Oregon State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Beavers, best players and season prediction.
What You Need to Know About the Oregon State Offense
The only way is up, and not just because Corvallis was home to the Pac-12’s worst offense in 2015. The Beavers are genuinely in better shape than they were at this time last year.
The backfield shows promise now that Darell Garretson has moved a giant step closer to the starting quarterback job, and Civil War hero Ryan Nall has a full year to handle the feature back role. Garretson, who head coach Gary Andersen had at Utah State, is exactly the kind of leader OSU needs in the huddle. And a passer who can take advantage of an untapped corps of receivers that includes shifty Victor Bolden, well-sized Jordan Villamin and budding H-back Noah Togiai.
The team also welcomes back four starting O-linemen, though LT Sean Harlow and RG Gavin Andrews must prove they can remain healthy for a full season. Oregon State will still be iffy offensively, but it’ll climb out of the league cellar if Garretson and Nall fulfill expectations.
Biggest Key To The Oregon State Offense
> Better balance. The Beavers will have more options than a year ago now that Utah State transfer Darell Garretson has taken control of the quarterback spot. He’s not a flamethrower, but he’s a clear upgrade from what the program used behind center in 2015. And the leadership and accuracy of Garretson is going to help all of skill players, from RB Ryan Nall to a veteran receiving corps that’s gotten a boost from the development of H-back Noah Togiai and the arrival of rookie WR Trevon Bradford.
What You Need to Know About the Oregon State Defense
New coordinator Kevin Clune sure doesn’t shy away from challenges, because he’s taken the reins of one of the Power Five’s worst defenses of 2015.
Making the gig even tougher for Clune, top lineman Kyle Peko graduated and two proven starters, LB Rommel Mageo and FS Justin Strong, elected to continue their careers elsewhere. Oregon State is paper thin on sure things, though LB Caleb Saulo is a grinder and S Devin Chappell and CB Treston Decoud flash experience and upside from the secondary.
The Beavers will have numerous first-time starters in the front seven, raising concerns that the pass rush and the run defense will again be soft. Kalani Vakameilalo could be the answer at the nose, when the team lines up out of the 3-4.
But it’s off the edge that Clune hopes ends Baker Pritchard, Sumner Houston and Phillip Napoleon and outside linebackers Bright Ugwoegbu, Jonathan Willis and Titus Failauga can disrupt opposing quarterbacks’ timing.
Biggest Key To The Oregon State Defense
A very contentious summer. While the post-spring depth chart provided direction, it’s a long way from being a finished document. A long way. The Beavers have a new coordinator, Kevin Clune, and holes the result of graduations and transfers, such as LB Rommel Mageo to Ole Miss and S Justin Strong to Montana. Bank on a number of first-timers in the two-deep, as Oregon State continues to sort out the personnel of a defense that yielded 37 points per game in 2015.
Oregon State Will Be Far Better If …
the offensive line gets healthy … and stays healthy. There’s a fair amount of offensive potential in Corvallis. Not Oregon potential, but certainly a chance to improve upon last year’s futility. Maximizing the unit’s potential, though, hinges on the health of a veteran O-line. Senior LT Sean Harlow and RG Gavin Andrews, for instance, are bedrock blockers for the Beavers. But the latter missed 2015 with a foot injury, and the former relied on a scooter in the spring to baby his right ankle.
Best Offensive Player
Senior WR Victor Bolden. Bolden is the kind of all-around playmaker that can hurt defenses in myriad different ways. Unfortunately for the senior, he lacked the partnership with a capable quarterback to fully maximize his potential in 2015. Bolden’s skills were muted by youth and inconsistency behind center. However, now that Darell Garretson is eligible to play, look for the speedy Bolden to resume being an electrifying weapon in his final year of eligibility.
Best Defensive Player
Senior LB Caleb Saulo. This will be a big year for Saulo now that he’s being counted on to assume a greater leadership role. He’s one of the more experienced members of a D dealing with changes everywhere. And he’s coming off his most productive season in Corvallis, finishing second on the team in tackles. Right now, Saulo is one of just three seniors projected to start the opener, so his value to the Beavers will transcend what shows up in a box score.
Key Player to a Successful Season
Junior QB Darell Garretson. Don’t kid yourself. No single individual is capable of transforming this Oregon State team in 2016. But greater stability and playmaking potential behind center will create a ripple effect that reaches every unit on the roster. Garretson brings experience and poise to a position that was overmatched a year ago. And if he’s able to spread the ball around to an underrated ensemble of receivers, it’s going to unclog running lanes for Ryan Nall and give longer breaks to the defense.
The Season Will Be a Success If …
the Beavers win four games, or double last season’s total. Rebuilding Oregon State will be a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no quick-fix and the talent pool is shallow compared to the rest of the Pac-12. The Beavs will be heavy favorites against one opponent, FCS Idaho State in Week 2. And heavy dogs in at least five games. If they can go 4-8 with a youthful roster, returning to a winning campaign and a bowl berth becomes more realistic in 2017.
Sept. 1 at Minnesota. There’ll be no do-or-die games on the Oregon State schedule. No must-win matchups in the chase for a divisional title. Instead, the Beavers will want to use their opponents for a chance to build momentum and confidence. If OSU can deliver an opening-night upset in Minneapolis, it’ll return back to Corvallis for back-to-back home games believing 2016 might have far more potential than last year’s wire-to-wire disaster.
2015 Fun Stats
– Scoring: Oregon State 37.0 – Opponents 19.0
– Third-down%: Oregon State 32% – Opponents 46%
– Sacks: Oregon State 17 – Opponents 19