5 things to watch in Week 1 of Beavers football
There's a lot that could be said about Oregon State before it kicks off year two of the Gary Andersen era at 6 p.m. PST, Thursday.
With that said, here are five things to watch as the Beavers enter Week 1 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
1. COMFORT AT QB
What a difference a year makes.
Just a season ago, Oregon State's QB depth chart featured three quarterbacks totaling a whopping zero years of college football experience.
If you need a refresher, here's what the 2015 QB depth chart looked like halfway through the season:
- Seth Collins, Freshman
- Nick Mitchell, RS Freshman
- Marcus McMaryion, Freshman
While the three freshman, led by Seth Collins, struggled to make up for the lack of experience, Utah State transfer Darell Garretson roamed the sidelines - forced to sit out the 2015 season per the NCAA transfer rules.
Garretson, currently a redshirt junior, has brought invaluable stability to the quarterback position and the offense as a whole.
Those thoughts echoed by Head Coach Gary Andersen on Monday:
"A year ago, the quarterback position was just so inexperienced where kids hadn't been in that spot. And to have Darell in where he's been in big games, he's played in big venues on the road. It's a good feeling to have a guy that's been in the moment."
2. COLLINS AT WIDE RECEIVER
There was a clear mutual desire at the end of 2015, between Collins and the coaching staff, to move the former QB to wide receiver in 2016.
His raw athleticism will make it tough to pull him off the field.
The real question isn't whether or not he can play WR; it's "How will he be used?"
After week 1 against Minnesota, we should finally have an idea.
3. THE NEW AND IMPROVED RUNNING GAME
Coach Andersen has said many times, he didn't know Ryan Nall was his starting runningback until the 2015 Civil War when he broke off for 228 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
Nall, a sophomore, entered 2016 with the starting job. The question was "Who would fill in behind him on the depth chart?"
That answer has become clear over the course of Fall Camp.
2016 Week 1 RB Depth Chart:
- Ryan Nall, Sophomore
- Artavis Pierce, Freshman
- Tim Cook, Senior
Pierce and Cook should see a relatively significant share of the snaps come Thursday. Pierce will bring a speed aspect to the running game. Cook, like Nall, will bring a "bruising, physical" running-style to the backfield.
According to Coach Andersen, Cook's best asset is his ball security. A welcome sight when Oregon State ranked last in the Pac-12 in Turnover Margin (-4) in 2015.
4. YOUTH ON THE LINES
Both the offensive and defensive lines feature their own fair share of youth.
With the likely redshirt of Senior OL Sean Harlow due to injuries, RS freshman Blake Brandel steps up in his place at left tackle.
Plus, Sophomore Yanni Demogerontas gets the start at center following the 2015 graduation of Josh Mitchell.
Sophomore, Kalani Vakameilalo (6' 3", 311 lbs.) and RS Freshman, Elu Aydon (6' 3", 327 lbs.), lead the youth movement on the defensive line.
Physically, this duo can match-up with most teams in the Pac-12, but how often will those petty "rookie mistakes" occur?
There's been no talk of these two being behind at the end of fall camp, in fact, quite the opposite.
However, there's nothing that prepares you for the moment like experience.
Quick Note: Keep an eye on the playing time for three freshman at LB: Shemar Smith, Joah Robinett, and Hamilcar Rashed, Jr.
5. CORNERBACK DEPTH
There's experience in the secondary, but there's not depth.
Two weeks ago, the secondary lost two players: Sophomore Gabe Ovgard medically retired from football, while Senior Cyril Noland-Lewis transferred to Louisiana Tech to finish his collegiate career.
J.C. Transfer, Kyle White, who entered fall camp at runningback, moved to cornerback to provide some extra cushion on the depth chart.
Not to mention, Minnesota's wide receivers will be a match-up nightmare for Oregon State.
The Golden Gophers have a considerable size advantage at WR that the Beavers will have a tough time keeping in check.
That includes tight end Nate Wozniak who at 6 foot 10 inches, 275 pounds is the tallest player in all of college football.