Commentary: Projecting 2012 Starting Offense

JOVAN STEVENSON

SPRING BALL WILL be here before you know it, and so it's time to start taking a look at who graduates, who returns, and start daydreaming about what the starting offensive lineup might look like in 2012.

The Beavers entered 2011 arguably fairly loaded at skill positions, but facing question marks in the trenches. Those question marks were massively amplified by injuries and unplanned absences. But things look brighter for the 2012 season, provided much of 2011's hard luck is a thing of the past.

Injuries are a monkey that simply has to be shaken off Oregon State's collective back to find some success. Offensively the Beavers return a lot of starters - but there still remains a fair bit of uncertainty to shake out.

The offensive line is where the conjecture begins - this group could have a major shakeup. LT Mike Remmers, RG Burke Ellis, and C Grant Johnson each leave a spot to be filled, and make up the bulk of Oregon State's much-maligned "Walk On Offensive Line" group. It's entirely possible that the trio were unfairly criticized - truth be told, Johnson played well for much of 2011 - but was hobbled by injury. Remmers took a step backward after a promising early career, and should be ably replaced by Michael Philipp, who took off the 2011 season to get a problematic knee sorted out.

We predict that Josh Andrews will return to center after swapping positions with Johnson during 2011 fall camp, and Grant Enger will slide into the role he filled when Andrews was sidelined with a lower leg injury. Colin Kelly returns at RT and will be counted on to improve for his senior season.

Right guard is perhaps the biggest question mark, and while Geoff Garner could figure into the mix somewhere, it's BF.com's prediction that highly acclaimed true freshman Isaac Seumalo will force his way into the starting lineup. Having a true freshman win a starting job is both good and bad, but along with Andrews at center and Enger at LG, could form a physical interior line that the Beavers haven't enjoyed for quite some time.

The x-factor here is UCLA bounceback Stan Hasiak, who is a key Beaver target from the junior college ranks. Should Hasiak choose the Beavers, there would be an option to move Philipp to offensive guard -- an interesting scenario indeed. It could transform virtually overnight the Oregon State running game..

At quarterback, the departure of Ryan Katz, destination unknown, leaves a crystal clear picture. Sean Mannion has an iron grip on the starter's mantle, and Cody Vaz provides reliable and experienced depth. Mannion showed uncommon poise for a freshman QB, despite being asked to put the offense on his back and carry them. The 2012 should be a leap forward for Mannion as the game slows down.

At running back, the situation should prove to again be a running-back-by-committee approach and looks largely up for grabs. The projection here may surprise some -- for Jovan Stevenson to get the nod. Stevenson was arguably the most productive of Oregon State's backs in 2011, when figuring in Malcolm Agnew's difficulty hanging on to the ball and hamstring injury history. But Stevenson has struggled with his own injury history, including shoulder, knee, and concussion issues in the past.

The X-factor here is Storm Woods, whom Mike Riley has commented that he expects to challenge for a starting position. But incoming recruit Chris Brown, who gave his verbal commitment to the Beavers over virtually the entire rest of the Pac-12, could show up and shake it all up.

The WR/TE positions are fairly stable and easier to project. With James Rodgers limited most of the season, we're counting Brandin Cooks as a returning starter. Markus Wheaton was the star of the group and will be counted on to have a big senior season, while the mercury-quick Cooks looks to be capable of a breakout season. Jordan Bishop was the single biggest bite victim from the injury bug, and a healthy 2012 could see JB finally realize his massive potential. The Beavers lose TE/HB Joe Halahuni to graduation, and there is a step down in terms of receiving ability with the heir apparent Colby Prince. On the upside, Prince proved to be a better blocker and the OSU run game welcomes his return.

As a group, this unit needs to grow with respect to their blocking. The x-factor in the discussion is Obum Gwachum, the freakishly gifted tweener split end. At 6-5 and 230 pounds with high jumping ability of 7-feet plus, "Boom" is a nightmare matchup for most cornerbacks. At his size, if his blocking and route running continue to grow, he could figure big into Oregon State's plans.

Honorable mention for returning starter goes to fullback and Mr. Hustle Clayton York, who began to emerge in 2011 and filled Will Darkins' shoes admirably. York earned player of the week honors after blocking a punt and returning it 41 yards for a touchdown against Arizona, as well as hauling in an 18 yard touchdown pass from Sean Mannion against Washington State.

2012 Starters Projection:
SE Markus Wheaton
SL Jordan Bishop
LT Michael Philipp
LG Grant Enger
C Josh Andrews
RG Isaac Seumalo
RT Colin Kelly
FL Brandin Cooks
TE Colby Prince
QB Sean Mannion
RB Jovan Stevenson

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