March 30, 2012

First Look: Oregon State

In the final piece of our 12 part early look at the 2012 schedule and the Ducks opponents, today, we move forward to the Civil War. This game made national headlines for two seasons as the Beavers entered the game with a chance at the Rose Bowl in 2008 and 2009. As the Ducks rose in national prominence, however, this game became an afterthought on the national landscape as the Ducks won easily in 2010 and last season. The Beavers will be looking for their first Civil War football win since 2007 when they defeated a Dennis Dixon-less Duck squad in two overtimes at Autzen.
What should Duck fans expect from Oregon State in 2012? Read through in this continuing series from Duck Sports Authority to find out what Oregon State might look like next season.


KEY STORYLINE:
Sean Mannion's development and the relation to the hot seat of Mike Riley. After being thrust into an unnerving spotlight with his ascension ahead of the 2011 incumbent starter, Sean Mannion has an off-season to develop. Mannion was put in an unenviable position last season replacing Ryan Katz early in the season. His potential made him the better pick for the long term future of the Beavers, but it was a painful, at times, process as Mannion learned how to play quarterback at the Pac-12 level. With an off-season to train and study defenses 9as well as his own offense) Mannion may prove to have been an inspired choice for Mike Riley. On the other hand, if Mannion cannot make a quantum leap forward taking the Beavers to a winning record after two consecutive losing seasons, it could be the decision that brings an end to Riley's second term with his hometown Beavers.

OFFENSE OVERVIEW:

Returning Starters: 7

Key returners: Sean Mannion, 6-5, 218, QB; Markus Wheaton, 6-0, 178, WR; Colby Prince, 6-5, 260, TE; Malcolm Agnew, 5-8, 188, RB

Key Losses: James Rodgers, WR; Joe Halahuni, H-Back; Mike Remmers, Left Tackle; Grant Johnson, Center

Key Arrivals: Isaac Seumalo, 6-3, 280, OL, Corvallis (OR) High School

Despite leading the conference in interceptions in 2011, Mannion showed promise during his freshman season in Corvallis. His 18 interceptions were four more than the next closest in the Pac-12 (Nick Foles, 14), but Mannion still managed to complete 64.5% of his passes on 305-473 for 3328 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Beavers struggled on the offensive line with both pass protection and run blocking. Mannion was not as mobile as Katz and the poor line play made that even more clear as the Beavers gave up 27 sacks on the season.
The real struggles for Oregon State, though, came in their attempt to replace current Atlanta Falcon Jaquizz Rodgers. "Quizz," as he is affectionately known by Beaver fans, left a very large pair of shoes to fill and the running backs in 2011 were simply unable to step into that very large shadow successfully. The leading rusher in 2011 was Malcolm Agnew, a talented, but oft-injured, freshman. Agnew opened the season with a 200 yard game and finished the season with just 419 yards on 89 carries for 5 touchdowns. Jovan Stevenson, the back-up from Arizona managed just 231 yards on 56 carries.

The Beavers passing game will miss James Rodgers and Halahuni who combined for 76 catches for 786 yards and 6 touchdowns. Where the Beavers really must see improvement, though, is on an offensive line with little depth and its two best players graduated. The arrival of Seumalo, a coaches son, may help the beleaguered line. In addition, Michael Phillip who was outstanding as a freshman may be key if he can get back to his 2010 form.

Early Offense Prediction: Once a team proud of its heritage of standout running backs who rushed for 1000 yards seemingly like clockwork, the Beavers not only did not have a 1000 yard rusher in 2011, the team barely attained that mark. As a team in 2011, the Beavers averaged just 3.3 yards per carry with 318 carries for 1039 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. They were considerably better through the air, but struggled to protect the quarterback. 2012 will see some improvement in the overall offensive performance, but they will likely still struggle to run the ball, especially against the Ducks speedy defense. The Beavers will be a predominantly passing team again in 2012. Expect them to try to spread the ball around to different receivers and use screen passes to keep the Ducks off balance. The Beavers, though, just do not have the offense to sustain long drives and control the clock against the Ducks, nor do they have the speed, outside of Wheaton to beat the Ducks with consistent big plays. Yes, this Beaver offense will be improved, but not by enough to score more than 21 points.

DEFENSE OVERVIEW:

Returning Starters: 8

Key returners: Scott Crichton, 6-3, 258, DE; Dylan Wynn, 6-2, 240, DE; Andrew Seumalo, 6-3, 281, DT; Jordan Poyer, 6-1, 190, CB; Micheal Doctor, 6-0, 222, LB

Key Losses: Kevin Frahm, DT; Lance Mitchell, Safety

Key Arrivals:Dyllon Mafi, 6-3, 215, LB, Laney (CA) C.C.; Cade Cowdin, 6-2, 230, LB College of the Desert (CA) C.C.

The Beavers gave up nearly 31 points per game in 2011 on just over 411 yards per game which is not to the standards that Beaver fans were accustomed to over the last ten to twelve years. The defense brings back most of the starters and were able to develop a little bit more depth last season. Much like offense, though, the rushing game was the Achilles heel of this unit. The Beavers defense was the worst in the conference allowing 196.8 yards per game on a generous 4.8 yards per carry.

The overall pass defense looked good on paper giving up just 214 yards per game through the air which ranked the Beavers second in the Pac-12 conference.

Unfortunately, because teams had so much success on the ground, the opponents did not need to rely much on passing. When teams did throw the ball against the Beavers, they were fairly successful as Oregon State had the 4th worst pass efficiency defense in the conference. Making matters worse, the Beavers were not able to generate much pressure on quarterbacks ranking 9th in the conference in sacks (24) and ranking dead last in turnover margin (-8) last season.

Early Defense Prediction: While a year of experience will make the defense better than 2011, there is not an infusion of young talent ready to step in and elevate this defense back to their expected prowess. However, the two defensive ends really made a name for themselves in 2011 and should be even better with another year of getting bigger and stronger. Where the Beavers will struggle is with their lack of size on the defensive line and their lack of speed at the second level of the defense. Expect the Beavers to attempt to employ a similar strategy to last season and force running plays more towards the middle of the field to limit explosion plays on the edge. To do this, the Beavers tended to use some wide splits on the defensive line which left a lot of running lanes up the middle. Expect a similar scenario to play out as the Ducks run up the middle early with second level cut-backs to get to the edge.

The Ducks will be able to move the ball well on an improving but still not there yet defense. Oregon should find themselves in scoring territory frequently and in the 37-52 point range for this game.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: Against a Beaver team which has lacked recruiting success over the last several seasons, Oregon should look to take advantage of their speed and depth edge on both sides of the ball. If the defense can keep Wheaton in front of them and not allow any big plays out of the backfield, the offense should be able to score nearly at will.

OREGON WILL LOSE IF: This is a road game against an in-state rival. With the potential of a re-match with USC on the horizon for, at the very least, a place in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks must be careful about not looking past an inferior opponent on the road. If the Ducks are not focused on the Beavers, they could find themselves in a dogfight and on the losing end of a major upset.

PREDICTED OUTCOME: Oregon State has not had much success against the Ducks over the last 4 seasons, especially on defense. Since 2008, the Ducks have scored 65, 37, 37, and 49 points against the Beavers. Expect the Ducks to still be able to score over 40 on the Beavers and extend their Civil War winning streak to 5 games.


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