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Beavers hope to count to four at running back

Return of freshman Agnew would boost OSU's depleted unit
by: agnew

CORVALLIS - Malcolm Agnew looked lithe, fit and healthy as he went through Oregon State's entire practice session Tuesday at Reser Stadium.

'Malcolm looked good, but he has to do it three days in a row,' OSU coach Mike Riley said. 'He looked fine the last time, too, until Thursday.'

That was the week before the Sept. 24 UCLA game. Agnew, who had missed the previous game with a hamstring injury, tweaked the hamstring on the Thursday prior to the Bruins contest and hasn't returned to action.

Riley is hopeful Agnew - the freshman tailback who had debuted in spectacular fashion against Sacramento State with 223 yards and three TDs - will be ready to go Saturday against Brigham Young.

If the 5-8, 190-pound St. Louis native stays healthy this week, he is likely to start for Oregon State (1-4 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) in its 1 p.m. home game against the Cougars (4-2).

If not, the nod will likely go to Jovan Stevenson - though his availability for the BYU game isn't a done deal, either.

Stevenson, a 5-11, 195-pound sophomore, rushed for 99 yards and a TD on 16 carries in last Saturday's 37-27 win over Arizona before suffering what was described as a 'mild concussion' in the fourth quarter.

'I'm fine,' Stevenson said Tuesday. 'I'm listening to the doctors, but I'm planning to play Saturday.'

If both Agnew and Stevenson are cleared, they'll likely share duty against BYU. If neither can play, that moves freshman Terron Ward up into a starting role, with junior Jordan Jenkins backing him up.

With Jacquizz Rodgers gone to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and injuries affecting Agnew's entire season, it has been an unsettled time for first-year running backs coach Chris Brasfield.

'That's just football,' Brasfield said. 'Every year is going to be different. I told these guys, 'Be ready to go when your number is called.' Things don't always happen the way you want.'

Brasfield on his tailback corps:

• AGNEW: 'I like what he brings to the table. He's a tough kid, runs really hard between the tackles. He's a lot stronger than people think. For an 18-year-old, he is really put together. He practices hard. He goes full tilt. As he continues to grow and learn our system, he will gain more confidence.'

• STEVENSON: 'Jovan has been a hard worker from the beginning. He is really smart. He has been in the system for a while. He knows what we're trying to get done. He has good speed and can do a little bit of everything. He has a pretty good picture of reading the right keys and getting to where he is supposed to go.'

• WARD: 'He is a tough-minded kid who plays hard and practices hard, which is a big deal with a freshman. I like what he brings in terms of work ethic. He is a lot stronger than you'd think, and he is a good blocker.'

• JENKINS: 'He is consistent, can do a lot of different things. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. You don't have to worry about him making mental mistakes. You feel good about putting him out there in tight situations.'

On Storm Woods, the true freshman who is redshirting: 'Storm has a lot of ability. He has great hands. I'm really excited about what he will be able to do as he gets older. He has good speed, good size and a great attitude. He is a fun kid to be around.'

During the past dozen years - with the exception of one season - Oregon State's backfield has been graced with all-conference runners Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Rodgers.

'We're in an unusual place, a different place than we've been in the last decade, but that's the nature of losing a back like Quizz and having a guy who looked like he was going to be your starter injured,' Riley said. 'But we're getting better (with the rushing game). We ran the ball better last week. It's so much nicer to be able to count on some yardage there. Any time you can make second down better, that will make third down better.

'And if you run the ball better, you do better in the red zone. If they know you're going to pass, the pass lanes tighten down there. We're far from being an accomplished running team today, but we were better' against the Wildcats.