The Beavers, like many teams, have strengths and weaknesses. Some areas of the team are strong with great returning starters, while others have been hit hard by the graduation of the 2010 class.
The Beavers are actually set next year when it comes to the offensive line. They only lost one of their five starters, and the center position is being filled with the very capable Grant Johnson, a senior with a lot of experience.
OSU's most talented lineman, Burke Ellis, will be back, along with experienced players such as Colin Kelly, Michael Lamb, Mike Remmers and Michael Philipp.
The Beavers will be in very good shape next year in terms of experience and skill in their offensive line.
Jaquizz Rodgers is gone. Everyone in the Beaver nation knows that.
They also know star quarterback Ryan Katz will be back.
Replacing Jaquizz won't prove to be easy, but with the experience of the offensive line to help growing pains, Ryan McCants and Jovan Stevenson should put up good numbers next year. If they can find holes early, it should relieve some pressure from Katz, who will probably have to carry the team through parts of the season.
If the unthinkable happens next year and Katz is injured, Cody Vaz is relatively untested as Katz's best prospective backup.
Oh Stephen Paea, you were a beast to be sure. Being voted the Pac-10's best defensive lineman two years in a row is quite an honor. Unfortunately for Beaver Nation, Paea is gone.
In fact, three of four starting defensive linemen are gone. This is the most glaring weakness on the team, and players are going to have to step up to make the Beavers' defense respectable.
Kevin Frahm, Dominic Glover and Andrew Seumalo all have experience and will be in leadership positions next year. Defensive end duties will fall to Taylor Henry, along with JUCO transfer students Blake Harrah and Rusty Fernando.
The Beavers have lost two of their three starting linebackers. Starter Reuben Robinson (great name, by the way) returns, though. Cameron Collins is a senior and team captain, and the team will lean heavily on him, along with Tony Wilson, who will also be a probable starter.
The cornerback position is in good shape. Brandon Hardin has the second-most experience of anyone on the defense. Jordan Poyer and Keynan Parker were also starters last year. Parker is probably the fastest athlete on the team.
The safety position is also secure, as the most experienced defensive player on the team, Lance Mitchell, returns. Anthony Watkins should also do good things next year.
You could say the Beavers' receivers (ha!) are in good shape.You could also say they're in trouble, it's up in the air.
Markus Wheaton is a sure thing and was the savior of last year's passing game after James Rodgers was injured. Darrell Catchings will also be important and hopefully reliable.
Rodgers is returning for his redshirt senior year, and Jordan Bishop will be a junior. Both Rodgers' and Bishop's statuses are uncertain though; it's not even certain if they'll participate in fall practice.
If they are healthy, Andy Katz's numbers will be inflated all year. If they're unhealthy, the Beavers' offense might be rather one-dimensional.
Most areas are in good shape. Rashaad Reynolds and Brandin Hardin tied for the most special teams tackles last season, and both will return in 2011. Jordan Poyer was the Pac-10's second-best punt/kickoff returner last year, and he also returns.
The Beavers have one of the nation's best punters returning in Johnny Hekker. No one ever mentions long snappers, so here's a shout out to Marcus Perry, who has a lot of experience as well.
The weakness of the Beavers' special teams is in their place kicker. That job will fall to either Max Johnson or Trevor Romaine—both of whom are completely unproven.
The Beavers could be really good on offense. They could also struggle.
They'll likely be mediocre on run-defense and good on pass-defense.
I realize these are vague predictions, but there are, in fact, a lot of uncertainties surrounding this team.
Will the running backs produce early? Will Ryan Katz return to his previous flashes of brilliance, or will he continue to struggle like he did periodically last season? Will the defensive line be able to put significant pressure on bigger, more experienced offensive lines? Will the Beavers be able to make field goals? We'll learn a lot in the first couple weeks next season. I am optimistic, though.
How optimistic? Let's examine the Beavers' 2011 schedule.