Dam Nation: Oregon State Beavers Midseason Report Card
While the Oregon State Beavers are not technically halfway through their season, it is Week 7, and the BCS bowl rankings will be dropping on Sunday.
Much has happened for the Beavers since opening week, with plenty of revelations and expectations fulfilled and plenty more to come.
Oregon State is right where we thought they'd be for the most part, although they have shown signs of improvement and already knocked off an AP Top 10 team.
Given the uncertainty and randomness of the season so far, here are the Beavs' midseason grades for each area of the game: Offense, Defense, Special Teams and Coaching.
If you happened to miss the Beavers' season opener against TCU in Dallas, you missed a brand new offense struggling to find an identity while doing the limbo between the pass and run.
Sophomore QB Ryan Katz looked like the stereotypical, inexperienced youngster against a talented and fast Horned Frogs defense. It appears as though Katz has grown by leaps and bounds each week since then and has developed into a legitimate QB in the Pac-10.
Last week against No. 9 Arizona, Katz threw for just under 400 yards and carried the offense to a victory.
While Katz has shined, he can't carry the offense every week. Junior RB Jacquizz Rodgers is failing to live up to expectations this season and hasn't been able to balance the offense against key opponents. Quizz was tabbed on the preseason Heisman Trophy watch list but has since fallen out of nearly all discussions.
It would be foolish to count out Jacquizz just yet, but some serious work needs to be done to a running game that ranks 94th overall at 115 ypg.
The biggest issue with the offense now is the loss of James Rodgers, done for the season after injuring his knee in a touchdown play called back due to penalty. His presence on offense was just starting to pick up, and his dual threat as a receiver and special teams whiz will be sorely missed.
With James out, Jordan Bishop, Markus Wheaton and Joe Halahuni will have to step up as a team of core receivers with reliable hands. Wheaton is still questionable with a sore left knee but may be available going forward after missing time against Arizona.
The offense receives a B- for its potential, but there is still much work to do to support the defense.
Defense is certainly the weak spot for the Beavers, and it has been the anchor dragging in the sand all season. While Oregon State is averaging 28 points per game, the defense is allowing 30 and is only getting slightly better in the last few weeks.
The linebacker crew has been getting the most flak this season, as they have been unable to read offensive schemes effectively and get to the ball in a timely manner. Teams have found that with short passes across the flat and misdirection runs, there is unlimited success.
Meanwhile, the secondary is only slightly better. Cornerback James Dockery and safety Lance Mitchell are veteran bright spots for the Beavs, but they haven't received much assistance from the rest of the secondary to this point.
The bright spot of the Beavers' defense is the line. Led by senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea, the line has been pouring constant pressure all over opposing QBs, relieving some of the pressure on the linebackers while forcing passers into bad decisions. If the defensive line continues its assault, the linebackers and secondary may take less heat in the upcoming weeks.
Oregon State may already be viewing 2010 as a rebuilding year defensively, but if the Beavers can maintain pace, it may be a satisfactory year in the process.
Special Teams: B
The dark horse of any team's success is special teams. Having tremendous field position to start each drive or pinning the opposing offense inside its 5-yard line can make or break a team's season, depending on skill levels in the other areas.
For the Beavers, special teams has been the sturdy supports by which the offense begins its attack and the faltering defense's boost to alter offensive play-calling.
As mentioned earlier, James Rodgers is done for the season, and a lot of questions have been raised regarding his replacement. James Dockery is a possibility, but regardless of the successor, Rodgers' absence is a huge blow, so the grading suffers accordingly.
On the other side of things, junior punter Johnny Hekker has developed his short-distance kicking and has significantly improved in his time at Oregon State.
Despite the loss of Rodgers, the Beavs still score high in this category, as long as the replacement kick returner can still provide decent field position for the offense.
Head coach Mike Riley is one of the most successful coaches in Oregon State history and brings NFL experience and a winning attitude to the program.
While many contribute the Beavers' success to former coach and current ASU coach Dennis Erickson, don't forget Riley was the foundation on which Erickson built success.
Even though his players are struggling, Greg Newhouse is actually a solid linebackers coach. He has produced several NFL linebackers, including the Green Bay Packers' Nick Barnett, Dallas Cowboys' Victor Butler, Buffalo Bills' Keith Ellison and most recently the San Francisco 49ers' Keaton Kristick.
A shining example of local talent on the coaching staff is Danny Langsdorf, quarterbacks coach and Linfield College product. He nurtured New Orleans Saints QB Sean Canfield and Arizona Cardinals QB Derek Anderson before that.
The Beavers' coaching staff is a safety blanket for the program, recruiting 2 and 3-star prospects and turning them into NFL-caliber athletes.
The staff receives an A- for taking Oregon State to new heights and consecutive bowl appearances.
The Beavers are not an AP Top 10 team to this point but have a legitimate case to be a Top 25 team for the remainder of the season. Oregon State is currently on the slow road to becoming a juggernaut, a process that takes years to mature.
Looking ahead to next season reveals much about this season. A sophomore QB is good now and may be great by next season. If James Rodgers redshirts, Katz will be a junior and will have both Rodgers brothers at his disposal once again.
The team earns a "B" now but may turn that into an "A-" or "A" by next season, or at the very least in less than five years.
As for now, average offense, below-average defense and superior coaching equates to a talented team in a tough conference.