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Beavers eye a rebuilding project

Losing 14 starters is hard, but there's plenty of talent left to develop
by: Jed Jacobsohn, Beaver flanker James Rodgers takes a run against Maryland Friday in the Emerald Bowl. Next season OSU could have the contributions of his brother, incoming freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, at tailback.

The challenge will be great at Oregon State next season, especially on defense.

The Beavers will lose 14 starters from their 2007 team, including all-Pac-10 offensive guard Roy Schuening, tailback Yvenson Bernard, kicker Alexis Serna and every member of the defensive front seven.

Among those departing are all-Pac-10 defensive end Dorian Smith and second-team all-conference linebackers Joey LaRocque, Alan Darlin and Derrick Doggett. It's tough to match that kind of talent and experience.

'We'll have to do a major job on the defensive side,' coach Mike Riley says. 'We've had such great play from that group and are losing such key players, it's not going to be easy. We have enough talent behind them that we'll be all right, but it will take some development.'

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker has an abundance of capable bodies returning at linebacker, including seniors Bryant Cornell, Dennis Christopher and Isaiah Cook; junior Keaton Kristick; sophomore Keith Pankey; and promising redshirt freshmen Will Darkins and David Pa'aluhi.

So deep are the Beavers at that position that sophomore Keo Camat from Jesuit High may be moved to end, a switch that turned former Crusader Slade Norris into a pass-rushing phenom.

The situation is different in the line, where only ends Norris and Victor Butler and tackle Pernnell Booth return from a rotation that included 10 players.

So how will the Beavers be up front next season?

'We're going to be better,' D-line coach Joe Seumalo says.

Even with the loss of so many seniors?

'I don't care, we'll be better,' Seumalo says. 'We'll be faster, and we'll be hungrier.'

Another season for starting tackle Gerard Lee - who is making an NCAA appeal for an additional season - would help. So, too, would immediate impact from junior college transfer Steve Paea and the successful recruitment of junior-college stars Simi Kuli or Tevita Finau.

The OSU secondary will lead next season's defense. Veterans Keenan Lewis, Brandon Hughes and Tim Clark are coming back at cornerback. Al Afalava, Greg Laybourn (Beaverton High) and Bryan Payton will return at safety.

The Beaver offense will be the more veteran group next season, with six starters returning, plus impact flanker James Rodgers.

And OSU coaches also expect the return of split end Sammie Stroughter for a medical redshirt season. In 2006, Stroughter caught 74 passes for 1,293 yards and five touchdowns and returned 30 punts for 470 yards and three TDs.

The loss of Bernard is lessened by the presence of promising redshirt freshman Ryan McCants (6-2, 230, Corona, Calif.) and incoming freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, James' brother, from Richmond, Texas. McCants and Jacquizz Rodgers are likely to form a potent 1-2 punch at tailback.

Receivers stay strong

With Stroughter, James Rodgers and sophomore Darrell Catchings, backed by seniors Shane Morales and Chris Johnson, the Beaver receiving corps should be formidable.

Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield, who both had their moments at starting QB this season, will again battle it out for the position beginning with spring ball.

The 5-11, 230-pound Moevao finished his sophomore season with 77 completions out of 147 attempts (52.3 percent) for 876 yards and two touchdowns. Canfield, 6-4, 225, was 165 of 286 (57.7 percent) for 1,661 yards and nine TDs.

'The competition those guys went through early in the season helped us get to where we are today,' Riley says. 'We have two guys our players have faith in, that they can go in and manage this team and make some plays. They'll be nothing but better for it next year.'

Sophomore Justin Kahut from Clackamas High has top-drawer potential as Serna's kicking replacement, and OSU coaches are in the process of recruiting a punter.

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OSU's projected 2008 depth chart

Offense

SE: Sammie Stroughter, senior; Chris Johnson, senior

SLOT: *Darrell Catchings, sophomore; Shane Morales, senior

LT: *Tavita Thompson, senior; Vil Nau, junior, or Una Smiley, freshman

LG: *Jeremy Perry, senior; Alex Linnenkohl, sophomore

C: Marcus Henderson, senior; Ryan Pohl, sophomore

RG: Adam Speer, senior; Gregg Peat, junior

RT: *Andy Levitre, senior; Michael Cole, senior

TE: *Howard Croom, junior; Gabe Miller, sophomore

QB: *Lyle Moevao, junior; Sean Canfield, junior

TB: Ryan McCants, freshman; Jacquizz Rodgers, freshman

FL: James Rodgers, sophomore; Taylor Kavanaugh, junior

PK: Justin Kahut, sophomore

Defense

LE: Victor Butler, senior; Kevin Frahm, freshman

LT: Sioeli Nau, junior; Mitchel Hunt, sophomore

RT: Pernnell Booth, senior; Steve Paea, sophomore

RE: Slade Norris, senior; Carl Sommer, freshman, or Keo Camat, sophomore

SLB: Keaton Kristick, junior; Keith Pankey, sophomore, or David Pa'aluhi, freshman

MLB: Bryant Cornell, senior; Will Darkins, freshman

WLB: Dwight Roberson, sophomore; Isaiah Cook, senior, or Dennis Christopher, senior

LCB: *Keenan Lewis, senior; Tim Clark, junior

RCB: *Brandon Hughes, senior; Brandon Hardin, freshman

SS: Greg Laybourn, senior; Bryan Payton, senior

FS: *Al Afalava, senior; James Dockery, sophomore

P: Beavers will recruit a punter.

* returning starter

Up-and-coming players to watch, with coach Mike Riley's comments:

• Cornerback Brandon Hardin: 'Has size and speed, and he gained a lot of maturity playing the position on our scout team this fall.'

• Linebackers Keith Pankey, Will Darkins and David Pa'aluhi: 'Another group of outstanding young linebackers who will grow into playing good football for us as soon as next season.'

• Walk-on offensive linemen Ben Motter, Burke Ellis, Mike Remmers, Michael Lamb, Wilder McAndrews and Grant Johnson: 'We've never had this impressive a group of (O-line) walk-ons. They will all compete to play before they're through.'

• Offensive tackle Una Smiley: 'He's healed (from gunshot injuries last year) and will be enrolled spring term as a grayshirt. He has a chance to play some immediately.'

• Keo Camat (could move from linebacker to end): 'He's too good of a talent not to find a place on the field for him.'

- Kerry Eggers