Pac-12: Malcolm Agnew

Ted spent much of the past two weeks looking at individuals from the league who are coming back. But what about from a team standpoint? As is always the case, we have to say goodbye to some folks who have graduated, departed early, transferred or simply chose to follow another path in life. What's left in the pantry?

Today we're going to take a look at what each team has coming back in terms of yards, attempts and touchdowns in the run game. Earlier today we looked at the South. Now we'll look at the North. "Team" carries are not taken into account looking ahead to 2013, but negative yards in 2012 are. Remember also that sacks are (for some redonkulous reason) counted as rushing attempts.

Here's a reminder of how the teams ranked in the league in rushing offense last year:
  1. Oregon
  2. Arizona
  3. Arizona State
  4. UCLA
  5. California
  6. Stanford
  7. USC
  8. Washington
  9. Utah
  10. Oregon State
  11. Colorado
  12. Washington State

Here's what the teams in the Pac-12 North have coming back.

California
  • Rushing yards in 2012: 2,196
  • Rushing attempts in 2012: 451
  • Rushing touchdowns in 2012: 18
  • Rushing yards returning: 536
  • Rushing attempts returning: 54
  • Rushing touchdowns returning: 5
  • Percentage of yards returning: 24 percent
  • Percentage of attempts returning: 11 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 27 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Brendan Bigelow, 431 yards, 44 attempts, three touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: C.J. Anderson, 790 yards, 126 attempts, four touchdowns
Oregon
  • Rushing yards in 2012: 4,098
  • Rushing attempts in 2012: 685
  • Rushing touchdowns in 2012: 48
  • Rushing yards returning: 2,176
  • Rushing attempts returning: 345
  • Rushing touchdowns returning: 21
  • Percentage of yards returning: 53 percent
  • Percentage of attempts returning: 50 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 43 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Marcus Mariota, 752 yards, 106 attempts, five touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Kenjon Barner, 1,767 yards, 278 attempts, 21 touchdowns
Oregon State
  • Rushing yards in 2012: 1,617
  • Rushing attempts in 2012: 442
  • Rushing touchdowns in 2012: 26
  • Rushing yards returning: 1,236
  • Rushing attempts returning: 342
  • Rushing touchdowns returning: 23
  • Percentage of yards returning: 76 percent
  • Percentage of attempts returning: 77 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 88 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Storm Woods, 940 yards, 13 touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Malcolm Agnew, 269 yards, one touchdown
Stanford
  • Rushing yards in 2012: 2440
  • Rushing attempts in 2012: 549
  • Rushing touchdowns in 2012: 23
  • Rushing yards returning: 825
  • Rushing attempts returning: 175
  • Rushing touchdowns returning: 7
  • Percentage of yards returning: 33 percent
  • Percentage of attempts returning: 31 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 30 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Kevin Hogan, 263 yards, 55 attempts, two touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Stepfan Taylor, 1,530 yards, 322 attempts, 13 touchdowns
Washington
  • Rushing yards in 2012: 1,851
  • Rushing attempts in 2012: 466
  • Rushing touchdowns in 2012: 19
  • Rushing yards returning: 1,774
  • Rushing attempts returning: 428
  • Rushing touchdowns returning: 19
  • Percentage of yards returning: 95 percent
  • Percentage of attempts returning: 91 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 100 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Bishop Sankey, 1,439 yards, 289 attempts, 16 touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Dezden Petty, 99 yards, 29 attempts, zero touchdowns
Washington State
  • Rushing yards in 2012: 349
  • Rushing attempts in 2012: 252
  • Rushing touchdowns in 2012: 6
  • Rushing yards returning: 204
  • Rushing attempts returning: 111
  • Rushing touchdowns returning: 1
  • Percentage of yards returning: 58 percent
  • Percentage of attempts returning: 44 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 16 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Teondray Caldwell, 269 yards, 56 attempts, zero touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Carl Winston, 280 yards, 85 attempts, five touchdowns

EDIT: Unfortunately, due to an out-of-date roster, the WSU numbers have changed and the statistical anomaly that was their returning rushing attack is no more. I'm just as bummed as you all are. The new numbers have been updated.
Get comfortable, Oregon State fans. It's going to be a long quarterback competition.

Addressing the media Tuesday in a pre-spring conference call, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said it's doubtful anything will be decided between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz this spring. Mannion is listed No. 1 on the depth chart -- only because Riley and Co. didn't include an "or" between the two names. Anyone looking for meaning to Mannion being No. 1 can keep looking.

"You can't read anything into that," Riley said. "We're going to split their time evenly. You don't need to ask them daily about what's going on because I probably won't make a decision until the end of fall camp. I'm just going to let them play and grow and try to get better this spring. We'll give them absolute even turns as we go -- unless somebody just takes the bull by the horns and separates. But I don't know if that's going to happen. I think they both did a lot of good things and they both had some rough moments. It's a matter of who comes out of it with the most consistent, best play. And that might take some time. I think they are both knowledgeable. They both work hard and are well-respected. We're going to let them get as much preparation as they can."

This will be one of the more closely watched quarterback competitions in the conference -- and nationally, as the Beavers are expected to start the season in the preseason top 25.

Mannion helped the Beavers to a hot start in 2012, guiding them to victories in their first four games before hurting his knee against Washington State. That paved the way for Vaz, who engineered back-to-back wins at BYU and against Utah.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireSean Mannion is listed as Oregon State's No. 1 QB, but nothing's been decided, coach Mike Riley said.
Then came the first loss of the season, to Washington, in which Mannion threw four interceptions. Oregon State was off and on the rest of the season -- as were its quarterbacks. After a 6-0 start, the Beavers went 3-4 down the stretch, culminating with a 31-27 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Mannion finished the year with 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns to 13 interceptions on 64.7 percent passing. Vaz completed 58.9 percent of his throws for 1,480 yards, but also had 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

"We've talked to both of them about the fact there is going to be competition," Riley said. "They have to learn to handle that and be a great leader and a great teammate and focus on doing their best. I think it will be good for both of them. I think it will bring the best out in both of them and then we'll have to see what we're going to do from there. I suppose in the long run we could come out of it stronger."

Other notes:

  • Players who will miss spring ball include: Safety Tyrequek Zimmerman, left tackle Garrett Weinreich, defensive end Scott Crichton, wide receiver Richard Mullaney and fullback Tyler Anderson. Left guard Chase Eldredge and center Isaac Seumalo will be limited.
  • Riley talked about the competition between Sean Martin and junior-college transfer Steven Nelson to replace departed cornerback Jordan Poyer: "[Martin] got more opportunities to play last year and that was all good for him, and we'll see if he can step up into what can be a reliable starting role. ... [Nelson] is always around working out, and in a short amount of time has seemed to fit in real well. I anticipate good things from him in spring ball. The best thing that can happen to this team is really develop good competition with good players at the corner. "
  • Riley on the depth at running back with Storm Woods, Terron Ward and Chris Brown: "That right there is good depth. I hate losing Malcolm [Agnew] because he's a good football player. He's all over special teams and when you watch our cutups or games, he's always doing something. But I think we have good players there. Storm can build on his freshman year for sure and Terron Ward looked really good in the offseason running and has really worked hard. Chris Brown is a young talent trying to break in where he can hopefully fill some of those roles that Malcolm Agnew played and bust into the rotation of playing in the game."
Their daddy's a king. And a king knows what to do and does it. Even when it's hard. And their daddy will do whatever he has to for those he loves. And that's all that matters. Because everyone is weak, Jimmy. Everyone but us. We will never be weak.

Beavers roll past Nicholls State

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
6:05
PM ET

If you were looking for drama, best to re-watch last night’s Pac-12 championship game on DVR, because the Oregon State Beavers made sure their long-delayed showdown with FCS Nicholls State was anything but dramatic.

The No. 15 Beavers (9-3) scored touchdowns on their first 11 offensive drives and held the Colonels (1-10) to just a second-half field goal. On the 12th offensive drive (following an interception), the Beavers ran out the clock to close out the 77-3 victory. Not entirely unexpected against an FCS program that had just one win this season.

It was a day for a pair of Oregon State’s favorite sons to shine in their final games at Reser Stadium. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton became the school’s career receptions leader. He hauled in 12 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 10-yard touchdown on a fly sweep. Jordan Poyer picked up his seventh interception of the season.

Originally scheduled for Sept. 1, this game was rescheduled because of Hurricane Isaac -- giving the Beavers one of the more unusual starts to the season. They practiced 35 times before finally opening the season with a win against Wisconsin.

Both quarterbacks -- Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz -- got a lot of work. Mannion completed 20 of 23 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Vaz was 14 of 17 with 190 yards and three scores. That leaves Oregon State head coach Mike Riley with a decision to make regarding who his starter will be heading into the bowl game. The Beavers will either be in the Valero Alamo Bowl or the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.

“I’m not thinking about it right now,” Riley told the Pac-12 Network after the game. “I knew that would come up. I really like both of these guys. I think they can both play, and I wanted to play them both into the game regardless of circumstances today. We’ll just start practicing and we’ll figure it out as we go.”

There was plenty of scoring to go around for the Beavers. Storm Woods rushed for a pair of touchdowns and Malcolm Agnew, Terron Ward and Michael Balfour all scored on the ground. Kevin Cummings, Richard Mullaney, Jordan Jenkins and Obum Gwacham all had receiving touchdowns.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
10:15
AM ET
A few storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12:
    [+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
    Kyle Terada/US PresswireCardinal quarterback Josh Nunes has solidified his starting job.

  1. Game of the week: Which Stanford team shows up at No. 7 Notre Dame? Is it the explosive offense that racked up more than 600 yards against Arizona? Or the struggling offense which failed to score an offensive touchdown at Washington? The Irish have one of the nation's best defenses, but Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes put to rest any questions about his starting job with his five-touchdown performance against the Wildcats. But for the Cardinal to be considered serious contenders in the Pac-12 North, they are going to have to get it done on the road.
  2. Speaking of the road: Heck of a time to make your first collegiate start -- midseason and on the road. But that's the challenge in front of Oregon State backup quarterback Cody Vaz. With the news that Sean Mannion will be out at least 2-4 weeks with a knee injury, the junior steps in after having not played since 2010. Head coach Mike Riley created a minor media buzz during spring ball when he said Vaz had closed the gap with Mannion. Fortunately for the Beavers, the running game is starting to click with Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew, and the wide receiver duo of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks is playing well. Vaz has some support.
  3. Is he for real? Anyone recognize the guy in blue wearing No. 15 last week? After his first interception last week, Cal quarterback Zach Maynard was, dare we say, prolific. He completed 83.3 percent of his throws and tossed four touchdowns in the Bears' upset against UCLA. This coming a week after he completed 32.1 percent at home against Arizona State. The yards, touchdowns and completion percentage were all season highs. Has the light finally come on?
  4. No peeking: Can the Sun Devils resist the urge to look beyond Colorado to their showdown next week with Oregon? Head coach Todd Graham said it shouldn't be hard. But then again, these are college players, and you have to wonder if the 1-4 Buffs are being overlooked. The good news is we'll find out tonight, since it's the national Thursday game.
  5. Rally the troops: It's a good thing for Washington that USC isn't still ranked in the top five. The Huskies have been outscored 93-24 in their two games against top five programs this year. After the 41-3 loss to LSU, the Huskies had Portland State to beat up on. It's not going to be as easy this week with the No. 11 Trojans coming to town. Steve Sarkisian has had some success against the Trojans, and he obviously knows the program very well. Can he get the Huskies to put last week's debacle at Oregon behind them?
  6. About those Trojans: Head coach Lane Kiffin talked at length this week about how tough it is to come into the season with a high preseason ranking -- ya know, like No. 1. But the Trojans showed last week that maybe the fork-sticking was premature. After spotting the Utes 14 points, quarterback Matt Barkley calmly led a USC offense that looked potent and efficient. And in the process, he pulled himself back into the Heisman race -- though there is still work to be done on that front. Nov. 3 is still high noon for the Trojans, and the better they look leading into that game against Oregon, the better it will be for the conference. And, aside from the first three minutes last week, the Trojans looked pretty good.
  7. Swing game? If the Utah Utes hope to make a bowl game this season, this game might be the turning point. They face a UCLA team that showed its youth against Cal on offense, and a fairly seasoned defense looked porous. The Utes have to travel to Oregon State next week, where they'll see the Vaz-led Beavers (Utah knows a little something about overcoming-quarterback-injury adversity). Then it's five straight games against unranked teams to close out the season. A win puts them back at .500 and still in the bowl hunt. The Bruins are two wins away, but face a tougher second-half schedule, including closing out the season with USC and Stanford. A win by the Bruins puts them on the verge of bowl eligibility.
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

Oregon State spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
9:00
AM ET
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 scrimmage roundup

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
9:00
AM ET
Catching you up on all of the scrimmage and spring game info from over the weekend.

OREGON

One of the most secretive quarterback competitions in the country made a very public splash as Marcus Mariota outshined Bryan Bennett in Oregon's spring game.

Mariota ran for an 82-yard touchdown, threw for another and led his team to four touchdowns on five drives. He completed 18 of 26 passes with a score and an interception while rushing for 99 yards on five carries.

Bennett, conversely, was 19-of-32 for 209 yards, throwing two interceptions (including a pick-six) and he also fumbled.

“That’s why you have days like this,” UO coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s interesting to see how guys react.”

A very important note from Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard:
Afterward, Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich reiterated that Bennett and Mariota will be judged on their entire bodies of work from this spring, and that the Ducks won’t feel any pressure to name a starter until the week of their 2012 opener, Sept. 1 against Arkansas State. Public opinion, at least, no doubt swayed toward Mariota on Saturday.

In other words, while Saturday provided a nice peek behind the curtain, official word probably isn't coming any time soon.

OREGON STATE

Sean Mannion completed 8 of 15 passes for 81 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who coach Mike Riley has singled out numerous times for having a good spring, was 11-of-21 for 151 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“I thought they both made some good throws and plays in general,” Riley said. “I feel like we have two starting quarterbacks right now.”

Malcolm Agnew had the lone rushing touchdown while Jordan Jenkins led the way with nine carries for 45 yards. Storm Woods carried eight times for 37 yards. Kicker Trevor Romaine connected on field goals of 41, 33 and 45 yards.

Ryan Murphy, Micah Audiss and Peter Ashton all recorded interceptions for the defense and Audiss blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt.

“We have a long way to go before we win a game, but there were guys making plays today,” Riley said. “We had a great spring practice session and I’m excited to get going again this fall.”

UCLA

The Bruins might be a step closer to naming a starting quarterback, writes Chris Foster of the LA Times.

Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley had a strong showing on Saturday, working almost exclusively with the first-team offense, where he completed 7 of 11 passes that included a 28-yard touchdown to Shaquelle Evans and he also added a 5-yard scramble for a touchdown.

"Getting 24 plays was fun," Hundley told Foster. "But I don't worry about whether I'm getting looked at longer. I just trying to master my craft."

It appears Hundley is finally starting to distance himself from seniors Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, the other two top contenders for the starting job. But despite the surge over the past few practices from Hundley, head coach Jim Mora wasn't ready to name anyone the starter yet.

"We will announce it at the appropriate time, when it becomes apparent, when we have a chance to sit down as a staff and talk about which way want to go," Mora said.

WASHINGTON

Washington's defense was the stronger unit in Saturday's Spring Game.

In a format with the defense being awarded points for stops, turnovers, etc., the defense topped the offense 36-10. With close to 12,000 fans on hand at CenturyLink Field, head coach Steve Sarkisian saw a defensive unit that was much maligned last season show encouraging improvement.

"I thought our guys defensively really played well and that's on a lot of fronts," head coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. "One, I thought we lined up really well. We didn't have a bunch of busts where we lined up wrong. They were aggressive. They played enthusiastic and I thought one of the big telling things defensively is that they won a lot of the one-on-one battles, especially down the field with the ball in the air. They closed on the ball and they were confident closing on the ball in the back end and they made plays. That was extremely encouraging.''

Quarterback Keith Price completed 14 of 28 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. Running back Bishop Sankey did the bulk of the work on the ground, rushing for 34 yards on 11 carries. James Johnson led the receiving corps with six catches for 42 yards.

But the story was defense. Andrew Hudson helped lead the charge for the Huskies with six tackles, a pair of sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss.

Pac-12 running back rankings

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
12:00
PM ET
Despite the Pac-12 conference being home to some of the best quarterbacks and wide receivers in the country, some teams do occasionally run the football. Some better than others. Some really better than others.

Our friends at Athlon Sports continue their series of assorted Pac-12 rankings. They've given us the Pac-12 coaches and quarterbacks, and now they are up with their running back rankings.

Here's how the top 20 shakes out, which includes last year's production, expectations for 2012 and surrounding personnel:
    [+] EnlargeDe'Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner
    Jim Z. Rider/US PresswireOregon's De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner (24) look to be the Pac-12's top RB duo.

  1. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
  2. Kenjon Barner, Oregon
  3. John White, Utah
  4. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
  5. Isi Sofele, Cal
  6. Cameron Marshall, Arizona State
  7. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
  8. Curtis McNeal, USC
  9. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
  10. Jesse Callier, Washington
  11. Malcolm Agnew, Oregon State
  12. Rickey Galvin, Washington State
  13. Tony Jones, Colorado
  14. Bishop Sankey, Washington
  15. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
  16. C.J. Anderson, Cal
  17. Nelson Agholor, USC
  18. Deantre Lewis, Arizona State
  19. Carl Winston, Washington State
  20. D.J. Morgan, USC

Initial thoughts:

  • Unlike the quarterback rankings last week, where Ted and I both had some ideas on how we'd move things around, this top 10 seems pretty solid, give or take one or two spots. There will be some games when Barner takes the lead and others where Thomas does. And in the games when they both do, look out. So those two are interchangeable, but certainly worthy of the top two spots based on the scheme they are in and the numbers they are likely to produce.
  • White will probably have better overall numbers than Taylor, because he's likely to have more carries. Taylor is Stanford's primary guy, but the Cardinal rotate liberally -- and with the aforementioned Gaffney, the emergence of Ricky Seale and Barry Sanders coming in, that could cut into some of his carries. But you can still ink Taylor in for 1,000 yards and close to double-digit touchdowns. Stanford and Utah have big holes to fill on the offensive line, but both backs are talented enough to absorb the change.
  • Sofele is a good running back, but Anderson has come on strong and Daniel Lasco and Brendan Bigelow are expected to play bigger roles this season. Five might be a bit high -- depending on his job status.
  • Interested to see what Marshall does without Noel Mazzone as his offensive coordinator. Interested to see what Franklin does with Mazzone as his offensive coordinator. Arizona State is pretty deep at the position, but Marshall is the guy.
  • Without depth, McNeal is going to have to carry a lot of the load. And he's not exactly known for his durability. If the Trojans can get a couple of guys behind him to take a few snaps, he could be top five by season's end.
  • Depending on how quickly the Wildcats pick up the offense, Carey is another guy who could potentially crack the top five. He has enough snaps under his belt and was productive enough in a different kind of spread that he should have very good numbers -- if he gets enough per-game carries.
  • It looks more and more like Washington is moving more toward a by-committee approach with Callier and Sankey at the top of the list. Their overall ranking will depend on how many carries per game they get. By Week 3, we might be flip-flopping them.
  • The final three years at Texas Tech, Mike Leach's rushing attack ranked 115th ('09), 94th ('08) and 119th ('07) nationally. Running backs come second in his offense. Just the way it is.
  • Jones is a good playmaker on a team starving for them. But until we know who is going to throw the ball and catch the ball in Colorado, this ranking seems about right. He does have a couple of pretty good linemen blocking for him though, which could help him crack the top 10 by season's end.
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.

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyThere are a lot of questions surrounding Mike Riley's running game this spring.
Tailback Jovan Stevenson will be limited with a foot injury, which means lots of reps for Jordan Jenkins, Malcolm Agnew, Storm Woods and Terron Ward.

"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:

Top performances 2011: Malcolm Agnew

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
5:00
PM ET
We're looking at the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2011.

Up next: Malcolm up the middle.

Who & against whom: Oregon State true freshman running back Malcolm Agnew made a splash in his collegiate debut against Sacramento State, looking very much like the replacement back to Jacquizz Rodgers.

The numbers: Agnew broke loose for 223 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. Two of the touchdown runs came in the fourth quarter and the third -- a 17-yard score -- came in overtime.

A closer look: One problem. Oregon State lost. And to an FCS team no less. Sacramento State opted for a 2-point conversion in overtime, which it converted to lock up the 29-28 upset win. If you can get over that fact, then you shouldn't let it damper a very good debut by an up-and-coming back in the conference. If you can't, it's understandable. Sacramento State (4-7, 3-5 Big Sky) didn't exactly go on to do great things last season. Unfortunately for Agnew, this was as good as it was going to get in 2011. Injuries kept him out of six games -- though he did bounce back briefly to rush for 103 yards and a score against Washington State. Coach Mike Riley said hopes Agnew will be at full speed for spring ball and if the Beavers get their offensive line situated, Agnew could be one of the more intriguing backs to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has a lot on his mind these days. He has a new recruiting class with one of the top offensive linemen in the country -- which is good for him, since a large part of his O-line is still rehabbing from last season. There's talk of his seat being toasty next year, and what's the next step for his young quarterback and standout defensive lineman?

Here's part one of a Q&A with the OSU head coach.

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
Kelley L. Cox/US PresswireThe pressure is on Mike Riley to avoid a repeat of last year's 3-9 season.
This past year, 10 true freshman and 23 first-time starters played. Once the injuries started to pile on, was the thought just to get these guys as much playing time as possible and hope it pays off in the future?

Mike Riley: When you're right in it, the immediate thought is we have to get the best players into the game because I've always had the philosophy that the best way to do well in the future is to take care of the present. We didn't just shove freshmen into prominent roles. There was either an injury or they earned the opportunity. It was the nature of our team last year. We had obviously lost some good players, like [Jacquizz) Rodgers, so it was open competition. Malcolm Agnew originally won it and then he had a significant hamstring and missed four or five games. We played them because we thought they were the best players and gave us the best opportunity to win. Even though we had a bad record, I liked the team. I think with that youth, they kept their spirits up and kept working hard and hopefully now it does pay off for the future.

You have 17 starters coming back and 58 players who saw time last season. What sort of dividends will that pay in the next few years?

MR: If we and the players use it correctly, it should pay great dividends. There is nothing like experience, especially if you can combine it with talent and in the offseason you can enhance your talent with good, hard physical work. When you come into spring practice, you should carry much more knowledge and much more physical preparation into the next year. That's very encouraging to me. I think we have a hard-working team. I think guys will take advantage both of their work and of their experience.

Speaking of spring ball, give us some rehab updates. Are you expecting most everyone to be ready for spring?

MR: I think we'll be very limited with a couple of guys that played a lot in the offensive line. Colin Kelly had surgery on his ankle and he won't be ready for spring. Grant Enger had surgery on his shoulder and I don't think he's going to be ready for spring. Malcolm Agnew continues to go through a specific rehab program for his hamstring. I think he will be practicing and hopefully full speed in the spring time. I think the offensive line -- we won't be deep in spring ball and that's the reason we signed seven guys in this class. I think we'll have to do a lot of individual development because I don't know what it will look like as a group in total. One good thing is Michael Philipp, who was injured and redshirted because of his injury after he started for two years, he'll be back in spring. I'm very excited about that and getting him going and hopefully he'll be a stronger, better player when we get to spring ball. We're looking at developing some new faces on the line while we wait for that class to come in.

What are your first impressions of your recruiting class?

MR: The realistic look at it is that I think it was an outstanding class in almost all ways. The disappointing factor -- we had four corners committed going into the last week. We got one of them. I'm very excited about Tyler Hasty from Bellevue, Wash. We're probably going to play Zach Robinson out of Tahlequah Ok., we're probably going to try him at corner first. He's a long body that can run. Was a real good receiver and defensive back. He might be that big corner we're looking for. But the rest of the class, I think we hit all the marks. Offensive line was a priority in recruiting and we got seven kids I'm really excited about then. Then, defensively, we needed more defensive backs in general and we signed three safeties. Nice-sized kids, good athletes. Two of them in particular played major roles as receivers. They are all around football players. Linebackers, we got two junior college linebackers which should help us right away and then we signed a couple of underclassmen that I think will be real good players down the road, Caleb Saulo and Joel Skotte. Then on offense, we just needed kind of one of each. We ended up with two tight ends I'm really excited about. Caleb Smith is a well-known prospect from the state of Washington and Dustin Stanton is not well-known, but he has tremendous potential. Big, 6-6 kid that runs well. Real good basketball player and a really good athlete for his size. We were really after one wide receiver. At the end, I thought we were going to get two. But we got Malik Gilmore and he was our first pick from the beginning. I'm really excited about Malik. Then I think we got an outstanding running back and quarterback. Kind of the bonus at the very end was we ended up signing the kicker from Arroyo Grande. Really good athlete, was a wide receiver.

I think we saw in the conference that you need kickers?

MR: Oh my gosh, no kidding. I have a great special teams coach in Bruce Read, been with me for many years here at Oregon State and then with the Chargers. He stayed in the NFL for a while and we got him back. He's a great evaluator and a great coach. We've always had some really good specialists here.

It's usually tough for offensive linemen to come in right away and play. Do you see Isaac Seumalo and or/ Garrett Weinreich being able to make an immediate impact?

MR: We're going to let them go in there and play. We know Isaac so well and he's a real talented kid. Who knows exactly where he'll go with it. But we're anticipating great things from him. As we place our group, we'll be very careful as to where we put him. He can play every position on the line. He could play center, guard or tackle. As we place our players we have to be very aware about him and everyone else. We're really excited about Stan Hasiak. He has experience starting in the conference. Coming out of high school we thought he was a really good player so we're expecting his competition right away. I also really like the talent and the tenacity of Grant Bays from Oceanside, Calif. I think physically and mentally he could fit in right away too. It's a good group.

Beavers end Cougars' 'corner turn'

October, 23, 2011
10/23/11
11:46
AM ET
It's a sportswriting cliché to take a single game, superimpose a racing metaphor on it and then assert a team is "turning the corner." The cliché part is bad enough. The near-certainty of a premature declaration is far more insidious.

On Friday, the Pac-12 blog wrote this: "Cougars, Beavers on opposite paths."

It was genius. See how it remains true on Sunday!

Only, of course, now the positions have reversed. Oregon State is turning onto a more pleasant road -- perhaps Robert Frost's "one less traveled by"? -- after a 44-21 pounding of Washington State in Seattle. And the Cougars clearly took a wrong turn on their way to Easy Street.

They may reverse again, of course. That's sports. But three consecutive losses have (again) provoked discussion about Cougars coach Paul Wulff's job status, while 376 yards and four touchdowns from Oregon State QB Sean Mannion probably have Beavers fans raising an optimistic eyebrow.

The Cougars have now lost a pair of must-win games that appeared winnable: at UCLA and against Oregon State. The only game ahead that appears to be a favorable matchup is Utah's visit to Pullman. And four wins probably won't be enough for Wulff. He's going to need an upset. Or two.

And what appeared to be a boon -- the quick healing of QB Jeff Tuel while backup Marshall Lobbestael played well in his stead -- now seems like a distraction. Tuel hasn't been sharp since returning and was knocked out of the game with a left shoulder injury of uncertain severity.

So who starts at QB at Oregon. And, really, does it matter?

As for Oregon State, it dominated both lines of scrimmage, despite missing defensive tackle Castro Masaniai and linebackers Cameron Collins and Feti Unga.

The Beavers scored on eight of nine possessions and rolled up 551 yards. RB Malcolm Agnew gave the Beavers a running game they've been lacking -- 103 of their 175 yards rushing -- and Mannion is doing more and more to justify his elevation over 2010 starter Ryan Katz.

Oregon State visits Utah on Saturday. Then the schedule's degree of difficulty ramps up considerably (Stanford, California, Washington, Oregon). The 2-5 Beavers' chances of rallying for a bowl berth are extremely remote.

But they are growing into this distinction: When matched with other desperate teams, they prevail.

On Oct. 8, they beat Arizona 37-27, and Wildcats coach Mike Stoops was fired the following Monday.

That's not going to happen with Wulff. But it's fair to say Saturday's game might be fingered in a few weeks as the moment when his tenure took a final turn.

Pac-12 lunch links: Cal having QB struggles

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
2:30
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Pac-12 lunch links: Tuel time? Or no?

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
2:30
PM ET
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

SPONSORED HEADLINES