Pre-Spring Offensive Depth Chart Analysis

MICHAEL PHILIPP RETURNS

NOWHERE WILL THE injuries, offseason surgeries and rehab be more keenly felt this spring than on the offensive line. Mike Riley said this week he's planning on having but eight o-linemen, with nearly half of them walk-ons. We delve into the pre-spring offensive depth chart and take a close, analytical look.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Left Tackle:
Justin Addie
*Colin Kelly

Left Guard:
Josh Andrews

Center:
Roman Sapolu
Jake Welch

Right Guard:
Mike Beaton
David Vieru
*Geoff Garner

Right Tackle:
Michael Philipp
Derek Nielsen

NOTES:
Enger and Kelly, two starters, will be out and limited this spring, respectively. But the return of Philipp could be big. He had an up-and-down sophomore season in 2010, yes. But count us among those who continue to believe he can be an elite lineman in the Pac-12. His true freshman season in '09 convinced us of that. Losing o-tackle Darryl Jackson to chronic injury retirement hurts, he looked to have a good chance to earn a starting job or at least significantly contribute. It also didn't help the depth when Geoff Garner decided this offseason to leave the program. Their departures, along with the injury to Kelly, moves Addie, who might be a more natural guard, into the tackle spot this spring. On paper, the o-line looks to be cause for concern – the Beavs are counting on incoming frosh Isaac Seumalo and JC transfer Stan Hasiak to make immediate impacts. And counting on first year Beavers to win Pac-12 battles in the trenches is asking a lot – although Seumalo does look to be a special player, and one who can play tackle, guard or center. And Mike Riley was high on the potential of Addie, Welch and Beaton this week. It would go a long ways towards calming the waters if they, and/or another hoss or two, can put together a corner-turning performance this spring. With the low lineman body count, don't count on much of anything to be decided this spring depth-chart wise. That will wait until fall, and perhaps be the biggest storyline of fall camp.

QUARTERBACKS:
Sean Mannion
Cody Vaz
Jack Lomax
Richie Harrington

Notes:
There's not much mystery here – Mannion is the unquestioned starter and Vaz is secure in the No.2 role. Every college coach says before every spring and fall camp he wants the backup to push the starter and that there is always competition for every job, and Riley was no exception this week. But barring injury, (and given the way Riley stuck with Mannion last year no matter what,) the pecking order is clear. That said, Vaz has gotten rid of any early-career butterflies and he's a solid backup who can win games should he be called upon. He also hasn't shown a tenth of his potential yet. Meanwhile, Mannion looked great at times last year, not so good at other times – about what you would expect of a redshirt freshman QB starter. The biggest issue was his tendency to force the ball. Figure on that to be significantly lessened this spring. The real question this spring is will Mannion continue on an upward glide path or stay constant. If Mannion can improve on the good, and decrease the bad this spring, OSU fans will feel very good about their starting quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS:
Malcolm Agnew
Terron Ward
Storm Woods
Jordan Jenkins
*Jovan Stevenson

NOTES:
The good news is there's a fair amount of depth, even with Stevenson will be limited this spring. The bad news is the Beavs are exactly where they were at this time last year – with no clear starter. Woods was talked about a lot in fall camp but then was redshirted. He was again talked about this past week by Riley. Does he emerge this spring to seize the starting role? Agnew looked like the guy early on this past season, but then his hamstring problems flared. And then when he did get back in, and in concert with poor line blocking, he was shut down. Ward is a tough runner and some would argue the most consistent back in 2011. But he hasn't shown the staff that he's an every down guy, nor has Jenkins or Stevenson. OSU needs someone in this group to step up. They needed it last year too, and didn't get it. And if OSU goes through this spring with the position unsettled, they'll once again be counting on an incoming back with loads of potential, Chris Brown, to settle the issue. The problem with that was that the Beavs last year post-spring were counting on high-potential incoming backs Woods and Agnew to do the same. The best possible scenario this spring would be for Woods to dazzle and for one or more of the other backs to make a large leap. Then, for Brown to show in the fall he's Pac-12 ready.

TIGHT ENDS/H-BACKS
Colby Prince
Connor Hamlett
Tyler Perry
Kellen Clute
Caleb Smith

NOTES:
Losing Joe Halahuni is a blow, there's just no getting around that. But Riley said the Beavs are deeper this year than last and it's hard to argue with him. Prince is the most experienced and there's young talent behind him in Hamlett, Klute and Perry, the latter being one who has had a great offseason according to Riley. The wildcard is Smith, who graduated high school early and will join the Beavs early for spring ball. And that's a big benefit, for Smith to go through spring, offseason summer workouts and get a head start in the college classroom -- all before fall camp. But is Smith fresh out of high school ready to compete this year? The spring will give an early indicator on that. Surely, he'll make some mistakes and there will be an adjustment period this spring, but Riley seemed to indicate this week he thinks by the time fall camp rolls around, he could be ready to contribute.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Flanker:
Brandin Cooks
Micah Hatfield

Split End:
Markus Wheaton
Richard Mullaney
Geno Munoz
Jeff Bedbury

Slotback:
Obum Gwacham
Kevin Cummings
Mitch Singler
Kramer Ferrell
*Jordan Bishop

NOTES:
Riley was sky high on the 2012 potential of Obum Gwacham, who will move to the slot this spring from split end -- and assumedly in part because Jordan Bishop is out with injury But even when Bishop returns, Gwacham figures to play a large role this season based on what Riley had to say this week. His athleticism, his improvement over last year and ability to grab the ball at its highest point are among the reasons why. Wheaton is still the bell cow of this group, however, and he's explosive as they come. But Cooks could be one on the same upward trek. Both are threats to go the distance every time they touch the ball. Keep an eye out for Mullaney -- Riley mentioned him often this week. He's sneaky fast and dependable. He could be the guy who quietly moves the chains in key situations while making it possible for others to make the long touchdown receptions. Hatfield is another on Riley's radar. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him develop into one of those "star role players." OSU threw the ball last year -- a lot. They didn't have much of a running game and Mannion and OSU quarterbacks heaved it 503 times, an average of 42 times a game. But those reps, as much as they hurt during a 3-9 campaign, should help the passing game in 2012. The Beavs would seem to have plenty of weapons here, and if the o-line can provide enough time, OSU could put up some crooked receiving numbers this spring and in 2012. The other option, and this might be the most realistic, would be a faster release and shorter routes -- and then let the catch-and-run become a big part of OSU's success.

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