RILEY: Defense will be "much better"

MIKE RILEY

TUCKED INTO ALL the rest of it on Pac-12 Media Day for Oregon State, Mike Riley made a prediction -- of sorts. Anyone who has followed the Beavers' coach knows that while always upbeat, OSU's head man is loathe to box himself in with the prognostication game. Yet there it was on Tuesday, as Riley sat on the podium along with Beavers Markus Wheaton and Jordan Poyer.

Mike Riley said the Beaver defense is going to be "much better" this year, and that Oregon State is going to be able to throw it well on offense.

Well, hell. For Riley, that's nearly tantamount to predicting the finishing order of the Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC and who will play in the national championship game.

What Riley isn't as sure about, though, is his offensive backfield.

Asked if he wants to have a clear starter or if going by committee is okay, he took a different tact, saying that whatever way OSU goes about it, he wants 1,800 yards this season on the ground.

Find a team featuring a running back by committee that accounted for 1,800 ground yards or better. It's going to be a long search. So it's a fair bet the head man will eventually pick a starting horse and turn him loose, with the others ancillary contributors. Riley said the Beavs would welcome Chris Brown into the mix (with Malcolm Agnew, Terron Ward, Jordan Jenkins and Storm Woods) and then see how things played out in fall camp.

"Whatever way it works, we have to run the ball better," said Riley.

RILEY ALSO SAID the Pac-12 conference in 2012 is probably as competitive top to bottom as he's ever seen it. If he's right, that will mean upsets aplenty this season, with no game a sure thing.

Meanwhile, Markus Wheaton and Jordan Poyer did a good job fielding questions. Asked if last year's 3-9 record will fuel the team in 2012, most observers probably expected Wheaton to say no, the past is past. But he went the other way.

Wheaton said the Beavs look back on it and it fuels them greatly. Poyer said last season left a bad taste in their mouths and they want to be sure they don't feel that way again. Wheaton did say the Beavs had a lot of freshmen last year and they know better this year what they have to do to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Riley said Stan Hasiak is working hopefully through the final stages in order to gain academic clearance and be eligible to join OSU.

When that might happen is anyone's guess, though by the time fall camp starts on Aug. 6 is a pretty good date to focus on.

RILEY SAID HE believes the secondary will be a strength, with good depth at safety and two solid starting corners in Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds, (and Sean Martin's a pretty good Pac-12 corner as well.) He also said the addition of new secondary coach Rod Perry will pay dividends in 2012.

Poyer said he learned a ton from Perry this spring, and is eager to see how much learns through an entire season. He stressed that the man Perry replaced, Keith Heyward was a good coach, but that Perry "brings so much more" to the table.

Riley said regarding the QB situation, that both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz had good springs and he likes the teamwork between the two. Mannion is the starter, Riley said, but he repeated his oft-mentioned mantra that he feels like OSU has two QBs who can win in the Pac-12.

THE PAC-12 MEDIA POLL was released today and the Beavs didn't see much love from the West Coast media who cover the conference.

OSU was picked to finish sixth in the North Division.

USC is the favorite to win the 2012 Pac-12 Conference title, coming from the South. Oregon was the pick to win the North.

NORTH DIVISION
1. Oregon (117) 732
2. Stanford (5) 533
3. Washington 502
4. California (1) 382
5. Washington State 228
6. Oregon State 205

SOUTH DIVISION
1. USC (117) 729
2. Utah (1) 514
3. UCLA (2) 435
4. Arizona 385
5. Arizona State (3) 353
6. Colorado 164

PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION: USC (102 votes)
Others receiving votes: Oregon (18), Arizona State (3)

The 2012 Pac-12 Championship Football Game will take place Friday, November 30 at 5 p.m. PT and telecast to a national audience on FOX. The Championship game will match the winner of the North Division vs. the winner of the South Division. The game will be played on the campus of the division winner with the best overall conference record. The winner of the Pac-12 Championship will earn the league's automatic BCS berth.

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