Oregon State was the doormat of the Pac 10 for nearly three decades. Beaver Believers suffered through the Dee Andros, Craig Fertig, Joe Avezzano, Dave Kragthorpe, and Jerry Pettibone era's when the Beavers went without a winning season for twenty-nine years.
In 1997 Oregon State hired Corvallis native Mike Riley who began rebuilding the program in earnest. He didn't have a winning season the first two years he was there but the foundation was set for Dennis Erickson to have some success once Riley bolted to the San Diego Chargers. Riley returned in 2003 after Erickson left to coach the 49ers and he has established his program as a perennial title contender.
How has Mike Riley accomplished this? Has he out recruited the competition? According to Scout his classes have been at our near the bottom of the Pac 10 the last five years. 2010 - #67 - 2009 - #48 - 2008 - #61 - 2007 - #40 - 2006 - #41. Obviously he has been an expert evaluator of talent because he has won with the pieces that other conference coaches obviously passed on.
The key to the OSU success under Riley is talent evaluation, talent development, conditioning, teaching, game day coaching, and a solid foundation that has been built over the past 13 years. Ask any coach and they will say the longevity of a coaching staff is perhaps the biggest key in establishing a successful program.
Heading into 2010 the Beavers should open the season in the top 25 and be one of the favorites to win the Pac 10 crown. They are breaking in a new QB but the multi-talented Rodgers brothers and a stout defense should be able to take a lot of the heat off of So QB Ryan Katz who drew comparisons to Jake Locker during spring ball.
Jr RB Jacquizz Rodgers returns to lead the OSU running attack and is arguably the best player in a league loaded with quality running backs. If he can stay healthy all season long there is no reason why he won't get heavy consideration from the Heisman voters.
Sr WR James Rodgers caught a team-high 91 passes for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns in 2009. He also carried the ball 58 times for 303 yards and a touchdown on fly sweeps. So Jordan Bishop and JR Darrell Catchings will be lining up beside Rodgers. Jr HB Joe Halahuni was fourth on the team with 35 catches for 486 yards and three touchdowns.Sr TE Brady Camp returns but his chances have been limited due to the liberal use of the H-back.
The OSU line looks strong with four starters returning. Jr OT Burke Ellis who is a former walk on is the new starter at left tackle. Jr OT Mike Remmers return on the right side. Sr Alex Linnenkohl is one of the best centers in the country. So OG Michael Michael Philipp started 13 games last season as a true frosh. Jr OG Grant Johnson who is recovering from shoulder surgery is expected to start at the other guard position.
Mark Banker is one of the most respected DC's in the country. his defense rank consistently among the best in the conference and the secret has been the development of quality depth which keeps the defense fresh in the latter stages of the game.
Up front Sr DT Stephen Paea resisted the temptation of the NFL draft to return. Mark him down as one of the best players in the conference. Paea had 43 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and four forced fumbles in 2010 but he also had to be constantly double teamed which opened up opportunities for the rest of the defense. Sr DT Brennan Olander is another former walk on who has earned a starting job. He isn't big but his quickness allows him to make plays. Out on the ends Sr DE Gabe Miller returns and is flanked buy So DE Taylor Henry who has good potential.
The Beavers have some rebuilding to do at linebacker. Sr WLB Dwight Roberson returns and he is one of the best in the conference. Over on the strong side So SLB Devin Unga who is shaking off the rust of a Mormon mission looked to be in the lead for the starting job coming out of spring practice. So MLB Tony Wilson appears to be the guy in the middle but So MLB Kevin Unga is still in the mix.
The secondary that suffered from extreme growing pains last season returns as a seasoned unit with plenty of depth. Sr CB James Dockery is an all league candidate. He is flanked by JR Brandon Hardin who is described as a big CB who packs the punch of a LB. Jr S Lance Mitchell returns along with JR S Cameron Collins. Mitchell is a ball hawk who is always a threat to pick one off. Collins is a huge kid who reminds me of a healthy Jason Wells.
Washington vs Oregon State
The Beavers have a solid defensive system in place and plenty of depth to rotate the front four to keep them fresh. OSU will experience a fall off at LB but keep an eye on that defensive backfield. The Beavers are loaded back there with speed, physicality, and depth. They need to cover better in 2010 but man can they get up there and support the run.
Offensively the teams should be fairly even with the exception being at QB. Jake Locker can do so many things that Ryan Katz can't do and he has the experience of starting for the past three seasons. UW is a little deeper at receiver and will challenge the Beavers deep. OSU will be dumping it off more to the Rodgers brothers and Halahuni to keep the percentages high for Katz.
The game is being played in Seattle and OSU is breaking in a new QB so advantage Washington. UW has an edge with Locker but the Beavers have plenty of skill guys which can take the pressure off a new QB. If Washington has any type of Rose Bowl aspirations they need to knock the Beavers off at home. I have to pick UW by a field goal at this point.