Pac-12: Michael Philipp

In typical Mike Riley fashion, when asked to name his biggest concern heading into spring ball, the dean of the conference coaches countered with a quip: “Do I have to just name one?”

[+] EnlargeStorm Woods
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsStorm Woods may be one of the keys to a more balanced attack this season.
Well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about a quarterback competition this spring. But there are several to-do’s on his checklist. Among them: Rework the offensive line, solidify the defensive line, shore up the secondary and pick a backup quarterback.

Oh, yeah: “Find a way to replace 128 catches,” he said, referring to Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks, who left school early for the NFL draft.

It’s actually the success of Cooks and quarterback Sean Mannion that led to one of Riley’s biggest pet peeves last season: the inability to successfully, consistently, run the football.

Several times last year, Riley stated that he wanted the Beavers to be more balanced. Then again, when you have a strong-armed quarterback such as Mannion and a phenomenal receiver such as Cooks, the temptation is there to air it out as much as possible.

But with Cooks gone, Riley said he’s looking to make a return to a more balanced rushing attack. In 2011, the Beavers averaged just 86 yards per game on the ground -- last in the conference. Then, in 2012, they brought that number up to a respectable 124 yards per game. But they slipped again in 2013 with just 94 yards per game on the ground.

“I think ... what caused the most problems for us in the season offensively was when we got to the real good defenses,” Riley said. “We played the top three defenses in the league three weeks in a row -- Stanford, Arizona State and USC -- and not running the ball is really a detriment to winning those games. We didn’t. We’ve got to be more balanced.”

The Beavers rushed for more than 100 yards in five of 13 games last season. In six games, they gained 74 yards or fewer, including a season-low 10 against San Diego State and 17 against Stanford. However, the final two games offered a glimpse of what Riley wants his offense to look like. The Beavers rushed for a season-high 231 yards in a Civil War loss to Oregon and 195 yards in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl victory over Boise State.

“Those were two good-looking football games offensively,” Riley said. “That is a way better picture of our ideal look. Good balance, good play-action passes. I think it really helps the offensive line. It helps the quarterback. It helps in protection if you can run the ball.”

Storm Woods and Terron Ward are already separated by an “or” on the depth chart and the status of the offensive line further complicates things. The Beavers have to replace three starters on the offensive line: left tackle Michael Philipp, left guard Josh Andrews and right guard Grant Enger. Though standout center Isaac Seumalo returns, he’ll miss spring ball with a foot injury and Josh Mitchell will miss the session with a shoulder injury. Both are expected back for fall camp. Returning tackle Sean Harlow is tentatively slated at left guard, but he’s versatile enough to move around the line and will get some snaps at center.

“You’d love to start developing the chemistry with the starting five as soon as you can,” Riley said. “Because of competition reasons and injuries, we’re not even going to be close to that in spring ball. We just have to develop players and then find out who fits into that top five.”

As for the guy who is handing the ball off, there’s no debate this spring. Mannion is back after a record-setting 2013 season. The battle to be the backup, however, is up for grabs between Brent VanderVeen and Kyle Kempt.

“It is an open competition,” Riley said. “Even though Brent is a year ahead, I think we need to let that thing evolve and let those guys compete to see who is going to be the backup.”
Spring is a time of improvement. But who is improving the most? Your bloggers debate the position groups they expect to be better in 2013.

Ted Miller: One of the most memorable images of the bowl season was Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz getting sacked by Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

It went like this: Sack, sack, sack, sack, sack, sack, sack, sack, sack. And sack.

I will now pause while all of you hassle Oregon State fans about that so we can then resume requisite decorum.

[+] EnlargeAlex Okafor
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsOregon State's offensive line gave up 10 sacks in a loss at the Alamo Bowl.
All good? Well, enjoy it now, because the Beavers aren't going to yield that sort of quarterback feast in 2013. In fact, the Beavers offensive line, which was actually vastly improved in 2012 compared to the previous fall, is going to be pretty salty this go-around.

Four of five starters are back, and there are experienced backups and a solid group of youngsters providing depth. Among those returning starters is true sophomore Isaac Seumalo, who will push Oregon's Hroniss Grasu for the title of "Pac-12's best center." He and guard Grant Enger were honorable mention All-Pac-12 last year.

That's a good start, but the best news might be that talented but mercurial left tackle Michael Philipp, who has 35 career starts, is playing "the best ball of his life" according to head coach Mike Riley. The entire unit has 88 career starts, and experienced sophomore Gavin Andrews is the frontrunner to replace Colin Kelly at right tackle.

Further, projecting improvement is logical, just based on how much better the unit was in 2012 compared to 2011, if at least we can forget the Alamo. The Beavers rushed for just 86.9 yards per game in 2011, which ranked 118th in the nation. They improved to 124.2 in 2012. In the 12 games before getting Alex Okafor'd, the Beavers yielded 23 sacks, compared to 27 in 12 games 2011.

But an offensive line looking good is often about more than the line itself, and the skill components of the offense should help the Beavers cause up front. Running back Storm Woods stepped up last year, falling just short of 1,000 yards. He'll get that total this fall, and his backup, Terron Ward, is solid. Taking another step forward in the running game will help protect whoever wins the starting quarterback job, where two veterans, Vaz and Sean Mannion, are competing.

Part of winning the quarterback job will be pocket presence. As in, get rid of the freaking football before you get sacked.

In 2011, the Beavers had one of the worst offensive lines in the Pac-12. Next fall, count on it being one of the best.

Kevin Gemmell: Sometimes, you just have to go out on a limb. So here and now, I'm declaring that Colorado's pass defense is going to be better in 2013. Bold statement? Perhaps. Well, not really.

When you consider the numbers it's really not too much of a stretch. Because they actually can't get much worse.

  • Last nationally in pass defense efficiency.
  • Last nationally in passing touchdowns allowed (39).
  • 118th out of 120 schools in interceptions (3).
  • Colorado surrendered five or more passing touchdowns four times in 2012.

But fear not, Ralphie retinues, because it's going to get better. And here's why.

Last year Kenneth Crawley took 642 snaps at cornerback -- second most ever for a Colorado true freshman. Marques Mosley took 524 -- fourth most. Yuri Wright took 310 -- 12th most. That's 1,476 snaps from true freshmen in the secondary. And with each snap -- hopefully -- they learned a little something about college football and the speed of the game.

This is a quarterback driven league. Consider some of the quarterbacks Colorado faced in 2012; Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, Matt Barkley, Marcus Mariota ... those are high-efficiency guys operating high-efficiency offenses. The end result was almost predictable when you throw three true freshmen -- just three months removed from high school -- against some of the best quarterbacks and wide receivers in the country.

Here's your diploma. Now go cover Robert Woods. It was trial by thermonuclear detonation.

But just as the ugliness of 2012 was predictable, so is the expectation of improvement in 2013. With a year of experience and a full offseason in a collegiate training program, those pups are going to get better. It's even possible that by 2014 Colorado might have the most experienced defensive backfield in the league consisting of some of the Pac-12's most feared pass defenders.

Safety Terrel Smith is the veteran of the group and behind Mosley at the other safety spot is another senior in Parker Orms. Behind Crawley are a pair of juniors -- Josh Moten and Harrison Hunter. There is a some good depth. The Buffs actually have 17 players listed as DBs on their roster. Numbers aren't the problem.

Plus there are two full-time coaches working the secondary -- Charles Clark handling the safeties and Andy LaRussa working with the cornerbacks. Both of them were with Mike MacIntyre during his San Jose State reclamation project. No one is expecting them to be a lockdown defense overnight. But with the experience gained last season, they should show respectable improvement.
Points, points, points. This is the Pac-12 after all, where offense rules. Last season, five Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 30 in scoring average. Others, however, weren't as explosive. Colorado (12th in the conference/109th nationally), Oregon State (11/100), UCLA (10/88) and Utah (9/tied for 74th) all had trouble consistently finding pay dirt. So this week we're looking at which of these four teams has the best chance to show significant offensive improvement.

Ted Miller: Oregon State’s offense was bad last year. That’s the obvious bad news. More obvious bad news: It was bad for a fundamental reason: It couldn’t run the ball, ranking 118th in the nation with just 86.9 yards per game. The end result was an offense that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (21.8 points per game) and 10th in total offense (373.7 yards per game). And while we’re being party poopers, why not note there are only eight healthy offensive linemen this spring, which makes it impossible to field a full second team?

Ah, but we come not to bury the Beavers, but to praise them! This half of the Pac-12 blog is providing Oregon State fans an iron-clad guarantee: The Beavers' offense will be better in 2012. Perhaps much better. And that’s why we believe they will win enough to earn a bowl berth after consecutive seasons at home during the postseason.

[+] EnlargeOregon State's Sean Mannion
Jim Z. Rider/US PRESSWIREOregon State quarterback Sean Mannion should see some improvement in his supporting cast as he enters his sophomore season.
Why? Let’s start in the cockpit with quarterback Sean Mannion, who won the starting job as a freshman over returning starter Ryan Katz, only to discover THE NEW CAR! he’d been given the keys to was a Pinto. With little support from a running game to keep defenses honest, Mannion threw a lot but not always successfully, ranking ninth in the conference in passing efficiency with 16 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. But two numbers are notable: First, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes and was sacked just 27 times in 473 attempts. That suggests two things. Mannion is both accurate and has good pocket presence. Accurate? That completion percentage ranked fifth in the conference, ahead of Oregon’s Darron Thomas and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler. As for pocket presence, the Beavers ranked fifth in the conference in sacks surrendered despite ranking third in pass attempts. And that was with no running game.

Mannion’s supporting cast at receiver is strong. Three of the top four receivers are back, including Markus Wheaton and speedy flanker Brandin Cooks. And essentially the entire cast at running back is back.

So, really, it comes down to the offensive line, where three starters are back, not including tackle Michael Philipp, a 2010 starter who is trying to get a once-promising career back on track. Don’t expect to hear glowing reports this spring. Tackle Colin Kelly and guard Grant Enger, both returning starters, are out with injuries, so there’s a lack of bodies. But in the fall they should be healthy just as a pair of intriguing reinforcements arrive: touted freshman Isaac Seumalo, rated the No. 19 overall player in the nation in 2012 by ESPN Recruiting, and junior-college transfer Stan Hasiak, who saw plenty of action during his tumultuous time at UCLA. Both are potential – even likely -- starters.

Mannion flashed plenty of potential in 2011. He will be far more seasoned in 2012. The offensive line will be better, too, which means at least a mediocre running game to keep defenses from pinning their ears back and going after the quarterback.

In other words, the Beavers offense will be much improved overall in 2012. Now ... about that defense ...

Kevin Gemmell: I'm glad you brought up Osweiler, because he's somewhat pertinent to the team I'm picking to improve offensively -- UCLA.

All together now: "Ding, dong, the pistol is dead." And not a half-snap too soon. Time to make way for the shotgun.

To see where the Bruins are headed on offense, you need only to look back at what Osweiler did the past two seasons with the Sun Devils -- specifically what he was able to do with Noel Mazzone running the show.

Now Mazzone is new coach Jim Mora's offensive coordinator at UCLA. I know there is a multi-quarterback competition in the works. That certainly will have some bearing. But even so, it's almost impossible for the Bruins not improve on last year's 23.1-ppg scoring average with this time-tested offense.

Consider the Sun Devils of 2009, pre-Mazzone: 90th in total offense (334.4 yards per game) and 91st in scoring average (22.3 points per game). Now, look at Mazzone's first season in 2010: 29th in total offense (425.6) and 28th in scoring average (32.2). Last year: 25th in total offense (445.8) and 28th in scoring offense (33.2).

Translation: The guy knows how to move the ball and create points.

I talked earlier this week with Brett Hundley, one of those quarterbacks in the hunt for the starting gig, he says this offense is much simpler and allows the quarterback to play more quickly and think less. Makes sense. And whoever wins the gig will have an experienced running back in Johnathan Franklin beside him. The fifth-year senior was 24 yards short of a 1,000-yard season despite an impressive 5.9 yards per carry average.

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireSophomore Brett Hundley could prove to be UCLA's most athletic option at quarterback.
But this offense is about moving the ball in the air. And finding three or four receivers to consistently perform is going to be just as important as finding the right guy standing five to seven yards behind the center. Mazzone has said he's not married to four- or five-receiver sets. So bona-fide talent Joseph Fauria should get plenty of chances to catch the ball from the tight end position. Devin Lucien, Shaq Evans and Ricky Marvray are the likely wide receiver trio. But unlike the previous offense, the receivers won't be square pegs in round holes. This offense should accentuate the speed and athleticism that UCLA always seems to have, but never knows quite what to do with it.

The Bruins were in the bottom half of the nation in sacks allowed last year, but the return of tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who is back after an LDS mission, should help bolster the line. All indications out of spring are that he looks solid. Jeff Baca and Greg Capella both saw significant playing time last season (Capella started 14 games and Baca 13), so that experience should help cut back on the sacks.

Now, to the quarterback spot. Kevin Prince has the most experience, followed by Richard Brehaut. Both are seniors. But there is a call from fans to completely cleanse themselves of the previous regime and start fresh with Hundley, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback who might be the most athletic of the bunch.

Whoever wins the job is destined for a pretty good season. Because given Mazzone's history of turning slugs into sluggers, UCLA looks like the team to drag itself up from the Pac-12's offensive cellar.

Pac-12's most intriguing players this spring

March, 22, 2012
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There are plenty of stars back in the Pac-12 this spring. And there are plenty of interesting competition and young guys about to break through.

But here's a team-by-team list of the Pac-12's most intriguing players this spring. These are guys who could be ready to emerge, redeem themselves or are simply critical for their team's success.

Arizona: LB Brian Wagner
The senior transfer was a tackling machine at Akron and he's likely to start for a rebuilding Wildcats defense. But can he keep up with Pac-12 offensive skill?

Arizona State: QB Michael Eubank
The redshirt freshman was recruited by new Sun Devils coach Todd Graham when Graham was at Pittsburgh, so Graham obviously believes Eubank has what it takes to run his no-huddle, spread offense. Impressive athlete.

California: WR Maurice Harris
The redshirt freshman is the top candidate to become the No. 2 receiver behind All-American candidate Keenan Allen.

Colorado: OT Stephane Nembot
Recruited as a defensive end, the redshirt freshman has an NFL frame -- 6-foot-8, 310 pounds -- and tons of athletic ability. He's green, but that might not stop him from earning a starting spot.

Oregon: WRs Devon Blackmon, B.J. Kelley and Tacoi Sumler
All three are redshirt freshmen. All three were touted recruits. At least one needs to step up at a position that is questionable for the Ducks.

Oregon State: OT Michael Philipp
Philipp was a touted recruit -- everybody in the Pac-12 wanted him -- and he won the starting left tackle spot as a true freshman in 2009, earning Freshman All-American honors. But, in large part due to injuries, his career has regressed. Will he take a step forward this spring? It would be huge for the Beavers if he did.

Stanford: CB Wayne Lyons
While coach David Shaw said Lyons was only about "85 percent" during the Cardinal's first of two spring sessions due to his on-going recovery from the broken foot that ruined his freshman season, Shaw also said he believes Lyons is a future All-American.

UCLA: QB Brett Hundley
While Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut both are back with significant starting experience, it wouldn't be surprising if Hundley, a redshirt freshman, won the starting job. Or at least earned playing time next fall.

USC: LB/RB Tre Madden
Madden is a beastly good athlete who is going to play on one side of the ball or the other. Maybe both. He backed up Dion Bailey at strongside LB last year, but the 6-foot, 220-pounder may end up bolstering the backfield depth.

Utah: DE Thretton Palamo
Palamo flashed potential in the running back competition last preseason, but that same athletic ability might make the 6-foot-2, 250 pounder a dangerous pass-rusher. No question about ability to tackle, seeing that he's a former rugby star.

Washington: DT Danny Shelton
The 6-1, 334-pound sophomore looks like a nice fit at nose tackle if the Huskies move to a base 3-4 with new D-coordinator Justin Wilcox. But whatever the defense is, Shelton showed signs during his true freshman season that he can be an All-Pac-12 defensive lineman.

Washington State: DE/OLB Travis Long
Long is a three-year starter at defensive end, and during that span has mostly been the Cougars' best defensive player. It's interesting, however, because new coach Mike Leach said he's intrigued with Long playing outside linebacker in a new 3-4 scheme. Can the 6-foot-4, 256-pounder make that transition work?
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.

Exiting the spring: Oregon State

April, 29, 2011
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Oregon State concludes spring practices with its spring game on Saturday. Here's a brief primer.

Spring game: The Beavers play their spring game at 3:15 p.m. -- 12:15 PDT -- at Reser Stadium.

Questions answered: With starting quarterback Ryan Katz out, backups Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion were solid to impressive. There are few worries at quarterback -- Katz is throwing after a wrist injury -- which is always good. The outside linebackers are set with Cameron Collins and Michael Doctor. The secondary, led by safety Lance Mitchell, looks solid and there's good depth behind the starting four. Kicker Trevor Romaine has been consistent and may be an immediate upgrade on Justin Kahut.

Questions unanswered: A lot of questions heading into the offseason, starting with the health of wide receiver James Rodgers, whose return is uncertain after a serious knee injury, and continuing with the uncertain seriousness of tight end Joe Halahuni's shoulder problem. Those are two big presences in the passing game. The pecking order on the offensive line, at running back and middle linebacker are far from set. Ryan McCants, Jovan Stevenson, Jordan Jenkins and the freshmen Terron Ward and Malcolm Marable are in the mix at running back. While the left side of the O-line is set, the right is not: Burke Ellis and Michael Lamb are competing at guard, and Colin Kelly and Michael Philipp at tackle. Rueben Robinson, Kevin Unga and Tony Wilson are still splitting time at middle linebacker. Further, there are questions about who will provide consistent pressure on the quarterback from the D-line.

Spring stars: Doctor is going to be a player at weak-side linebacker. The move of Dominic Glover from defensive end to defensive tackle has yielded positive results. Jordan Poyer has been solid after replacing James Dockery at cornerback opposite Brandon Hardin. Markus Wheaton was a standout at receiver, and Obum Gwacham flashed some potential at the same spot. Spring started with writers celebrating Mannion over Vaz, but things reversed by the end -- mostly because of strong play by Vaz and not anything Mannion did or didn't do.

Opening the mailbag: Poor Duckies!

December, 10, 2010
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What the heck are we supposed to do Saturday?

Follow me on Twitter.

A couple of Oregon fans talk to an SEC defense about Auburn QB Cam Newton.

Dirk from Auburn: Do you really think the Duckies can keep up with an SEC team in the national championship game. This is big boy football and the SEC is the big boys.

Ted Miller: Poor ole Duckies. I just hope they get out of Glendale alive!

If I may humbly speak for Oregon and the Pac-10, we are just grateful that the SEC has allowed the conference to step on the field -- for one shining moment! -- with the big boys.

SEC teams are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we're all really impressed over here, I can tell you that. Forgive us, for this, our dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.

Dave from Florence, Ore., writes: Ted, assuming both the Rodgers brothers are back, with Ryan Katz having a bit more experience, plus a lighter non-conference schedule, how do you see Oregon State doing next year?

Ted Miller: Not that much lighter on the ole schedule: at Wisconsin and BYU are the nonconference games (with a TBA remaining that, hopefully, won't be filled with a top-five team).

Hey, Beavers, ever thought of playing San Jose State or Utah State or New Mexico State or something?

The Beavers offense should be much improved: QB Ryan Katz in his second year, both Rodgers brothers back, a good crew of receivers and (cross your fingers) better O-line play with four starters back. A good start on the line would be a healthy Michael Philipp at guard, not tackle.

The bigger issue is defense. It loses its best players: DT Stephen Paea -- that leaves a HUGE hole in the D-line -- LBs Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey, CB James Dockery and DE Gabe Miller. No returning defensive player even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors from the coaches. The Beavers thrive when they play high-pressure defense. Where's the pressure going to come from next year? Dominic Glover? Taylor Henry? A JC transfer. We'll see.

I love Katz's upside, and James Rodgers paired with Markus Wheaton is a nice combo at receiver, but the offense may have to outscore folks, particularly early on as the defense figures itself out. Still, there is no clear No. 2 behind Oregon in the Pac-12 North. If there are some "changes" at Stanford -- goodbye Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh -- then the Beavers might even end up picked No. 2.

Owen from Palo Alto, Calif., writes: Hey Ted, a chat with many contenders for awards ran today and Andrew Luck took some questions. When asked about the draft, he said, "It's not a distraction because I'm putting it off until after the bowl game to think about it." However, when asked about the new Pac-12 alignment, he said, "It's going to be fun to have the opportunity to play Utah and Colorado now and have a championship game," and "I'm excited to have the opportunity to go play Colorado and Utah." How far should we read into this, if at all?

Ted Miller: How far? Perhaps one inch.

Luck goes to Stanford. He's smart. He knows that if a reporter asks him about next season, he's not going to go, "I haven't thought about it because I'm going to be in the NFL... oops!"

And think about it: If he indeed hasn't thought about it -- come on! -- then he should talk about next year as if he were still going to be on the Farm.

If Luck enters the draft, he almost certainly would be the No. 1 overall pick. He's a franchise NFL QB in the grand sense of the word (and his character, humility and social skills -- he's a funny guy -- will take him far as the "face" of a franchise).

I'd rate his chances of returning at about three percent.

Pierce from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Given the injury to Tuinei and Huff filling in, I count at least 7 starters for the Oregon offense, 8 if you want to count a combination of Weems, York, and Asper, who have all started and played at both tackle and guard.I also count at the very least 6 returning starters: Turner, Kaddu, Harris, Gildon, Boyett, and Pleasant. The Oregon depth chart also notes that Dion Jordan and Wade Keliikipi have registered starts on the D-Line. Onto the question. Do you think that because of the pace of Oregon and the necessity of substitutions that basing predictions based on returning starters is something to be leery of?

Ted Miller: "Official" returning starters started at least five games, so Weems could be considered a returning starter. But, as I said, when I calculated returning starters, I was looking at end-of-season depth charts and not working my way through those calculations -- or factoring in injuries.

Yes, returning starters isn't a foolproof way to measure teams, particularly when a team -- such as Oregon -- plays a lot of guys. Nonetheless, we have to make distinctions.

And, for example, losing Brandon Bair and Kenny Rowe -- the Ducks two best D-linemen -- is a blow. They are proven, productive guys. Sure, their backups saw action. But let me put it this way. Can you name them right now?

Raymond from Tucson writes: Arizona loses two coaches to Colorado:From a Fans perspective which also means its an outsiders perspective. Can I blame coaches for leaving the spastic and over the top personality of Mike Stoops? How much can an adult take of child like antics?Arizona players have been quoted to say Stoops over-charged, in your face, ready to explode behavior gets them pumped-up. I wonder if the coaching staff shares the same perspective? Cool Hand Luke type coaches over the years have displayed poker face and chess like thinking behavior with great success. Tom LaundryBill WalshTony Dungy.I dont expect Coach Stoops to act like the list above because its not in his nature. But it would be nice to see some self control to possibly eliminate sideline confusion.If I see the confusion so does the opposing team.

Ted Miller: Yes, Mike Stoops is very animated on the sidelines. He seemed more animated this year than last, and more than a few times he probably wishes he had been less animated.

Does Stoops' hyperkinetic way on the sidelines bother some Arizona fans? Yes. Do I think athletic director Greg Byrne wishes Stoops would chill a bit? Yes. Does Stoops intensity bother some of his assistant coaches? Maybe, though it's not like football coaches are a bunch of shrinking violets.

If Stoops asked my opinion, I'd say he might want to ratchet it back a bit. But, to be honest, I find it entertaining. It's sorta his thing. Like I said: It bothers some folks a little. And it bothers some a lot.

But on the list of things college coaches do that are bad, I'd rate rate Stoops' sideline behavior somewhere in the mid-90s, two or three notches below below a coach talking about himself in the third person.

John from Oregon writes: Now that all the bowl games are set, say the Cam Newton is found guilty and is suspended. and if they punish not only Newton, but Auburn too and make them forfeit their wins, then who would be playing for the National Championship? Would they leave it and claim Oregon as the Champion?

Ted Miller: Don't worry. This won't happen.

The NCAA made a quick ruling that Newton is eligible. The larger investigation will take months. And months.

Tyler from Tucson writes: Why, oh why, did the Wildcats' DE Ricky Elmore not make the 1st Team All-Pac-10 Defense team?

Jake from Midland, Texas writes: What's the deal with the snub of Washington State WR Marquess Wilson for Pac-10 offensive Freshman of the Year?

Ted Miller: Two of my toughest choices, and I've had some post-decision regret over USC's Robert Woods over Marquess Wilson.

With Elmore, who would you kick off my D-line? He started fast and had a long lull before playing well vs. Arizona State. What clinched it was the coaches picking fellow Wildcats DE Brooks Reed ahead of Elmore. I'd probably rate them No. 5 and No. 6 among my D-linemen.

As for Wilson: I saw Woods a lot this year. He's really impressive. I didn't see as much of Wilson. That made a difference. While Wilson's numbers were better as a receiver, Woods was pushed over the top by his work returning kicks.

Am I certain that I wouldn't pick Wilson over Woods if I did the team again Saturday? No.

But Cougars fans should want Wilson to be angry about the slight. That should motivate him during the offseason.

Andrew from Portland writes: I'm traveling to the Natty with a bunch of friends and fellow Duck alum. For all of us that have never been to the Glendale/Phoenix area, can you put together a little travel guide for us since you're a resident of the area? Specifically, can you tell me (1) what area to book a hotel (I've heard that Scottsdale is the way to go, even though it's somewhat far from the stadium), (2) what bars/nightlife to go to, and (3) restaurants to eat at?

Ted Miller: I live in North-North Scottsdale, near Cave Creek and Carefree. That's a ways from Glendale. And the wife and I don't get out much because The Lord of Miller Manor just turned two, and he yells a lot -- he makes Stoops look like he's asleep.

The good news about our location: We are a short drive from the best restaurant in the state of Arizona: Binkley's. It's a special event sort of place -- if you run into Phil Knight and he says, "Hey, can I buy you dinner?" This is where you go.

Even closer to Miller Manor: Spotted Donkey. Really enjoy that place. Down south in civilization, we've had good luck with these guys. I haven't been here yet, but it's high on the to-go list. This is good nuts and bolts Mexican, and you might run into a bunch of sportswriters -- this guy and this guy always go there. These guys offer good steaks and their Ocean Club -- part of the chain -- is good for seafood and a cool scene. This place is old school Phoenix.

If I were coming to town, I would stay near downtown Scottsdale -- it's where all the cool stuff happens. Good restaurants and bars. Good scene.

Here's a entry from the preseason -- a fan survey of best restaurants and bars around the Pac-10 -- though a couple of Arizona State fans were later critical of it.

Hope this gets you started. By the way, it's 71 degrees today.

Brrrr.

Grant from Claremont, Calif., writes: Great article on Chip Kelly!

Daniel from Eugene, Ore., writes: I was wondering why you didn't include this story in your lunchtime links? It's a brief little article about DJ Davis' tribute to Declan Sullivan from the Civil War. Considering the bad pub that a lot of our players got after the Rose Bowl last years (and rightfully so), it's nice to see stories about the good things our players do as well.

Mudpuppy from Eugene writes: You should check out the myth of Auburn's size advantage posted by our friends at Addicted to Quack.

Ted Miller: All three worth noting.

Lunch links: Is Prince as good as Barkley?

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
2:30
PM ET
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

Opening camp: Oregon State

August, 8, 2010
8/08/10
10:00
AM ET
Oregon State opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Eight starters on offense, seven on defense and both specialists.

Big names: RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR James Rodgers, DT Stephen Paea, K Justin Kahut

What's new: The Beavers coaching staff returns intact under coach Mike Riley. The Beavers will be breaking in a new QB in sophomore Ryan Katz.

Key competition: Tony Wilson leads the competition at middle linebacker with Rueben Robinson and Kevin Unga. Burke Ellis leads a competition to fill the right guard spot, the lone void on the offensive line. The depth is uncertain at running back. Who's the No. 1 alternative at WR to Rodgers? Darrell Catchings, Markus Wheaton or Jordan Bishop.

Breaking out: DE Gabe Miller flashed signs over the spring that he can be a threat as a pass rusher. Unheralded CB James Dockery might become more heralded this year. H-back Joe Halahuni might be ready to be known for more than his amusing tweets. OT Michael Philipp figures to be better after going from touted recruit to wide-eyed true freshman starter in 2009. The big-armed Katz has tremendous upside.

Quote: Riley on Katz: “Ability-wise, he has a wonderful arm. He can throw all the passes. He is pretty much unflappable, so I don’t think he’ll be intimidated by anything. He has two years of experience in the program. The transition always provides a mystery. Jacquizz (Rodgers) and the guys are going to have to give Ryan a lot of support, but he’s going to be good.”

Notes: Two returning defensive starters quit the team, middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi and defensive end Matt LaGrone... Outside linebacker Keith Pankey ruptured an Achilles tendon in February but is apparently ready to return to full-speed action in fall camp... JC transfer Dominic Glover, a former Oregon Duck, is expected to bolster the depth at defensive end... Peter Lalich, a Virginia transfer and the the likely backup QB, was dismissed in May after being arrested for a boating DUI... The Beavers were picked third in the preseason Pac-10 media poll and were ranked 22nd in the coaches poll.

A-list position battles: Oregon State

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
3:30
PM ET
Fifth in a series taking a look at top position competitions this fall.

Oregon State: Offensive guard

Why the competition? Right guard Gregg Peat is the only 2009 starter not back on the Beavers offensive line, but the only certainties after spring practices are Alex Linnenkohl at center and Mike Remmers at right tackle.

Candidates: Sophomore Michael Philipp (6-3, 307), Grant Johnson (6-3, 280), Burke Ellis (6-4, 280), Colin Kelly (6-4, 285), Ryan Pohl (6-3, 284) and Michael Lamb (6-3, 282).

The skinny: The easy way for this to go is four starters return to their 2009 spots and Ellis and Kelly compete for the starting job at right guard. But the Beavers are looking for their best five guys, and that might mean some shuffling. So does Philipp stay at left tackle, where he started as a true freshman, or does he move inside to left guard because of how well Wilder McAndrews played this spring while Philipp sat out with a knee injury? And does McAndrews, after a career that almost ended because of hand and wrist injuries, stay healthy? Second, does Johnson, a returning starter at left guard who missed spring after shoulder surgery, then move to the right side to compete with Ellis and Kelly? Or will someone else emerge? McAndrews is the wild card. If he's one of the best five, then things will shuffle. If Philipp is back at tackle, then right guard is the only hot spot.

Oregon State spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
8:30
AM ET
OREGON STATE

2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 6-3 (tied for second)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR James Rodgers, C Alex Linnenkohl, DT Stephen Paea, DE Gabe Miller, LB Dwight Roberson, CB James Dockery

Key losses: QB Sean Canfield, LB Keaton Kristick, LB David Pa'aluhi, DE Matt LaGrone

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Jacquizz Rodgers* (1,440)

Passing: Sean Canfield (3,271)

Receiving: James Rodgers* (1,034)

Tackles: Keaton Kristick (95)

Sacks: Stephen Paea*, Gabe Miller* (3)

Interceptions: Lance Mitchell* (3)

Spring Answers

1. Cool Katz: Sophomore Ryan Katz entered the spring as the favorite to win the quarterback job and he didn't disappoint. He has a big arm and good mobility. All he is missing is experience. He'll enter fall camp as the clear leader, while Peter Lalich and Cody Vaz compete for the backup job.

2. There are plenty of offensive weapons: Everything starts with the Rodgers brothers, running back Jacquizz and receiver James, but it doesn't end there. Receivers Markus Wheaton and Jordan Bishop and tight end/H-Back Joe Halahuni will give Katz plenty of options when he distributes the football.

3. Solid in the secondary: The Beavers will be experienced -- not to mention big -- in the secondary, with three starters back from 2009 and all four first-teamers measuring over 6-feet. James Dockery and 6-foot-2, 219-pound Brandon Hardin are the corners, while Lance Mitchell, 230-pound Cameron Collins and Suaesi Tuimaunei have combined for 29 starts at safety.

Fall questions

1. Front seven issues: Taylor Henry stepped up at defensive end after Matt LaGrone quit the team, but what's unclear is if he can hold off touted JC transfer Dominic Glover as the starter. Things also are fluid at linebacker. Will Keith Pankey be 100 percent by fall camp after missing spring with a torn Achilles tendon? Will Tony Wilson or Rueben Robinson step in at middle linebacker?

2. How will the offensive line shake out? Starters Grant Johnson and Michael Philipp missed spring with injuries, which forced line coach Mike Cavanaugh to do some mixing and matching. The good news was the re-emergence of tackle Wilder McAndrews, who almost quit due to persistent wrist problem. It's possible that McAndrews could take over at left tackle and Philipp could move inside to guard. Then Johnson and Burke Ellis could compete at the other guard.

3. Who is Katz’s backup? The story of spring might have been Katz's impressive effort, but Vaz also deserves note. His rise is more about how well he played than Lalich not producing. Considering how often a backup quarterback is needed, this will be an interesting competition to follow during fall camp.

Opening the mailbag: Impressions of spring

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
3:10
PM ET
Got bogged down on Friday, so this mailbag fermented over the weekend.

To the notes.

Jason from the Bay Area writes: So having seen most of the Pac-10 this spring, what are your impressions?

Ted Miller: Obviously, we'll have more on this going forward with a spring wrapup, but here are some quick hits.

  • My top three remain: USC, Oregon and Oregon State.
  • Every team has significant questions. It doesn't seem like there's a national title contender.
  • USC's defensive line is going to be strong, and I think the Trojans will again rank among the nation's elite in defense in 2010.
  • That's why I favor the Trojans at present. That and QB Matt Barkley appearing ready to take a significant step forward.
  • Washington's offense is going to be very good if the O-line stays healthy.
  • UCLA's and Arizona State's offenses will be better.
  • Arizona is a top-25 team if it gets solid play at linebacker, but that's a significant "if."
  • Washington State is the clear choice for No. 10, but the Cougars will not be the patsies of 2008 and 2009.
  • You could throw Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA and Washington into a hat and randomly pick their order and probably be as accurate as what you'll read among preseason predictions from publications and pundits.

At this point, 2010 looks to be a black-and-blue season. Hard to imagine the eventual champion going undefeated in league play. Things might end up like last year, when the conference had a lot of ranked teams, just none near the top of the polls.

Scott from Palo Alto writes: Let's put Andrew Luck in perspective to help jog readers' memories... very few turnovers... back-to-back victories over Oregon and USC. Did we mention he was a mere freshman? I think you have to be amazed by Luck overall and I'm sorry but Stanford vs. Oregon was not a game for the defensive-minded. We put the pedal to the medal and outscored them when they were considered the hottest team around.

Ted Miller: No question Luck looks like a budding star after leading the Pac-10 in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman. He looks, at this point, like a future first-round NFL draft pick. Perhaps a top-10 pick. Or higher.

We've already discussed the possibility of him and Jake Locker battling for the top spot in the 2011 NFL draft.

However -- you knew that was coming -- any quarterback will tell you having the nation's best running back vexing a defense makes it easier to throw the ball. Toby Gerhart rushed for 1,871 yards and 28 TDs last fall. Every defender Luck threw against was leaning forward on its toes thinking one thing: "Gerhart... hope he runs to the other side."

Luck is in luck that he's got almost his entire receiving corps back and the Cardinal offensive line should again be solid. There is no reason he can't be an elite QB in a conference loaded with elite QBs.

Still, don't take for granted a blockbuster season. It's possible that it will take time for the Cardinal offense to reinvent itself with Gerhart off the the NFL.

Nick from Washington D.C. writes: I have been a Duck fan for most of my life and growing up in Portland, it always felt like we were the dark horse... My question is this: Has Chip Kelly turned the corner? Even with all the haywire crazy that is the athletic department, are we now a legitimate year in year out contender?

Ted Miller: Oregon has won nine or more games six times over the past 10 seasons. And during that decade, it suffered only one losing season.

The Ducks are no longer darkhorses. They are perennial contenders, a second-tier power rating a step below programs such as Texas, USC, Florida and Ohio State.

If your question is will the Ducks make that next step and become an equal to those schools, my guess would be no, not on an annual basis.

Why? Start with population base. Those four schools have huge head starts in recruiting.

Moreover, what's the common denominator for nearly all BCS football champions? Big Stadiums. The only team that won a BCS title that doesn't play in front of home crowds of 80,000-plus is Miami, which is smack-dab in the middle of prime recruiting real estate.

That doesn't mean Oregon can't regularly beat the superpowers and contend for a national title every few years. They've proven they can.

The program's momentum under Kelly, despite the recent bad off-field news, is clearly positive. The distance between what the program was in the "old days" and present is significant.

So, yeah, Oregon has turned the corner. What benchmark challenges are ahead? Win a Rose Bowl in the modern era. Or a national title.

Bill from Oakland writes: Why is it that when an offense/defense performs well in a Spring Game all the talk is about how the other side of the ball struggled and not about how good the offense/defense may be? It happened with Cal and their defense performing well and with Oregon and their defense performing well too. Is it all about perspective and expectations? With both Cal and Oregon their offenses were thought to have some issues (Cal more than Oregon) so is it just everyone saying I knew that would be a problem, instead of looking at the possibility that maybe the defenses are good?

Ted Miller: Well, obviously when a team is scrimmaging against itself any success on one side of the ball means failure on the other.

Still, it's not that difficult to figure out if a unit is playing poorly or is simply getting beat by outstanding opposing talent.

For example on offense: penalties, missed receivers, unblocked defenders, fumbles, dropped passes, a QB with happy feet not seeing open receivers, etc. Those sorts of things indicate a poor offensive performance.

Same thing for defense: penalties, wide-open receivers, missed tackles, multiple explosion plays, huge holes through the line, etc. Those sorts of things indicate a poor defensive performance.

Moreover, a person can make distinctions. If Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea whips an opposing offensive lineman one-on-one, you sort of go: "Well, Paea's a beast." But if you see a starting offensive tackle getting whipped by a junior what's-his-name defensive end, you might wonder how he'll do against, say, Ricky Elmore or Nick Perry.

Michael from Houston writes: I think that a lot of Oregon State fans are tired of reading about how dominant our defensive line looks. Last spring and fall, I constantly took in all the stories I could about how dominant the defensive line looked, yet we all know how poorly the sack total was for the defense last year. So here we are again with a new year, but with the same stories of dominance by the D-Line. At this point, I'm having a real hard time buying into this idea. I sorta feel like it's déjà vu all over again. Is it truly possible to get a good take on a position (O-Line, D-Line, Secondary, etc) from Spring reports?

Ted Miller: The Beavers defensive line looks like a bunch of petunias.

Feel better?

Well, see above for some explanation. Does a dominate D-line suggest a weak O-line during spring? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the woods, will it leave?

My impression from my one day at Oregon State is both Beavers lines should be better in 2010 than 2009. Paea is the Pac-10's best defensive tackle and end Gabe Miller looks poised for a breakout. Obviously, the D-line would be better if end Matt LaGrone didn't quit and the O-line will look better when it gets some guys back who are sitting out spring with injuries, including tackle Michael Philipp and guard Grant Johnson.

It's possible, in fact, that the D-line looks so good because the O-line is beaten up.

But to your final question: You really don't know how good a team is until it plays a real game. And recent history has taught us that Oregon State often takes four or five games to find itself anyway.

Jacob from Myrtle Point, Ore., writes: Ted Miller, pardon my informality, but you are the man!! This blog has kept me sane throughout the offseason, especially as a Duck fan. One quick question for you: can you use your powers to talk either Oregon or Oregon State into putting its Spring Game later/earlier in the day on May 1!? I know that the UO game is scheduled on ESPN2, and I could TIVO it and go to the OS game, but it just isn't the same! I could go to the first part of the Beaver scrimmage then fly (no pun intended) up I-5 for the Duck game, but that really takes a hit on beverage choice. Miller, I ask your professional advice!! What should I do!?!?

Ted Miller: No, you're the man.

Couple of ideas. First, you could replicate yourself. Not only could you be in two places at one time, but you could make a third and force him to be the designated driver.

You could buy a helicopter. Or a jet.

You could hire the Flash to carry you back and forth.

As for my professional take: It's my responsibility to recommend against seeing both games, particularly if you plan to wear Ducks colors at Reser Stadium.

But your obsessiveness is certainly admirable.

Riley's ambition resides in Corvallis

April, 16, 2010
4/16/10
10:29
AM ET
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Ambition and wealth called Mike Riley on a Saturday in January and asked if he wanted to leave Oregon State and take the scepter of the nation's pre-eminent football power, the USC Trojans.

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
AP Photo/Don RyanMike Riley left Oregon State once before, and he learned that the grass is not always greener in the larger spotlight.
The pitch, one could imagine, included talk of national and Pac-10 championships. There was music ("Fight on!" and "Tribute to Troy"). And dance (Song Girls!). And money (surely more than double the million bucks Riley made annually in Corvallis).

It was a tempting offer. This was an opportunity, perhaps the last, for the 56-year-old to stand on top of the coaching mountain and see what the view looks like.

But he politely said, "No thanks."

"One thing I've learned is that if you are going to teach loyalty, you've got to live it," he said. "I told my wife that I didn't think I could look in the mirror after what I've told our team, how I've recruited here. I don't think I could leave. It wouldn't be a good picture. There was really no way I could leave."

Understand: There's nothing wrong with ambition. This is the United States of America. We like ambition here. The juvenile caterwauling when Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for USC? Yawn. Kiffin got a better job and a raise. End of story.

And yet there's something undeniably charming about a guy like Riley -- perhaps the friendliest, most accommodating guy in big-time football coaching -- saying no to La-La land to stay in the rainy Willamette Valley and continue leading his overachieving program.

Of course, you've read this before. Oregon fans are rolling their eyes. Yes, reporters sometimes get a kick out of a coach who sits down for a 15-minute interview about his football team and a wide-ranging, 45-minute chat about just about anything breaks out.

Riley himself steers the conversation toward the foundation of his loyalty to Oregon State: a hard lesson he had to learn. Ambition and wealth called from Southern California a decade ago and he said yes. Riley jilted the Beavers -- and left the small town where he grew up -- just as he was leading them out of the college football morass and became the San Diego Chargers' head coach in 1999.

He went 14-34 before being fired. I covered his last game. He was extremely polite and open with reporters asking him if he was about to be canned.

"I really appreciate Oregon State people who still come up to me and say, 'Thanks for staying.' That means a lot to me because I have left before," Riley said. "I've been around the block. I know who we are and I know the grass is not always greener. I haven't forgotten that Oregon State gave me a renewed opportunity here."

That came in 2003 when Dennis Erickson left Corvallis for an ill-fated "promotion" to the San Francisco 49ers, a decision that Erickson still offers as the worst move of a career that featured many.

Since Riley returned, the Beavers, a program that only broke a streak of 28 seasons without a winning record in 1999, have played in six bowl games and won five. He's become the program's second all-time winningest coach with 64 victories. In 2008, he won Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors after the Beavers handed USC its only loss of the season, an epic 27-21 win in Corvallis that prevented the Trojans from playing for then-coach Pete Carroll's third national title.

After USC called following Carroll's jump to the Seattle Seahawks, Riley signed a three-year contract extension with Oregon State that runs through the 2019 season. It essentially functions as a life-time deal -- "I've always fought for years more than money," he said.

He also fought for raises for his staff, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the Pac-10.

The past two seasons, Riley and his Beavers finished tied for second in the conference. This past year, the Beavers played the annual Civil War against rival Oregon with the Rose Bowl as the winner-takes-all stakes. The Beavers haven't played in a Rose Bowl since 1965.

The Ducks prevailed 37-33.

"I want to show you something," Riley says as he fires up film of that game.

The Beavers, down four, have the ball and are driving. It's a third-and-9 play from Oregon's 21-yard line in the fourth quarter. There's no sound on the video but everyone knows the din at Autzen Stadium. And that din likely is the reason that freshman offensive tackle Michael Philipp is slow out of his stance as the ball is snapped, which results in super-quick Ducks end Kenny Rowe getting a half-second head start that's impossible to overcome. Rowe swallows quarterback Sean Canfield for a sack and 6-yard loss.

Riley hits pause. "Look at that!" he says. Beavers receiver Jordan Bishop, who lined up in the slot to Canfield's left, is standing alone in the endzone, no Duck anywhere near him.

Riley is smiling, though. It's not easy to get to the Rose Bowl.

USC has been to 33 and won 24, which is 10 more victories than any other Pac-10 team has Rose Bowl appearances.

"We know the vantage point we come from here is never going to be easy," Riley said.

But then Riley starts talking about spring practices and his 2010 team and he gets excited.

He's in his element. He's content. His wealth and ambition just happen to reside in Corvallis.

OSU OT Philipp suffers knee injury

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
8:33
PM ET
Oregon State's offensive line took a hit this week when starting left tackle Michael Philipp injured his left knee and now may miss the rest of spring practices.

Philipp will have his knee scoped on Wednesday, according to The Oregonian.

As a true freshman, Philipp started all 13 games as the Beavers left tackle and earned a number of freshmen All-American honors.

The offensive line already was missing starting guard Grant Johnson (shoulder).

Timi Oshinowo, who missed the 2009 season with a knee injury -- an injury that pushed Philipp into the lineup -- will step in for Philipp. Starting right tackle Mike Remmers might see some action there as well, as could Wilder McAndrews, who is trying to come back from a long-term wrist problem.

Pac-10 Q&A: OSU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, Part II

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
9:00
AM ET
Part II of our chat with Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.

Read Part I here.

The Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James: They do so much. Can they do any more?

DL: It's really a challenge to try to find different ways to get them the ball. I think they can, though. I think they both are becoming masters of what they do. They are continuing to work on running routes and catching the ball. I think through pretty extensive offseason study of our running game, we can find some things that Quizz could do better in terms of some of his reads and how he runs some particular plays that we have. James I know has concentrated on running better routes and being more consistent catching the ball. So I think they have more improvement ahead of them. At the same time, we have to continue to find ways to get them the ball because they are so dangerous with it in their hands.

Other than those two: Who are your big playmakers?

DL: Markus Wheaton is playing the 'X' position right now and he has got a lot of talent. He can really run. He was a talented high school player and a great recruit for us. We're looking for some big things from him. I think our line is very solid -- we've got a veteran group there and are only losing one off of that. We've got to find some depth up front. We've got to find a little more depth at the flanker and receiver position behind James. We've got a couple of guys in mind who are battling that out. I like how our tight ends have played. Joe Halahuni had a good season last year but was kind of a part-time player for us. He only played about 50 percent of the snaps. We've got to get more production out of him as a blocker. I think he's a talented receiver right now but he's got to improve as a blocker. But he's a pretty exciting player for us. We've got some weapons I believe we can do some fun stuff with.

You mention the line with four of five starters back: Where do you expect to see the most improvement?

DL: I think our tackles [junior Mike Remmers and sophomore Michael Philipp] are good players and I think they have a ton of improving to do. They are solid guys and they are young. Remmers has continually improved and has a chance to be outstanding. He has put on weight and gotten a lot stronger in the weight room. He was already an athletic kid, but he came on toward the end of last year and really became a stand-out player for us. We're really looking for him to continue on that path, as well as Philipp, who was a freshman All-American, but at the same time has a lot of work to do and a lot of growing up to do. Michael has gotten some accolades already but we feel like there's a lot of improvement for him still to continue to work on. If he does and he follows through, he could be an outstanding one, too. So those two bookend tackles, they are talented but that potential is only as good as they want to make it. The challenge for them is to work on their trade to become better players.

So what do you think about your new quarterback -- either Ryan Katz or Peter Lalich -- playing two of his first three games on the road vs. top-10 teams [TCU on Sept. 4 in Cowboys Stadium and at Boise State on Sept. 25]?

DL: That's not totally ideal [laughs]. It's going to be tough. I don't think there's a whole lot more pressure just because they're playing on the road. I think it's just that they're new. It would be the same amount of pressure if they were playing at home. But obviously noise is going to be a factor and some things they haven't experienced a lot of yet. That's a little disconcerting. But I think they are pretty poised guys and confident players. We've got to try to get them into situations and put some pressure on both of them to get them used to that atmosphere. That will be key once we get into fall camp especially.

You guys averaged 32 points and 411 yards per game last year: Can this crew improve those numbers with a new QB?

DL: I think so. The quarterback position will be a vital spot. He's got to be able to manage the offense and spread the ball around and get the ball into our playmakers hands. That will be a big deal. But we do have a lot of weapons and a veteran line. If we can improve in the run game, I think that will take some pressure off the quarterback. And, at the same time, we have some weapons on the perimeter. So if we can get the ball to Quizz in the run and pass game and we can get it to our weapons outside in our passing game and our tight end, we should be just fine. Like I said, if we can do a good job of running the ball, I think all that stuff plays out. It helps the play-action game. I think the scheme comes alive. Being versatile and not just relying on one thing. Being multi-dimensional will help the quarterback with what we are trying to do.

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