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Beavers will emphasize offense in spring camp

Some no-huddle could be part of Oregon State's repertoire for 2013


by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Storm Woods, running back, celebrates as Oregon State beats Utah during the Beavers' bounce-back 2012 season.CORVALLIS -- Competition for playing time at every position -- even quarterback -- begins April 1 when Oregon State opens spring practice.

Three junior-college transfers and prep offensive tackle Sean Harlow will join nearly 100 returning players for 15 days of spring drills, culminated by the April 26 Spring Game at Reser Stadium.

Even with a number of players recovering from injuries who will be limited or out of action through the spring, it is probably the deepest group coach Mike Riley has had in his 13 years at the OSU helm.

Still, there are a number of issues Riley and his staff hope to address as they prepare for the 2013 season.

Among them:

• Player development

"That's really our No. 1 priority as we head into spring," Riley says. "We have a large number of young players who will come back as redshirt freshmen, and a lot of them figure into our two-deep. A few of them will challenge for starting jobs. And other young guys who were backups have a chance to become starters. We'll work with them and get a read on what they can do for us next season."

• Leadership

Consensus All-America cornerback Jordan Poyer and all-Pac-12 receiver Markus Wheaton, along with two-year starting defensive tackle Andrew Seumalo, are departing seniors from the 2012 Alamo Bowl team that surprised everyone by going 9-4.

"In Jordan and Markus, we have to replace two of the greatest players in the history of our program, and they were great leaders," Riley says. "How our senior class responds will be critical. Who fills the void there? We have a lot of guys returning, but we've lost playmakers. Somebody has step into those roles for us."

• Enhanced production on both sides of the football, with an emphasis at the offensive end

"We want to get our tight end and running back more involved in the passing game," Riley says. "I'd like both of those positions to catch 60 balls or more.

"We want to develop our wide-field passing game. In the past, we were good throwing to the wide side of the field, where coverage is soft, where you can get into more one-on-one situations and you have more room to work with. That's where James Rodgers caught a lot of his 90 balls. We didn't do a great job in that area a year ago.

"And we want to continue to improve our running game. We were pretty good at inside zone plays last season. Our power game was OK, where we pull the guard and lead with him. We want to continue to develop that, and we have to have a better perimeter run with our tailback. I want to reincorporate the fly sweep, and we have to do better on third down."

Riley and his offensive staff are studying the no-huddle, hurry-up attack employed by so many college teams. The Beavers will continue to use a pro-style attack, "but we'll look at it within what we do," he says. "We might up-tempo the game at times and incorporate that with how we play."

Senior-to-be Cody Vaz and junior Sean Mannion will enter the spring even at quarterback and will split repetitions throughout the 15 workout sessions. Riley would like to have a starter pinpointed before August training camp begins.

"We're in real good shape at quarterback," the OSU mentor says. "Cody and Sean have both played some great football, and they've both had rough times. We're looking for continued competition, and because of that we'll get more growth. i expect these guys to have good springs, and we'll worry about decisions later."

Several returnees will sit out the spring as they recover from surgery, including all-Pac-12 defensive end Scott Crichton (shoulder), defensive tackle Mana Rosa (foot), fullback Tyler Anderson (knee), safety Tyrequek Zimmerman (toe), receiver Richard Mullaney (shoulder) and offensive tackle Garrett Weinreich (knee). O-tackle Chase Eldridge (knee) will be limited. All are expected to be ready go for August camp.

Junior-college cornerback Steven Nelson was in school for winter term, and JC defensive tackles Edward Delva and Siale Hautau are expected to enroll and take part in spring ball. The other two JC transfers -- D-tackle Kyle Peko and D-end Lyndon Tulimasaealii -- are expected to be on hand for training camp this summer.

"We expect all five to be contributors and competitors for playing time," Riley says. "The thing I worry about with Peko and Tulimasaealii is that they're not here training with the team. You hope they arrive in good shape, but it's never quite the same."

Riley was disappointed to lose third-string tailback Malcolm Agnew, who has transferred to Southern Illinois. Sophomore Storm Woods, who rushed for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman, and junior Terron Ward, who averaged 6.1 yards with six TDs on 68 carries as the backup, return along with promising redshirt freshman Chris Brown.

"I feel good about our running back situation," Riley says. "I expect Storm to take a step forward next season. Terron is in great shape and is looking quick and strong. I don't like losing Agnew, but I'm looking to see where Chris enters into this. I think he can be a good player."

Oregon State opens the spring with junior Brandin Cooks starting at flanker and senior Kevin Cummings at slotback. With Mullaney out until fall camp, junior Obum Gwachum and redshirt freshman Malik Gilmore will get the primary reps at split end.

Incoming freshman wideouts Victor Bolden, Hunter Jarmon, Walter Jones and Jordan Villamin will all get good looks during August camp.

"Any one of them is capable of playing right away," Riley says. "They're four kids with a lot of talent."

The 6-7, 260-pound Hamlett, who caught 32 passes for 403 yards and three TDs as a sophomore, will start at tight end, backed up by 6-6, 255-pound sophomore Caleb Smith.

"Connor is going to be a bigger weapon for us, and Caleb is a different guy than he was as a true freshman a year ago," Riley says.

Four of the five starters on the offensive line -- tackle Michael Philipp, guards Josh Andrews and Grant Enger and center Isaac Seumalo -- return. The biggest concern is replacing departed senior Colin Kelly at right tackle. Gavin Andrews, a 6-6, 325-pound sophomore, is penciled in.

Other candidates include David Keller, a transfer from Fresno State, Harlow and redshirt Weinreich at tackle, Eldridge and redshirt freshman Grant Bays at guard and sophomore Josh Mitchell, who will play guard and back up Seumalo at center.

"If the line improves as much as it did a year ago, we'll be in pretty good shape," Riley says. "We have a chance to have a real competitive two-deep for the first time in my years here."

Oregon State loses four starters on defense -- tackles Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai, middle linebacker Feti Unga and Poyer -- but returns a strong nucleus that includes several promising backups and redshirts from last season.

D-coordinator Mark Banker is seeking depth at end behind Crichton and junior Dylan Wynn, with seniors Devin Kell and John Braun and sophomores Lavonte Barnett and Akeem Gonzalez in line for good looks this spring. Delva and Hautau will feed into the tackle mix along with junior Joe Lopez and sophomores Desmond Collins and Brandon Bennett-Jackson.

Senior Michael Doctor and junior D.J. Alexander are entrenched as starters at outside linebacker, and coaches are eager to get a look at such as junior Jabral Johnson and redshirt freshman Caleb Saulo behind them. Banker has four candidates to replace Unga in the middle -- sophomores Joel Skotte and Jaswha James, junior Josh Williams and redshirt freshman Rommel Mageo.

Nelson will be in competition with senior Sean Martin to replace Poyer at one cornerback, with senior Rashaad Reynolds set at the other corner spot. Junior Ryan Murphy returns at one safety alongside Zimmerman, with redshirt freshmen Cyril Noland-Lewis, Zack Robinson and Kendall Hill getting plenty of looks there this spring.

Juniors Trevor Romaine (kicker), Keith Kostol (punter) and Michael Morovick (long snapper) return. Special-teams coach Bruce Read will be looking for players to return kickoffs -- Cooks and Ward are likely candidates -- and punts.

NOTES -- Oregon State rushed for 124.4 yards per game last season after averaging a Pac-12-low 86.9 yards the previous campaign. Riley wants that figure to increase to at least 150 yards this fall. … The Beavers converted on only 34 percent of third-down opportunities in 2012, down from 40 percent in '11. Riley's goal is to approach 50 percent next season. … Oregon State allowed opponents only 29-percent success on third down in '12 after yielding a 47-percent return the previous campaign. … Though OSU's defense has used nickel and dime packages with increased frequency in recent seasons, Banker will stay with its 4-3 set as a base package. … Safety Peter Ashton has left the program. … Rosa, who missed the Alamo Bowl after a nightclub incident in which he was charged with assault, has been fully reinstated. His charges were dismissed in court. … Riley expects incoming freshman tailback Damien Haskins to redshirt. OSU coaches won't know if the other incoming freshman tailback, Lawrence Mattison, will qualify academically until the summer. Besides Mattison and perhaps linebacker Manase Hungala, all of the Beavers' incoming freshmen are expected to be academically qualified by training camp. … Riley thinks the 6-5, 275-pound Harlow can be in the mix for playing time immediately … Redshirt freshman cornerback Tyler Hasty could return punts, though Nelson and true freshmen Bolden and Jarmon have experience and will get looks there. … True freshman place-kicker Garrett Owens is expected to redshirt.