams, Washington Redskins

Oregon State
WR Shane Morales, Arizona Cardinals
OT Tavita Thompson, New York Jets
SS Greg Laybourn, invited to New Orleans Saints minicamp

UCLA
QB Pat Cowan, New Orleans Saints
DT Brigham Harwell, Washington Redskins
RB Kahlil Bell, Minnesota Vikings
SS Bret Lockett, invited to Green Bay Packers minicamp
P Aaron Perez, invited to New England Patriots minicamp

USC
DE Gerald Washington, Buffalo Bills

Washington
C Juan Garcia, invited to Minnesota Vikings minicamp

Washington State
TE Devin Frischknecht, Washington Redskins

Plenty of pain but no excuses from Oregon State

November, 30, 2008
11/30/08
1:53
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
 Oregon State's freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers sat out the game with an injured shoulder.

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State defensive end Slade Norris was hurting just like all the Beavers after they lost 65-38 to rival Oregon in the 112th Civil War as their Rose Bowl dreams most likely were burned up by the exhaust of the Ducks jet-fueled offense.

He dutifully answered questions, however, at least until a reporter got specific about a big Oregon running play.

"To be honest," Norris said with exhausted resignation, "there were a lot of big running plays."

And big passing plays, too.

The Beavers were crestfallen, but they offered few excuses.

"You can't win when you give up 65 points and 700 yards or whatever it was," safety Greg Laybourn said.

It was 694 yards.

The Beavers entered the game ranked 13th in the nation in total defense (290 yards per game). Penn State, in its 45-14 win over Oregon State on Sept. 6, only had 454 total yards. The next highest total vs. the Beavers was 377.

After falling behind 37-17 at halftime, the Beavers battled back in the second half, closing within 13 three times. But they couldn't stop the Ducks.

"Tonight, the bubble burst," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

While Riley wouldn't offer excuses, there was an obvious one. With freshman phenom running back Jacquizz Rodgers, the Pac-10's leading rusher, on the sidelines with an injured shoulder, the Beavers only gained 89 yards on the ground.

"Yeah, I think it would have been a lot different [with Rodgers]," quarterback Lyle Moevao said.

Losing to their archrival wasn't just tough on the players. A crowd of 46,319 set a new Reser Stadium record amd the overflow turnout was due to anticipation of the program earning its first Rose Bowl berth in 44 years.

Instead, they had to watch as the Ducks mascot swaggered around the stadium in the fourth quarter carrying a rose in mockery.

There's still a faint glimmer of hope. If UCLA upsets USC next weekend, the Beavers would prevail in a tiebreaker with the Ducks and Trojans.

It is fair to say the odds of that happening are not good.

"I'm not going to lose any sleep over that one," Riley said.

The most likely scenario has the Beavers headed to the Sun Bowl.

"It's hard to get excited about that when you know what was possible," Moevao said.

Moevao, who missed two of the last three games due to a shoulder injury, completed 27 of 51 passes for 374 yards with five touchdowns. But both his interceptions were returned for touchdowns.

Moevao said his shoulder felt fine. Everything else wasn't so good.

"This definitely hurt," he said.

Pac-10 Players of the Week

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
5:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

California tailback Jahvid Best of California, Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn and Washington State kicker Nico Grasu are the Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Best, a sophomore rushed 19 times for a career-high 201 yards (10.6-yard average) and two
touchdowns in the Bears 37-16 Big Game win over Stanford. He added three receptions for 35 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown. It marked his second offensive player of the week honor this season.

Laybourn, a senior from Portland, Ore., had a team-high 11 tackles, eight solo, including 1.5
tackles for loss in the Beavers 19-17 comeback win over Arizona that kept their Rose Bowl dreams alive. This is the third defensive player of the week honor for Laybourn this season.

Grasu, a sophomore from Encino, Calif., was three-for-three on field goal attempts in the Cougars 16-13 double-overtime victory over Washington in the Apple Cup. His first field goal came from 28 yards as time expired to send the game into overtime. He kicked a 19-yarder in the first overtime period and nailed the game-winner from 37 yards in the second overtime.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors was Oregon State wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. Also nominated on defense were linebackers Zack Follett of California and Louis Bland of Washington State. Kicker Justin Kahut of Oregon State and punter Bryan Anger of California were nominated for special teams play.

What to watch in the Pac-10, Week 13

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
9:36
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Eight things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. Moevao at 75 percent or backup Canfield at 100? Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao didn't look fully healthy last weekend against California, though he managed the victory fairly well. He hasn't practiced much this week; his strained throwing shoulder is still bothering him. Sean Canfield is not a typical backup. He's more physically talented than Moevao -- he was projected as a future star when he signed in 2005 -- and started nine games last year. He played well during the seven quarters he had to step in for Moevao. But the screws are significantly tighter on the road in front of the rowdy Arizona fans with a Rose Bowl berth just two wins away.

2. California's beleaguered offensive line vs. Stanford's blitz-happy D: Cal quarterbacks have been sacked 19 times in the last five games. For comparison, Stanford quarterbacks have gone down 17 times -- all season. The Cardinal defense also is tied with Oregon for the Pac-10 lead in sacks, averaging three per game. A good running game would slow down the Stanford pass rush, and the Cardinal is not great against the run, ranking seventh in the conference in run defense (141 yards per game). But Cal has struggled to run of late, averaging just 81 yards on the ground in the last three games. Reports are that speedy tailback Jahvid Best is feeling healthy. But will he have space to get fancy?

3. Out of the misery, will a star -- for at least an afternoon -- rise out of the Apple Cup? Both Washington and Washington State rank among the nation's worst on defense. On the other hand, they also rank among the nation's worst in offense. Neither team boasts a statistically impressive player who will receive All-Conference consideration. That's how it is when two teams combine for a 1-20 record. Yet one will win this game. And rivalry games often feature a special individual performance that fans remember for years to come. So who among the Cougars and Huskies rises to the occasion?

4. Arizona LBs vs. Jacquizz Rodgers: Everyone knows that Rodgers is coming, but no one has stopped him yet (see seven 100-yard games). He hides behind a wall of blockers then shoots through the hole, and it seems like it takes a defense time to figure out his tendencies. The Wildcats' linebackers, particularly leading tackler Sterling Lewis and Ronnie Palmer (8.5 tackles for a loss), will have their hands full. And the Beavers may lean on Rodgers even more than usual, considering the questions at quarterback.

5. Riley will need to rally: In his past two games, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley has completed 15 of 41 passes with two interceptions and a touchdown. He's seemed skittish at times since he was knocked out of the Oregon game with a concussion. While Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard can lean on a power running game, it's likely the Bears will need to throw well to consistently move the ball and keep the Cardinal defense honest. Playing at home should help, and Stanford's weakness is pass defense. That means Riley shouldn't complete less than 50 percent of his passes.

6. Beavers must ground Gronkowski: Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski has 34 receptions and eight touchdowns, which means he hits pay dirt once every 4.3 receptions. If he catches nine passes against Oregon State, that could be the difference. And the Wildcats will try to get him nine balls. Gronkowski is too athletic for most linebackers, so Beavers safeties Al Afalava and Greg Laybourn need to make Gronkowski work for every catch and, most important, get him down on first contact instead of letting him rev up his 260 pounds in space.

7. Cal LBs vs. Stanford power running: Cal's 3-4 defense has been mostly a success this season. It ranks third in the conference in scoring (21.9 points per game) and fourth in rushing (124.3 ypg). It has, however, sometimes struggled against the run, see 144 yards from Jacquizz Rodgers and 149 from Arizona's Keola Antolin. But both of them were smaller, slashing, scatback types. Stanford runs right at a defense with 230-pound Toby Gerhart and 210-pound Anthony Kimble. That power attack has worked against just about every defense, see 200 yards rushing vs. USC. How will Cal's four outstanding linebackers match up?

8. How can the loser of the Apple Cup possibly get motivated for another game? One team will walk away from the Apple Cup with something warm and reassuring to cling to -- a victory. Of course, the other will see its season-long misery only increase with the knowledge that it will be widely viewed as the nation's worst BCS conference team. Yet both have another game to play. Washington visits California, while Washington State heads to Hawaii. Neither figures to win. But it's hard to imagine the loser will be able to muster much intensity and focus for a 12th and final embarrassment.

Arizona wants to halt Beavers' rise

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
11:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona witnessed first hand in 2007 Oregon State's transformation from cute, bucktoothed Beaver into a monstrosity that ransacked cities and plundered unsuspecting Pac-10 teams.

When they met last October, Arizona was coming off a 28-point win over Washington State and the Beavers had just imploded at home against UCLA, losing 40-14 -- after leading 14-12 in the fourth quarter -- to fall to 2-3.

It seemed that Arizona was rising with its new spread offense, and Oregon State was on the brink of collapse.

Instead: Whammo!

Oregon State jumped to a 28-point lead in the second quarter and coasted home, 31-16.

The Beaver defense held Arizona to no offensive touchdowns, just nine yards rushing and 231 yards of total offense. It also picked off three passes and posted eight sacks.

"They were on me all night," Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama said. "I definitely remember that."

That was the start of a run of seven wins in eight games -- the lone loss to USC -- for Oregon State, while the Wildcats struggled to find consistency and finished 5-7, leaving coach Mike Stoops on the proverbial hot seat.

"We're a totally different team now," Tuitama said. "Last year, we couldn't really run the ball that well yet. We changed that. A quarterback's friend is a good running game."

Stoops likely has done enough to retain his job. His Wildcats, at 6-4, are bowl-eligible, which which was widely regarded as the baseline requirement for him to return in 2009.

Arizona hasn't been to a bowl game since 1998, so any berth would be appreciated around Tucson.

Yet there's a difference between an adequate season and a successful one. That difference could be realized if the Wildcats win their final two games.

"The season would definitely be a success if we win the next two games," tight end Rob Gronkowski said.

It starts with stomping out the Beavers Rose Bowl dreams, which means embracing the role of the spoiler.

"I think there's definitely some of that," Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn said. "I think if I were in their position, I would love to do that."

(Read full post)

Pac-10 players of the week

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
3:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona running back Keola Antolin, Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn and UCLA kicker Kai Forbath have been named Pac-10 players of the week.

Antolin, a freshman from Las Vegas, rushed 21 times for 149 yards (7.1 yards per carry) with three touchdowns and added a reception for nine yards and had four kickoff returns for 79 yards, giving him 237 all-purpose yards.

Laybourn, a senior from Portland, led the Beavers' defensive effort in a 34-13 win at Washington. He posted a game-high 12 tackles, including 10 solo stops. The OSU defense forced four turnovers.

Forbath, a sophomore from Pacific Palisades, Calif., scored 11 of UCLA's 23 points in the Bruins' 23-20 win against Stanford. He was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, connecting from 37, 19 and 28 yards, and made both of his PAT attempts.

This marks the second player of the week honors this year for both Laybourn and Forbath.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were Oregon State flanker James Rodgers and quarterbacks Mark Sanchez of USC and Kevin Craft of UCLA. Also nominated on defense were cornerbacks Devin Ross of Arizona, Alterraun Verner of UCLA and Josh Pinkard of USC. Kickers David Buehler of USC and Jason Bondzio of Arizona were nominated for special teams play.

Pac-10 midseason report: Oregon State

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon State certainly has posted spectacular highs and dismal lows, but that's sort of been the Beaver way the past few years -- slow start, fast finish and mostly be unpredictable.

The opening loss at Stanford and the humiliating blowout defeat at Penn State made it appear that the completely rebuilt defensive front seven wasn't the match of past crews that led the Beavers aggressive gap-cancellation scheme. And the offensive line looked overmatched.

Then, following a dominant but mostly under the radar win over Hawaii, the Beavers shocked the nation with a 27-21 victory over top-ranked USC, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the process.

The euphoria was short-lived, though, after the Beavers grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory at Utah, giving up 11 points in the final two minutes to lose 31-28 to the 15th-ranked -- and extremely grateful -- Utes.

Offensive MVP: True freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers is on track for first-team All-Pac-10 and All-America consideration. He leads the conference and ranks 10th in the nation with 119.7 yards rushing per game and has scored eight touchdowns. His 186 yards on 37 carries against the vaunted USC defense will never be forgotten by Beavers fans.

Defensive MVP: Free safety Greg Laybourn isn't the best-known Beaver but he's been the consistent leader of the defense this season. He leads the team with 50 tackles -- his 8.3 stops per game rank third in the conference -- and he's also recovered two fumbles and grabbed two interceptions, one of which iced the victory over USC.

What's next: While the season-opening loss at Stanford means the Beavers don't technically control their own fate, if they win out against their Pac-10 slate, it's a near certainty they would play in their first Rose Bowl since 1965.

(We can probably assume Stanford won't win all its remaining games and, in the process, notch a second consecutive upset of USC, right?)

That might sound far-fetched, but Oregon State's schedule is the most favorable in the conference: Arizona State, California and Oregon each come to Corvallis, while trips to Washington, UCLA and Arizona look doable.

A lot of work, yes, but not inconceivable, particularly with a win over the Trojans in the bank.

To make it happen, the Beavers will have to stay healthy, avoid turnovers and hope kicker Justin Kahut (4 for 8 on field goals) regains his mojo.

Pac-10 Players of the Week

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
3:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon State's big win over top-ranked USC not surprisingly yielded special recognition Monday with Jacquizz Rodgers and Greg Laybourn earning Pac-10 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week honors.

California punt returner Syd'Quan Thompson won special teams honors.

Rodgers and Laybourn played key roles in the Beavers' 27-21 upset victory over top-ranked USC. Rodgers, a freshman from Richmond, Texas, rushed 37 times for 186 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and scored two TDs and added two receptions for 27 yards, accounting for 213 all-purpose yards.

Laybourn, a senior from Portland, had a team-high 11 tackles, four solo, and intercepted a pass late in the game, returning it 28 yards to the USC 2-yard line to set up what proved to be the decisive touchdown for the Beavers. The Oregon State defense limited USC to 86 yards rushing and 313 yards total and just 2-of-10 on third-down conversion attempts.

Thompson, a junior from Sacramento, keyed a big day for California's special teams in the Golden Bears' 42-7 win over Colorado State. He returned five punts for 131 yards (26.2-yard average), including a 73-yard return for a touchdown. California set a school record with 187 punt return yards in the game. In addition to Thompson's punt return for a score, the Cal special teams scored a second touchdown returning a blocked punt for a score.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were running back Anthony Kimble of Stanford and center Max Unger of Oregon. Also nominated on defense were backs Bo McNally of Stanford, Walter Thurmond III of Oregon and Syd'Quan Thompson of California. Kick returner Terrence Austin of UCLA and punter Josh Syria of Oregon were nominated for special teams play.

While you were on vacation... Oregon State

July, 9, 2008
7/09/08
12:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Beavers logoThe fifth of 10 quick hit updates of offseason Pac-10 goings on.

Oregon State in a sentence:

  • The Beavers are rebuilding their defense and their backfield is in flux, but this overachieving program won 19 games over the two previous season, so relegating them to the bottom of the conference would likely be a mistake.

The big question:

  • How well and how quickly will the Beavers defense rebuild after losing eight starters from one of the nation's best units in 2007?

Quick hit news:

  • Talented senior safety Brian Payton, who had a key interception in the Beavers upset of USC in 2006, left the program without explanation this summer. Payton started six games and had 73 tackles and three interceptions over the past two seasons. That makes Greg Laybourn the starting free safety by default with sophomore Suaesi Tuimaunei listed as the backup. Payton's departure is compounded by two other issues: 1) strong safety Al Afalava is suspended for the season-opener against Stanford due to a February DUI (senior Austin Hall or redshirt freshman Cameron Collins will replace him); 2) The defense is completely rebuilding its front seven.
  • Freshman receiver Jordan Bishop raised some eyebrows this summer with a strong performance in a prep all-star game. And here's some video.
  • The expectations are high that defensive end Simi Kuli, a highly rated transfer from El Camino College, will provide immediate help on the defensive line. But he's still finishing up his credits at El Camino and might not report on August 1 with the rest of the incoming players.
  • On the upside, it appears that guard Jeremy Perry, who sat out spring practices following knee surgery -- after missing nearly all of 2007 with a broken leg -- will be ready to play this fall. Perry, when healthy, might be the Pac-10's best guard.
  • Offensive tackle Tavita Thompson is expected to regain his eligibility by the Nov. 1 game against Arizona State. Thompson was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after starting seven games last year. The reasoning was never officially explained by OSU officials because of privacy rules.

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