Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. Welcome back, Beavers
To the fans of teams like Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, maybe Virginia Tech, and other schools that have made a recent habit of taking lower-ranked recruits and producing higher-level results before fading in 2012, know this: There is hope. If Oregon State can bounce back from a mighty stumble, so can your team.
In 2007, Oregon State's defense ranked sixth in the country in Def. F/+. In 2011, it ranked 70th. In 2009, the Beavers' offense ranked 13th in Off. F/+; in 2011, it ranked 100th. Overall, OSU had ranked as high as 20th in the F/+ rankings (2010), had played at a nearly elite level on both sides of the ball rather recently, and had won between five and 10 games for 13 straight years going back to the first Mike Riley era in Corvallis.
But the wheels came flying off in 2011; a mixture of youth and injuries caused the Beavers to plunge to 3-9 and 88th. As I put it in last year's team preview, "one would have expected [head coach Mike] Riley's program to have a higher floor than that." It was alarming.
It was easy to expect a small rebound in 2012, really. Oregon State was healthy and quite a bit more experienced. But in an improving Pac-12, it was difficult to see the Beavers rebounding too terribly much in the standings, at least immediately.
But Riley had other ideas. His offense and defense both improved to top-25 levels, and his squad produced elite talent at receiver (Markus Wheaton, Brandin Cooks), defensive end (Scott Crichton), and cornerback (Jordan Poyer). Beyond that, however, the improvement in depth, which emerged directly from 2011's problems, was staggering. The offensive line was only decent, and there wasn't much of a pass rush beyond Crichton, but in a single season Oregon State went from nearly down-and-out to strong again. And after winning just eight combined games in 2010-11, the Beavers won nine in 2012.
Two of the four above stars are gone, but the depth that carried Oregon State in 2012 could do so again this fall. It can be done, Hawkeyes, Tigers, Razorbacks, Hokies, etc.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 18|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|8-Sep||Wisconsin||10-7||W||23.8 - 11.0||W|
|22-Sep||at UCLA||27-20||W||32.6 - 25.1||W|
|29-Sep||at Arizona||38-35||W||35.5 - 31.2||W|
|6-Oct||Washington State||19-6||W||21.4 - 21.5||L|
|13-Oct||at BYU||42-24||W||56.3 - 23.1||W|
|20-Oct||Utah||21-7||W||22.2 - 19.4||W|
|27-Oct||at Washington||17-20||L||33.6 - 23.0||W|
|3-Nov||Arizona State||36-26||W||34.7 - 14.8||W|
|10-Nov||at Stanford||23-27||L||33.1 - 40.5||L|
|17-Nov||California||62-14||W||42.9 - 22.5||W|
|24-Nov||Oregon||24-48||L||33.1 - 27.9||W|
|1-Dec||Nicholls State||77-3||W||35.7 - 39.3||L|
|29-Dec||vs. Texas||27-31||L||18.9 - 19.5||L|
|Points Per Game||32.5||37||20.6||22|
|Adj. Points Per Game||32.6||36||24.5||33|
2. A late-season fade (that didn't really matter)
As good as last season was for Oregon State, it was close to being even better; three of the Beavers' four losses came away from home by four points or fewer. And if the defense hadn't faded late in the year, the Beavers might have taken home a win over Stanford.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 8 games): OSU 32.5, Opponent 21.3 (plus-11.2)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): OSU 32.7, Opponent 29.9 (plus-2.8)
In all, even if Oregon State had beaten both Washington and Stanford, there was no beating Oregon, which means there was no winning the Pac-12 North. (And in a way, the losses helped one thing -- if the Beavers beat Stanford, then their rival Ducks win the Pac-12 North.) OSU missed out on a better bowl, but that's down the list of complaints. The bigger issue is figuring out why the defense regressed by about eight points late in the year.
|Q1 Rk||28||1st Down Rk||18|
|Q2 Rk||17||2nd Down Rk||17|
|Q3 Rk||18||3rd Down Rk||67|
3. A little-league offense
Here's where I call offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf's approach a little-league offense and mean it in the best possible way. Everybody gets to touch the ball.
Running back Storm Woods had 192 carries and 51 pass targets. Backup running backs Terron Ward and Malcolm Agnew got 131 carries and 19 targets. Markus Wheaton had 140 targets and 20 carries. Brandin Cooks had 97 targets and 19 carries. In 2012, Oregon State had three players getting at least eight touches per game, two more getting at least five, and three more getting at least two. This distribution is certainly common with pass-first offenses, but OSU was, and has for a while been, quite creative in the ways it goes about getting the ball to its stars. Now the Beavers just need to figure out how to run the ball a little better, especially in Wheaton's absence.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Sean Mannion||6'5, 214||Jr.||**** (5.8)||200||309||2,446||64.7%||15||13||12||3.7%||7.3|
|Cody Vaz||6'1, 202||Sr.||*** (5.5)||109||185||1,480||58.9%||11||3||22||10.6%||6.3|
|Brent VanderVeen||6'4, 217||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
4. Everybody loves a QB race, right? … Right?
As a freshman in 2011, Sean Mannion held his own, completing 65 percent of his passes and avoiding sacks reasonably well. A four-star recruit, Mannion was the presumptive starter in 2012 and did perfectly well, but when he got hurt, backup Cody Vaz took over and held his own as well. Mannion had a higher completion rate and averaged a yard better per attempt, but his interception rate (nearly four percent in two years) is too high for comfort; Vaz, meanwhile, is much better at avoiding killer mistakes but takes a lot of sacks -- and yes, the 10 sacks in the bowl game versus Texas devastated his average, but it was still more than twice as high as Mannion's before Texas -- and doesn't move the ball downfield as well.
Mannion is higher-risk, higher-reward at this point, and it appears that, after each recuperated from injuries this offseason (Mannion had a knee injury, Vaz an ankle injury), neither seized outright control of the job.
My gut says Mannion wins the job once again this year, but the picks are a problem, and it does bear mentioning that, in games in which Vaz was the primary signal-caller, OSU's per-game Adj. Points average was higher (33.5 for Vaz, 31.8 for Mannion). Whoever wins this race before the season begins will have to keep winning this race as the season unfolds.
Cody Vaz. Steve Dykes, Getty.
|Storm Woods||RB||6'0, 197||So.||*** (5.5)||192||940||4.9||3.5||13||-1.1|
|Terron Ward||RB||5'7, 200||Jr.||*** (5.6)||68||415||6.1||6.4||6||+8.1|
|Brandin Cooks||FL||5'10, 181||Jr.||**** (5.8)||19||82||4.3||4.4||0||-0.5|
|Tyler Anderson||FB||5'10, 211||Jr.||NR||13||51||3.9||6.3||3||-1.4|
|Cody Vaz||QB||6'1, 202||Sr.||*** (5.5)||6||6||1.0||3.5||0||-1.7|
|Sean Mannion||QB||6'5, 214||Jr.||**** (5.8)||6||4||0.7||3.1||0||-2.1|
|Chris Brown||RB||5'10, 198||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Damien Haskins||RB||5'9, 213||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Brandin Cooks||FL||5'10, 181||Jr.||**** (5.8)||97||68||1160||70.1%||12.0||20.6%||58.8%||12.0||161.8|
|Storm Woods||RB||6'0, 197||So.||*** (5.5)||51||38||313||74.5%||6.1||10.8%||54.9%||6.2||43.7|
|Connor Hamlett||HB||6'7, 264||Jr.||** (5.3)||40||32||403||80.0%||10.1||8.5%||52.5%||10.2||56.2|
|Kevin Cummings||SLOT||6'1, 180||Sr.||*** (5.5)||27||18||208||66.7%||7.7||5.7%||40.7%||8.1||29.0|
|Terron Ward||RB||5'7, 200||Jr.||*** (5.6)||18||10||79||55.6%||4.4||3.8%||27.8%||2.8||11.0|
|Richard Mullaney||SE||6'3, 192||So.||*** (5.6)||15||12||142||80.0%||9.5||3.2%||53.3%||8.9||19.8|
|Micah Hatfield||FL||6'1, 180||Sr.||** (5.0)||12||9||86||75.0%||7.2||2.5%||100.0%||4.3||12.0|
|Tyler Anderson||FB||5'10, 211||Jr.||NR||9||4||22||44.4%||2.4||1.9%||88.9%||1.7||3.1|
|Obum Gwacham||SE||6'5, 227||Jr.||** (5.2)||8||2||12||25.0%||1.5||1.7%||50.0%||1.6||1.7|
|Mitch Singler||SLOT||6'3, 208||Sr.||** (5.1)||4||4||64||100.0%||16.0||0.8%||100.0%||9.7||8.9|
|Caleb Smith||TE||6'6, 258||So.||**** (5.8)||3||2||19||66.7%||6.3||0.6%||66.7%||7.2||2.7|
|Kellen Clute||HB||6'5, 230||So.||** (5.4)|
|Malik Gilmore||WR-X||6'3, 214||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|J.C. Grim||SLOT||6'1, 185||RSFr.||NR|
|Blair Cavanaugh||FL||5'8, 172||RSFr.||NR|
|Hunter Jarmon||WR||6'0, 190||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
5. How much difference can a single star make?
With the return of Woods and Ward at running back and four starters on the offensive line -- including three-year starter Michael Philipp and four-star sophomore Isaac Seumalo, who started every game as a true freshman -- it's fair to think the run game will improve in 2013. It wasn't bad last year, but it wasn't great either. Woods averaged 5.2 yards per intended touch (carries plus targets), while Ward, a more explosive runner, averaged 5.7, and while the line was solid in short-yardage situations, it could have created a few more opportunities for them. It very well could in 2013.
Of course, the running game might potentially have to improve to offset what might be a little bit of regression in the passing game. Brandin Cooks returns and should quite easily fill Markus Wheaton's role of No. 1 receiver; his per-target averages were outstanding, and he is one of the fastest receivers in the country. He is in no way bigger like Wheaton, but that is of only marginal concern. The bigger concern, then, is who replaces Cooks at No. 2.
The one-two combination made Oregon State interesting and explosive last year; the Beavers improved from 84th to 17th in Passing S&P+ and from 50th to 38th in Passing Downs S&P+; whoever wins the quarterback job should be perfectly solid, but a second option needs to emerge, and there is no obvious answer. Junior Obum Gwacham is, like Wheaton and Cooks, a track star in the offseason (he's a high-jumper, not a sprinter), but he didn't get a chance to prove much last year. And while there are a couple of interesting H-backs/tight ends in the mix as efficiency options (junior Connor Hamlett, sophomore Caleb Smith), who steps up in a big-play capacity?
|Michael Philipp||LT||6'4, 329||Sr.||**** (6.0)||35 career starts|
|Colin Kelly||RT||25 career starts|
|Grant Enger||RG||6'6, 290||Sr.||*** (5.6)||21 career starts|
|Josh Andrews||LG||6'3, 303||Sr.||*** (5.6)||19 career starts|
|Isaac Seumalo||C||6'3, 300||So.||**** (6.0)||13 career starts|
|Derek Nielsen||LT||2 career starts|
|Justin Addie||LG||6'2, 329||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Roman Sapolu||C||6'2, 286||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Josh Mitchell||LG||6'2, 286||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Gavin Andrews||RT||6'5, 327||So.||*** (5.6)|
|David Keller||LT||6'3, 314||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Garrett Weinreich||LT||6'5, 310||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Grant Bays||RG||6'1, 300||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Nolan Hansen||RT||6'6, 269||RSFr.||NR|
|Sean Harlow||OL||6'5, 260||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Q1 Rk||22||1st Down Rk||53|
|Q2 Rk||38||2nd Down Rk||18|
|Q3 Rk||39||3rd Down Rk||8|
6. Shutting it down
Oregon State's defense had quite a few issues on standard downs last fall. Opponents had reason to doubt their ability to open holes against OSU's front seven, but they found quite a bit of success in throwing the ball to stay on schedule. OSU had no early-down pass rush to speak of, and a solid secondary stayed rather conservative in such situations.
The Beavers were very, very average on standard downs overall, but if they leveraged you into passing downs, your drive ended soon thereafter. Scott Crichton was able to pin his ears back as a one-man blitz (he was the only defender with more than three sacks), and agile, fast set of linebackers was able to clog the passing lanes, and corner Jordan Poyer was able to more than hold his own with opponents' No. 1 receivers. It was a delicate balance -- one-man pass rushes typically are -- but it worked in 2012.
There are two tasks, then, for OSU moving forward. First, the Beavers need to improve on standard downs so that they aren't as reliant on passing downs stops; second, they need to figure out how to replace Poyer and maintain their general passing downs dominance. Easy, right?
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Dylan Wynn||DE||6'2, 260||Jr.||*** (5.7)||13||35.5||5.2%||2||1||0||1||1||1|
|Scott Crichton||DE||6'3, 260||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13||33.5||4.9%||17.5||9||0||3||1||2|
|Devon Kell||DE||6'4, 234||Sr.||NR||13||6.5||1.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Braun||DE||6'5, 286||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Akeem Gonzales||DE||6'3, 235||So.||*** (5.6)||2||3.0||0.4%||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Mana Rosa||DT||6'3, 275||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||3.0||0.4%||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Ali’i Robins||DT||6'2, 272||So.||NR|
|Edwin Delva||DT||6'3, 295||Jr.||*** (5.7)|
|Siale Hautau||DT||6'1, 320||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Kyle Peko||DT||6'2, 295||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Charlie Tuaau||DE||6'4, 265||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Lyndon Tulimasealii||DE||6'4, 270||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
7. Bring in the reinforcements
For what the Beavers lacked in pass rushing ability, they made up for in their ability to stuff the run. They sliced into the backfield against ground games with frequency and constantly stuffed draw plays and most scrambles.
But while Crichton and end Dylan Wynn return, the next four linemen do not, including both starting tackles. The third-leading returning tackler on the line is a former walk-on (Devon Kell) who logged 6.5 tackles last year.
That's a problem, one Riley is attempting to remedy with junior college transfers. He signed five JUCO linemen in February, and a couple of them (Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau) were already first-stringers by the time spring ball began. OSU desperately needs these tackle transfers to come through. If they do, and if JUCO ends Charlie Tuaau and Lyndon Tulimasealii can provide some pass rush ability to complement Crichton, then the defense could be just fine. But those are some serious ifs.
The good news is that the linebacker position should be perfectly solid with the return of Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander. Doctor went from tackling machine to serious play-maker in 2012, while Alexander came out of nowhere to provide strongside help. There is almost no experience at middle linebacker, but it is difficult to worry much about the linebackers, at least compared to the other units on the defense.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Michael Doctor||WILL||6'0, 225||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||63.5||9.4%||11||0||1||4||0||1|
|D.J. Alexander||SAM||6'2, 228||Jr.||*** (5.7)||13||45.5||6.7%||7||1.5||0||2||1||0|
|Joel Skotte||MLB||6'2, 229||So.||*** (5.6)||13||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Dyllon Mafi||WILL||6'2, 227||Sr.||*** (5.5)||2||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jabral Johnson||SAM||6'1, 228||Jr.||*** (5.5)||8||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jaswha James||MLB||6'2, 231||So.||*** (5.5)||3||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Josh Williams||MLB||6'1, 232||Jr.||NR|
|Caleb Saulo||WILL||6'1, 224||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Rashaad Reynolds||CB||5'11, 189||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||64.5||9.5%||1.5||0||3||13||1||0|
|Ryan Murphy||FS||6'3, 210||Jr.||*** (5.5)||13||52.0||7.7%||2.5||0||2||3||0||0|
|Tyrequek Zimmerman||SS||6'0, 211||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13||51.0||7.5%||0||0||0||3||1||0|
|Sean Martin||CB||6'0, 185||Sr.||** (5.3)||12||37.5||5.5%||1||0||2||3||0||1|
|Steven Christian||FS||6'0, 189||Sr.||*** (5.5)||7||3.5||0.5%||0||0||1||1||1||0|
|Malcolm Marable||CB||5'7, 167||Jr.||*** (5.7)||13||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Jovan Stevenson||CB||5'11, 189||Sr.||*** (5.5)||8||1.0||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Cyril Noland-Lewis||SS||6'0, 198||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Zack Robinson||SS||6'1, 200||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Tyler Hasty||CB||5'10, 185||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Kendall Hill||FS||6'1, 197||RSFr.||** (5.3)|
|Steven Nelson||CB||5'10, 191||Jr.||*** (5.7)|
|Dashon Hunt||DB||5'10, 175||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Brandon Arnold||DB||6'0, 183||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
8. Still some star power
Jordan Poyer had an incredible season for Oregon State last year, and his absence could certainly be a problem. But in Rashaad Reynolds and Sean Martin, the Beavers still have solid experience at the position, and while Reynolds didn't make as many big plays as Poyer (he also logged 20 more tackles, which means he was either better against the run or worse at preventing his man from catching passes), he actually defensed more passes (16 to 14). His ball skills are certainly solid in their own right, and he could be more than capable of stepping into the No. 1 role. And JUCO corner Steven Nelson could be ready to contribute soon, as well.
|Keith Kostol||6'3, 197||Jr.||59||41.9||3||23||24||79.7%|
|Trevor Romaine||6'0, 200||Jr.||82||61.6||36||43.9%|
|Trevor Romaine||6'0, 200||Jr.||51-54||11-12||91.7%||5-6||83.3%|
|Terron Ward||KR||5'7, 200||Jr.||17||22.5||0|
|Malcolm Marable||KR||5'7, 167||Jr.||9||16.9||0|
|Jovan Stevenson||KR||5'11, 189||Sr.||5||14.6||0|
|Special Teams F/+||54|
|Field Goal Pct||6|
|Kick Returns Avg||113|
|Punt Returns Avg||91|
9. Add one Brandin Cooks, stir to combine
How many hits per game do you think Brandin Cooks can withstand? Because he might be OSU's best receiver, kick returner and punt returner, all in one 180-pound package. If the Beavers can remedy last year's return woes, they could have an altogether solid special teams unit with the return of punter (and fair catches machine) Keith Kostol and kicker Trevor Romaine.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|21-Sep||at San Diego State||53|
|12-Oct||at Washington State||97|
|16-Nov||at Arizona State||34|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||35|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||38|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||+8 / -1.5|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (8, 7)|
10. Start fast
Oregon State was both lucky and good last year, riding almost four points of turnovers luck per game into a few close wins but still ranking high on a play-for-play basis as well. The question for the Beavers moving forward is simply this: Was last year a course correction, or does that come in 2013?
Typically, sudden surges like OSU's 2012 jump are followed by some level of regression toward the mean, and the turnovers luck could certainly factor into that. But Oregon State performed a lot closer to its recent historical levels in 2012 than it had in 2011. Which one was the outlier?
We won't necessarily know the answer to that for a while longer, but we do know this: the Beavers have a chance to start very, very fast. They better, at least; in terms of Football Outsiders projections, they face their seven worst opponents in their first seven games. Trips to Utah, San Diego State, Washington State, and California are anything but cakewalks, but if OSU is going to approach last year's win totals, the games are almost must-wins.
I like this team quite a bit. Either quarterback will suffice, the run game should improve a bit, Brandin Cooks is awesome, Scott Crichton is awesome, and the back seven of the defense is deep and experienced enough to absorb a bit of turnover with minimal drop-off. The question marks -- defensive tackle, No. 2 receiver, etc. -- will prevent the Beavers from seriously threatening for the North crown, but they should still find a way to get to another bowl and play at a high enough level to put 2011 pretty far in the rear view. But if Cooks gets hurt, or if the new defensive tackles don't take, then the drop-off could be rather stark in a conference full of strong, improving programs.