As the 2007 season came to a close, fans around Beaver Nation started wondering who would replace Yvenson Bernard in the backfield.
Yvenson was extremely productive for Oregon State over the last three years. He finished his Pac-10 career in sixth place on the all-time Pac-10 rushing yardage list. Last season he compiled 1,276 yards in only 11 games, scoring 13 TDs. His presence in the backfield will be missed.
Now that autumn has rolled around, we start to see emerging stars on the Beavers' roster.
Junior college transfer Jeremy Francis is the most experienced running back on Oregon State's depth chart.
Francis earned second team All-Mission Conference honors as a sophomore and helped lead El Camino to a league title. Francis re-joins his El Camino teammate, Lyle Moevao.
At 5'11", 218 pounds, Jeremy looks to be a power back who also has great hands for receiving out of the backfield. He will see a large amount of action, being the only one with in-game experience at the collegiate level.
The back that will most likely get the majority of the touches is Ryan McCants. Although he is only a freshman, McCants displays great composure. He is a "between-the-tackles" sort of runner.
Many coaches compare his running style to Steven Jackson, the bruising Oregon State alumni who was the first running back taken in the 2004 NFL draft.
His 6'1", 240-pound stature doesn't hurt his bruising running style. McCants looks to be the next outstanding back to come from Oregon State, joining the likes of Ken Siminton, Steven Jackson, and the recently departed Yvenson Bernard.
The third featured back is none other than the brother of last year's explosive true freshman, James Rodgers.
Jacquizz Rodgers is a speed-demon. He was a standout at Lamar Consolidated (TX), nick-named "Mr. Touchdown" by his teammates after racking up 136 of them in his High School career.
He looks to be just as electric as his older brother, if not more so.
"Quizz" has speed along with deceptive strength for his size—5'7", 193 pounds. As his brother did last year, Jacquizz will play as a true freshman, but he will likely see more playing time than James did in 2007.
These three backs all bring unique attributes to what looks to be a very versatile run game for the Beavers in 2008.
The power of McCants, the speed of Rodgers, and the experience of Francis give Oregon State several options to attack with on the ground.
Mike Riley is noted for being very mundane when it comes to play calling, but when he has the weapons—as we saw last season with the fly-sweep—he will do anything to find ways to get them the ball.
Look for the Beavers' three-headed monster to keep defensive linemen throughout the conference on their toes while mixing blinding speed with crushing power.
Stats courtesy of OSUbeavers.com