Coming off a 9-4 campaign that saw them finish in the Top 25 for the first time since 2008, the Oregon State Beavers are facing high expectations heading into 2013. With 15 returning starters and head coach Mike Riley still in control, the forgotten team from Oregon appears ready to steal a bit of the spotlight.
Most of their top talent is back in the mix, and another year under their belts should give the Beavers the boost they need to compete in the PAC-12 North.
Here’s a look at both sides of the ball for Oregon State and how they can (or cannot) compete this upcoming season as they look to assert themselves as more than just an Oregon afterthought.
As the regular season draws near, the Beavers are still looking to figure out who will be their starting quarterback. Both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz received starts last season, and both will be looking to lock down the job before the first game. While Mannion got Oregon State off to a hot start last season, Vaz impressed when thrust into the starting role and gave the Beavers reason to consider him.
Heading into his second season as the Beavers’ starter, running back Storm Woods is in for one heck of a 2013 campaign. After falling just short as a freshman, Woods should break the 1,000-yard mark this upcoming season as he continues to assert himself as one of the PAC-12’s top ball carriers. Look for Chris Brown and Terron Ward to contribute as well.
The passing game starts and ends with wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Oregon State’s top offensive weapon. He’ll be expected to replace the production that graduate Markus Wheaton pitched in last season, but shouldn’t have too much trouble coming off a 1,000-yard year. Expect others such as Richard Mullaney and Kevin Cummings to contribute out wide while Connor Hamlett tries to help out from the tight end spot.
The offensive line returns four starters including up-and-coming center Isaac Seumalo and standout guard Grant Enger. Although the front five doesn’t boast any top-tier talent, they shouldn’t have any trouble creating big holes for Woods this upcoming season.
The defensive line will live and die with the play of defensive end Scott Crichton, one of the top pass rushers in the nation. Fellow end Dylan Wynn will accompany him in pressuring opposing quarterbacks, while transfers Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau engulf blockers in the middle. The Beavers are expected to implement a rotation, which means that other linemen such as Kyle Peko and Charlie Tuaau should also see significant snaps in 2013.
Michael Doctor, one of the Beavers’ top defenders, and D.J. Alexander will man the outsides at linebacker while Joel Skotte should take over as the starting middle linebacker. Doctor and Alexander are returning starters and will have a big impact for the Oregon State defense. If Skotte struggles to handle his new role, Josh Williams could be given a chance to fill the void.
On the backend of the defense, the Beavers return three of four starters, including standout cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, who is looking to take the next step this upcoming season. Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman return as Oregon State’s starting safeties, and should thrive with another year under both of their belts. The other cornerback spot is up for grabs, and will likely be won by Sean Martin but could also fall to JUCO transfer Steven Nelson.
As usual, the season starts off easy with a home game against Eastern Washington. Soon after, though, the battles come early and often, with a conference opener against Utah on September 14. They’ll enjoy a couple gimmes against San Diego State and Colorado the next couple of weeks until the meat of the schedule arrives.
The next two months include seven conference showdowns with top opponents such as Stanford and USC. The regular season ends with a trip to visit the Oregon Ducks, a battle that could determine the winner of the North.
Apart from Stanford and Oregon, there’s no better PAC-12 team on paper than the Beavers. Whether or not they can maintain their nation prominence in 2013, though, is still to be seen. If they can capitalize on their talent-laden roster and build on their outstanding 2012 campaign, there’s high hope for Oregon State to stick in the Top 25.