Beaverfootball.com executive editor Barry Bolton answers our questions.
Q: One of the biggest question marks on offense seems to swirl around wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. In 2006, Stroughter had 1,293 yards receiving, proving to be Oregon State's big play guy. A kidney bruise sidelined him for most of last season. How did Stroughter play in spring ball, and can we expect a similar season to that of 2006?
He looked this spring like a guy ready to match or possibly even exceed his '06 success. Stroughter had more than a few moments in April where he took what looked like a short gain and turned it into a highlight reel romp into the end zone. If the offensive line can give Lyle Moevao (or Sean Canfield) the time, Stroughter could be poised to have a very big year indeed.
Q: The Oregon State defense was number one in the country in defending the run last year. With graduation decimating last year's starting lineup, is this unit talented enough to be the Pac-10's premier run-stopping front seven? Can five-star juco transfer Simi Kuli make an immediate impact?
After losing the starting front seven, it might be asking a bit much for Oregon State to again lead the league against the run. Surprisingly though, Oregon State might just have the horses to once again field a stout unit and rank among the league leaders.
The spring saw the continued emergence of defensive end Victor Butler, who was virtually unblockable in the spring game. Newly arrived JC transfer and defensive tackle Stephen Paea had an outstanding spring—he could wind up one of the Beavers' most prescient signings this class.
Oregon State is known for their linebacker corps and this spring, Bryant Cornell solidified himself at the middle spot with a top notch showing. On the outside, Keaton Kristick is tall, fast, and aggressive while Keith Pankey has a nose for the ball and plays quick. Dwight Roberson could also make a push for playing time.
Simi Kuli can indeed make an immediate impact, and the Beavs' overall success could depend in large part on how quickly he adapts to Pac-10 play—the secondary was so solid last year in part because of the penetration up front by the D-tackles, and Kuli will be expected to help towards that end.
Q: James Rodgers had an amazing game in the Emerald Bowl running the fly sweep. His brother committed to OSU in the class of 2008. Can we expect to see both brothers on the field leading this rushing attack?
Expect to see the Rodgers boys on the field at the same time this year, but just how they're going to be used remains to be seen. James is becoming more of a complete wide receiver in the slot, and his blocking this spring was much improved. It won't be a surprise if Riley tweaks the fly sweep to keep defenses off balance and/or possibly introduces something different, but with James still running the ball.
Jacquizz, a prolific running back out of Texas, will get every chance to earn running back reps this fall. His style is different than the Beavs' top two running backs—Ryan McCants looked impressive this spring and is big, strong, and powerful between the tackles. Surprising JC transfer Jeremy Francis integrated quickly, displaying excellent hands and good speed.
If the younger Rodgers does what OSU fans are expecting this fall camp, the biggest question will be how Mike Riley finds enough carries to keep them all happy.
Q: Who do you expect to emerge as the number two receiver for the Oregon State offense? I think most OSU fans can remember the devastating tandem of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and know how important it would be to find a second receiver to take pressure off Stroughter.
Certainly the deepest position on the team, the wide receiver corps is led by Stroughter, but a few guys in black and orange could wind up making a lot of noise this year. Chief among them is Rodgers, who looked quicker, faster, and more involved in the offense this spring. Sophomore Darrell Catchings could be poised for a breakout season
Meanwhile, Chris Johnson is ultra-dependable and consistent, while senior Shane Morales opened eyes by catching everything thrown his way this spring. Casey Kjos also impressed with his ability to go up and fight for the ball.
Oregon State has a lot of weapons at receiver. Their success will of course be dependent on the offensive line, which was considerably banged up this spring, and the quarterback's ability to get them the ball in position to make plays...but the talent is there.
Q: Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao really struggled last year throwing the football. Who do you think will emerge as the starter, and will there be more consistency at the Quarterback position?
Lyle Moevao did show more consistency this spring and is the clear No. 1 headed into the fall. Sean Canfield will push him for the starting job, but reading between the lines in Mike Riley's post-spring comments, Canfield might need to have a huge fall camp to unseat Moevao.
Based on the spring, there will indeed be more production out of the quarterback spot this year, but just how much there will be is the million dollar question.
At the same time, with the talent the Beavers have at WR, RB, and TE, they might not need a prolific, playmaking quarterback to win, but rather a guy who can simply get his playmakers the ball in position to make game-winning plays.
Q: Everyone wants to know who will challenge USC for the Pac-10 title this year. Is this the year, or did the defense lose one too many starters to make a run at the Trojans?
It might be overly optimistic to think the Beavers can unseat the Trojans, especially given the team is replacing seven defensive starters. But Mike Riley made some interesting comments following the spring session. Riley, who is normally very soft-spoken regarding his team's chances, said the Beavs are very capable of making a run to win the conference championship this year.
Clearly, Riley was pleased with what he saw this spring, and despite the new faces in the starting lineup, thinks he has a group who can make a charge this year in the Pac-10.