UCLA gets a good match-up this week against an Oregon St. team that beat Wisconsin at home in their only game of the season. Much has been made about the fact that UCLA has played 3 games this season while Oregon St. has only played 1, but I doubt it will have much of an effect on UCLA's game planning. Oregon St. is one of the few teams in the conference with a lot of staff continuity. In fact, HC Mike Riley is in his 10th season at Oregon St., and his DC and OC have been with him for nearly the entirety of his tenure.
This is an important game for Oregon St. It is their only trip to Southern California, and one of only three trips to California between 2011 and 2012. Like much of the Pac-12, recruiting California is important for the health of the program, and I expect Oregon St. to play well, especially after an extra week of preparation.
We'll get to the coaching staff and offensive players after the jump.
In contrast from last week's revamped coaching staff, Oregon St. has plenty of continuity. Mike Riley is in his tenth season at Oregon St. and will undoubtedly become Oregon St.'s all-time winningest coach this season.
Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker has been with Riley for the past ten years, and Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf is in his eighth season with Riley. Don't expect to see anything that you have not seen for the last decade from the Beavers. The Beavers will play solid defense out of their base 4-3, a scheme which has been very good for them when they get good defensive tackle play, and they will run a pro-style offense with zone based blocking.
At this point last year, So. Sean Mannion (6'5 218 lbs.) took over for Ryan Katz. At the time, I couldn't understand it because Katz had played well the previous year, having thrown for 2,283 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The problem was his accuracy, as he only completed 59.8% of his passes. Mannion stepped in and performed well, throwing for 3,328 yards with 16 touchdowns and completed 64.5% of his passes. However, he did throw 18 interceptions, and Oregon St. limped to a 3-7 finish under Mannion.
While the jury is still out on Mannion, he played very well against Wisconsin. He completed 29/47 attempts for 276 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. If he can consistently play that well, Oregon St. will be a tough team to beat in the Pac-12.
Behind Mannion, Oregon St. has Jr. Cody Vaz (6'1 198 lbs.). Vaz supposedly outplayed Mannion in Spring ball, and the coaching staff is high on him.
So. Malcolm Agnew (5'8 188 lbs.) and Fr. Storm Woods (6'0 202 lbs.) combine to form a pretty decent Oregon St. backfield. Oregon St. has a fine lineage of running backs, including Steven Jackson, Ken Simonton, Yvenson Bernard, and James Rodgers, but struggled to find a consistent ball carrier last season. Agnew led the team with 423 yards on 89 carries, but his small size limits his durability, and he missed 6 games over the course of the season. With Woods sharing the load, Oregon St. may have found a good combination of backs to split carries and keep Agnew healthy for the long haul. The two combined for 20 carries and 81 yards against Wisconsin, who, despite their struggles, are only giving up 2.89 yards per carry so far this season.
Oregon St. also has So. Terron Ward (5'7 195 lbs.) who is used primarily as a 3rd down scat type back, and Sr. Jordon Jenkins (6'1 210 lbs.), who is used as a short yardage back. Ward had 1 carry for 2 yards and 1 catch for 10 yards against Wisconsin, but Jenkins did not register any action.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Beavers have a similar dual threat receiving corps in Sr. Markus Wheaton (6'1 180 lbs.) and So. Brandin Cooks (5'7 170 lbs.). Cooks reminds me of James Rodgers, and caught 6 balls for 80 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin. Wheaton has very good speed, and managed 8 catches for 87 yards against Wisconsin. Their success should not come as a surprise. Wheaton caught 73 balls for 986 yards last year, while Cooks caught 31 balls for 391 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman.
Jr. Kevin Cummings (6'1 178 lbs.) starts in the slot. He only made 2 catches for 12 yards against Wisconsin, but I expect that Cummings will probably get a lot more looks this Saturday with Spanos bringing pressure.
In addition to the above, look out for So. Obum Gwatchum (6'5 223 lbs.). Gwatchum has great size and could pose some problems on jump balls. Gwatchum only made 8 catches last year, but those 8 balls went for 147 yards.
Of course, Oregon St. wouldn't be Oregon St. without their two tight end sets. Oregon St. lost H-Back Joe Halahuni to graduation, so look for Sr. Colby Prince (6'5 252 lbs.) and So. Connor Hamlett (6'7 259 lbs.). Neither are as athletic as Halahuni, but they are both big, dependable targets that cause some match-up issues. Oregon St. will also use So. Tyler Perry (6'5 256 lbs.) as an H-Back.
Oregon St. started four former walk-ons at offensive line last year, and they lost three starters to graduation over the off-season. However, they return a lot of players who missed parts or all of the past two seasons due to injury, and they may have a more talented line this year. The returnees include RT Sr. Collin Kelley Jr. (6'4 290 lbs.), who missed some time last season due to ankle surgery, RG So. Grant Enger (6'5 279 lbs.), who filled in for injured Jr. Josh Andrews (6'2 282 lbs.) at LG last season but will move back to RG, and LT Jr. Michael Phillip (6'4 324 lbs.), who missed most of the past two years due to injuries.
The most inexperienced player on the line is 5* Fr. Isaac Seumalo (6'2 302 lbs.). Seumalo was one of the top interior offensive line recruits in the country, and it will be fun to see Seumalo and big Ellis McCarthy face off. His back-up has a familiar name to many of us 49er fans; So. Roman Sapolu (6'2 284 lbs.) starts at C, the son of the great 49er C Jesse Sapolu.
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.