After last week's embarrassment in the Rose Bowl, UCLA travels to Corvallis to face off against the 0-2 Oregon St. Beaver squad. At this point, it's unclear who has had the worse season between the two teams. Oregon St. started off the season losing to middling FCS Sacramento St. in overtime at home, followed by a nationally televised crushing by the Wisconsin Badgers. On the other hand, UCLA is 1-2 but it feels like 0-3. This should be fun.
In contrast from last week's revamped coaching staff, Oregon St. has plenty of continuity. Mike Riley is in his ninth season at Oregon St. (he had also coached Oregon St. for two years previous to this stint before a 4 year NFL gig). Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker has been with Riley for the past nine years, and Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf is in his seventh season. Don't expect to see anything that you have not seen for the last 7+ seasons in Corvallis.
Historically, Oregon St. has always started slow and rebounded after tough seasons. True to form, Oregon St. has started slow once again, and now need to beat UCLA in order to begin their road to building a strong 2011 campaign.
Jr. Ryan Katz is out, RS Fr. Sean Mannion is in. Katz, 6'1 204 lbs., apparently wasn't getting the job done. Last year, Katz threw for 2,283 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, but only completed 59.8% of his passes. This year, albeit it yo-yo duty, he was completing only 52.0% of his passes. Coach Riley decided that he had seen enough, and officially named Mannion the starter last week. Mannion will be making his first career start, but if Riley handles the quarterback situation similar to the way he did against Wisconsin, expect to see both quarterbacks rotating on almost a per play basis.
Mannion is much bigger, 6'5 218 lbs., and has shown better accuracy in the first two games of the season. He's completing on 66.0% of his pass attempts, but neither he nor Katz has thrown for a touchdown this season.
Oregon St. has a fine recent lineage of running backs; Steven Jackson, Ken Simonton, Yvenson Bernard, and James Rodgers have all excelled under Mike Riley. However, the back everyone expected to step in and fill that role, Sr. Ryan McCants, 6'1 228 lbs., was beat out by a true freshmen and has yet to carry the ball this year.
Fr. Malcolm Agnew may not have McCants' impressive stature, measuring only 5'8 188 lbs., but has put up impressive numbers so far, rushing for 233 yards on 33 carries. All of those yards were gained against FCS Sacramento St., however, as Agnew did not play against Wisconsin due to a sore hamstring. Although he has had two weeks off, it's unclear if he'll be ready to go on Saturday. He is listed as doubtful, but he has not practiced all week.
In the event Agnew is not ready to go, the Beavers will start former walk-on Jr. Jordan Jenkins. At 6'1 205 lbs., Jenkins brings better size to the table, but he has only 14 carries in his collegiate career. Fr. Terron Ward is a similar back to Agnew, measuring 5'7 189 lbs., and has gotten 7 carries this year. So. Jovan Stevenson is the only other back who has carried the ball.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Sr. James Rodgers has been cleared to play, and will start this week. He is coming off two knee surgeries in the offseason. In case anyone has forgotten, James Rodgers is electric. At 5'7 185 lbs., he may not be able to go over defenders, but he can go under them, around them, and is tough enough to go through them. Part of his danger is his ability to run the ball and return kicks and punts. Given that this is his first game back, I doubt that he'll be doing much extra work, so we catch a break there.
Rodgers will be backed up by Fr. Brandin Cooks. Yes, the Brandin Cooks that committed to UCLA and then switched to Oregon St. late in the recruiting season. Cooks is similar in stature to Rodgers, measuring 5'7 170 lbs. He has caught 5 balls for 45 yards and no touchdowns this year.
Oregon St.'s leading receiver through the first two games is Jr. Markus Wheaton. Wheaton brings decent size, 6'0 180 lbs., and very good speed to the table. He has caught 14 balls for 191 yards and no touchdowns this year after catching 54 balls for 660 yards last year.
Jr. Jordan Bishop, 6'3 205 lbs., starts in the slot. He is an All-American high jumper on the track team, and he has the size and ability to be a match-up nightmare, especially considering our loss of Andrew Abbott. He has caught 7 balls for 111 yards and no touchdowns this year.
In addition to the above, Fr. Obum Gwatchum, 6'5 223 lbs. and So. Kevin Cummings, 6'1 178 lbs., could see action, as they both have receptions in this young season.
Oregon St. also returns Sr. H-Back Joe Halahuni this week. The 6'2 252 lbs. blends very good hands with the blocking skills of a fullback. Last year, he had 30 catches for 390 yards and led the team with6 touchdowns. He is returning from shoulder surgery, and it is yet to be seen if he has the red zone chemistry with Mannion that he had with Katz. Halahuni will be backed up by Jr. Colby Prince, who has 6 catches for 34 yards and no touchdowns this season.
Oregon St. starts four former walk-ons at offensive line. They include LT Sr. Mike Remmers, 6'4 305 lbs., who is the team's best pass protector, C Sr. Grant Johnson, 6'3 293 lbs., who moves from left guard, RG Sr. Burke Ellis, 6'4 290 lbs., and RT Jr. Collin Kelley Jr., 6'4 290 lbs. So. Grant Enger, 6'5 279 lbs., fills in for injured So. Josh Andrews, 6'2 282 lbs. at LG.
The back-ups consist of Jr. Michael Philipp, 6'3 298 lbs., who started at LT last season and was expected to start at RT before being beaten out by Kelley, Sr. Michael Lamb, 6'3 293 lbs., who can play both guard spots, and So. Geoff Garner, 6'5 301 lbs. who is the LT of the future.
Overall, the offensive line is porous. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh has a tall order rebuilding a line that was 9th in the Pac-10 and 97th nationally in rushing last season despite having Jacquizz Rodgers, as well as ranked 9th in the Pac-10 and 107th nationally in sacks allowed.
That concludes Part I of the Oregon St. preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments. We'll conclude the preview with a look at Oregon St.'s defense and special teams soon.