As the days of summer wind down, anticipation draws toward one of the best times of the year: football season. And despite the thud (Alamo Bowl loss) left over from last year’s 9-4 Oregon State Beavers, hopes are riding high again for this year’s squad. With that in mind, I will look at the keys (not necessarily in any order) for success.
Quarterback play. I remember a few years back when Matt Moore was at the helm. As the team started 2-3, I was down on him. But the guy made a believer out of me as he guided OSU to a 10-4 finish. It’s early, but I don’t see it out of Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion. Neither one can run five yards without running in to a stop light, and by this I mean an opposing defender looking to green light the quarterback by flattening Vaz or Mannion, Sure, each had their moments last season. Vaz stepped up in the BYU game and Mannion played well before getting hurt. However, neither one seems to possess a ‘wow’ skill set which separates them from others at their respective position.
Coach Mike Riley’s decision making. I am still convinced an alien took over Riley’s body in the flabbergasting loss to the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl. The Beavers could have run that game right down the Longhorns’ throat. Literally. Then freshman running back Storm Woods could have had 200 yards rushing – by hafltime. Instead, Riley let Texas off the hook and stuck with the passing game. The rest is history, as they say. Any repeat of not taking it to an opposition’s glaring weakness will surely bring dumbfounding games to the loss column. No one wants to see such history repeat itself. Yes, Riley is a nice guy. But he needs to take the gloves off once in a while.
Replacing leaders Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton. Last year, many believed OSU overachieved. Did they? If you examine each game as individual parts, along with a closer look at their roster, what the team accomplished seemed about right. Statistically and emotionally, then seniors Poyer (seven interceptions) and Wheaton (1,207 reception yards) were the catalysts. Now, those shoes need to be filled. Offensively, this is a golden opportunity for Mannion. As a junior quarterback, and the frontrunner for the starting spot, he could really take the reins of this team on the field and sideline. On the defensive side, senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds would likely be the leader of choice. Watching Poyer last season was valuable groundwork, so Reynolds would be no stranger to knowing what it takes to fill that role. If either or both Mannion and Reynolds have the mantra of ‘follow me and I will lead’, the team will gladly oblige.
The bottom line is this: Oregon State’s football season will only go as far as the offensive line takes it. Ten sacks in a bowl game, or shall we say the last game of the season to quantify the significance, is an absurd statistic. Protecting Vaz or Mannion (whoever is in there) will be paramount. With Woods and Terron Ward running out of the backfield, the guys up front will be game changers. This team has massive potential for another stellar season. To reach such a goal, you only need to look at the o-line. No need to be fragile; this is where it will begin and end for the Beavers.