Head coach Mike Riley quickly acknowledged all of the looming questions heading into fall camp this year. Some players will have to grow up fast and the coaches will be looking for playmakers on both sides of the ball.
“I'm very excited about this camp, and enter it with a lot of expectations, obviously, but also a lot of questions,” said Riley who hopes to bump his career OSU coaching record above .500 this year. “I think this camp will probably have more things, heading in, where we have some great competition than if you compared it to where we were a year ago coming in.”
One of those positions that has many questions and great competition is the wide receiving group. Junior Mike Hass is the only returning player with game proven ability and finding second and third options are crucial to OSU’s offensive success. Riley would like to see the veterans step up.
"I would look to some of the veteran guys first - Josh Hawkins, George Gillett, Cole Clasen. They've been here; it's their time to step up and take charge of a position - they'll be given that opportunity.
“I think there are a lot of good football players there, but who's going to take charge and make plays and be reliable - that's what we're looking for."
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Riley addressed the significant amount of work that needs to be done on the offensive line. How the players jell as a unit and how fast they progress will dictate how well the Beavers will play in Baton Rouge and throughout the season.
"I'm excited about the individual talent there; I think there are some good players. I think we can develop into a very good offensive line;” he said. “it's how fast we can do that that's the key.”
Much of the talk during the off-season has been focused on the running back situation. Are the Beavers going to use a one man ground game or a running back by committee?
“I made the point that we're not going to necessarily be `running back by committee.' Dwight is sort of the incumbent; he'll start out there Thursday,” Riley said. “He'll get strong competition from Ryan Cole and Yvenson Bernard going in. Those guys are all good football players. Now, will we play more than one back? Absolutely.”
Tight end Joe Newton replaces all-Pac-10 player Tim Euhus and Riley wouldn’t have it any other way. The tight end will be an important part of the offense and Newton is expected to contribute heavily in 2004.
“Joe Newton has a ton of ability - I'm excited about Joe. If we had to replace Tim Euhus, I'd pick Joe Newton as the guy I'd like to start with, so I feel good about that,” Riley said.
Riley also feels good about the players on the defensive side of the ball as the Beavers return a strong secondary and experienced players on the defensive line.
“You know, if I had a choice, I'd rather have stability on defense and feel good about it,” he said. “And I think with the people we have, we have a chance to continue in the tradition of our defense here.”
With the Beavers playing the co-national champions in the same season (at LSU, USC at home), the team will have to take one game at a time and “live in the moment.”
“We have to take each day right now and get the most out of it to get ready for our season, then later on focus in on that first game and then go on from there.”
“We literally have to live in the moment this year - we have to take advantage of each day now that we're going through. This is a major time for us. As we look at our fall camp, we look at it in a way that we form the identity of our team now. What we do, and can do well coming out of fall camp, is who we will be.”
Former lettermen linebacker Danny Kalavi, offensive lineman Kanan Sanchez, and offensive line Brandon Lockheart were not on the roster due to non-football related issues. Linebacker Seth Lacey walked away from the team due to persistent neck and shoulder problems while offensive lineman Jake Pratt will sit out the season due to chronic knee problems.
Freshmen Stadford Brown and Keith Johnson will not be on the 2004 roster and are rumored to be going to junior colleges in California. Freshmen Dennis Christopher, Isaiah Cook, Patrick Fuller, Eric Moala, and Will Price will all greyshirt this season.
The fates of freshmen Wallace Bates, Jon Ioane, and Burnell Wallace are in limbo as the coaches wait to hear back from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
As of August 11, the Beavers have 80 players on scholarship with the limit being 85.
- Oregon State will wear a sticker on their helmets with the letters “JW” in honor of Justin Williams who was killed in a car wreck in July.
- This is the 108th season of OSU football.
- The second annual Beaver Nation Rose Rally will be held Mon. Aug. 23 in
Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland.
- The new uniforms will be unveiled at the Rose City rally.
- The Beavers will currently play in front of a national audience three times this season (at LSU – ESPN, at Bosie State – ESPN, Oregon – Fox Sports)