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Beavers hope 2012 was just the start


Bulk of regulars due back from OSU's Alamo Bowl squad

Oregon State moved past respectability to a level of unexpected success during the 2012 football season.

OSU won nine games and was the third-best team in the Pac-12 behind Oregon and Stanford. Can the Beavers continue the stride upward in 2013?

The Men of Orange are expected to return 17 starters — including kicker Trevor Romaine and punter Keith Kostol — and have plenty of young prospects waiting in the wings ready to step up next season.

Quarterbacks Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion are coming back, along with major weapons Storm Woods and Brandin Cooks and four-fifths of the starting line on offense.

On defense, there is all-Pac-12 end Scott Crichton, stud linebackers D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor and three-fourths of the starting secondary. Safety Ryan Murphy and cornerback Rashaad Reynolds have the experience and talent to move into all-Pac-12 status.

There will be an opportunity for the likes of tight ends Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith, receivers Richard Mullaney and Malik Gilmore and a host of young defensive players at tackle and linebacker to seize much more high-profile roles.

“I’m excited with how far we came this season,” coach Mike Riley says. “And I’m really excited to see how we can take our progress and run with it next season.”

Oregon State loses its two most important leaders and playmakers — consensus All-America cornerback Jordan Poyer and record-setting receiver Markus Wheaton — along with starting D-tackles Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo. They will be the most difficult players to replace.

“It’s huge to lose (Poyer and Wheaton),” says Woods, who rushed for 940 yards and 13 TDs as a freshman. “At the beginning of last offseason, those were the guys who grabbed this team by the neck and demanded nothing but hard work.

“But we have Brandin, Cody, Ryan, myself ... (Poyer and Wheaton) taught us how to be leaders. We just have to follow what they did and do the same thing.”

Oregon State should get immediate help in the defensive interior from junior-college tackles Edwin Delva (6-3, 290), Siale Hautau (6-0, 315) and Kyle Peko (6-2, 295). It would be no surprise if two of them wind up as starters.

JC transfer Steven Nelson could be a replacement for Poyer at cornerback, though senior-to-be Sean Martin will have something to say about that.

Athletic director Bob De Carolis has in the works a 15- to 18-percent raise for each of Riley’s assistant coaches with hopes to stave off defections to other programs. And Riley intends to find a way to retain linebacker coach Trent Bray, who did an outstanding job as a post-grad aide this season.

Stability in Riley’s staff has been a major part of the resurgence of the Oregon State program. During the past two years, he has added Bray, Chris Brasfield, Brent Brennan and Rod Perry, and all have proved their mettle both on the field and in the recruiting process.

The 2013 schedule will be difficult, with five of nine Pac-12 games on the road, including visits to Oregon and Arizona State. The Beavers play Stanford, Southern Cal, Washington and Colorado at home and miss Arizona and UCLA for the next two seasons.

The non-conference slate is less daunting but not easy, with home dates against Eastern Washington and Hawaii, along with a road game versus San Diego State. Eastern Washington was 11-3 in 2012, falling 45-42 to Sam Houston State in the FCS semifinals. Hawaii was 3-9 in the first year of the Norm Chow regime. The Aztecs were 9-4, losing 23-6 to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl.

It will be interesting to see how the Beavers rebound from their 31-27 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

“This game will be good motivation for us in the offseason,” Vaz said in the moments after the heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Longhorns in San Antonio.

Through improved recruiting the past three years, better depth is available than in the past. Success breeds success, and the Beavers exit 2012 thirsting for more next season.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers