COMMENTARY: Grading the OSU offensive depth

WR DARREL CATCHINGS

CORVALLIS -- There are two primary reasons for concern on offense for the 2009 Oregon State Beavers. And they aren't because of lack of talent, they're because of a lack of depth.

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Injuries took a toll on the Beavers and their depth this offseason, especially at key positions on offense.

QB Lyle Moevao missed the entire spring with a shoulder injury, RB Ryan McCants went down with a knee injury that required surgery and OT Timi Oshinowo suffered an ACL tear in the spring game.

While many of the usual injury dings this spring were to second team guys, and the majority of starters remain intact, the concerns of injury and potential drop off in production remains a serious one. Here's how the Beavs grade out with fall camp's first practice (Aug. 10) fast approaching.

Quarterback: B+
Senior Sean Canfield had an impressive spring and showed signs of decisiveness and leadership -- two qualities which many believed he lacked earlier in his career as a starter in 2007. If the end of the 2008 season (ASU, Arizona, UCLA) and his performance this spring are any indication of what to expect this season, Canfield could well be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.

Moevao has begun throwing and sounds like he'll be close to 100 percent come September 5, when Portland State visits Corvallis for the opener. His surgically repaired shoulder would put a dent in the depth chart if he is unable to go -- however Moevao himself fully expects to be battling for a starting spot with Canfield starting in about three weeks.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Katz has quietly gone about his business and grown in the OSU system. The 6-1, 205 pound redshirt freshman has two years of practice under his belt and if called upon, would be able to step up and lead the Beaver offense. Katz provides great "escapability," and he moves well in the pocket.

Running Back: C
After missing the final two regular games plus the Sun Bowl, Jacquizz Rodgers is 100 percent healthy and the unquestioned starter at tailback. While no one is concerned about his production and ability, durability following the injury has become a concern, especially in the run-heavy OSU offensive scheme.

Jovan Stevenson was showcased in Oregon State's spring scrimmaging and performed better than many expected. The true freshman, (he grayshirted in 2008) has good hands out of the backfield and when in space, he can make people miss. A smaller frame (he's listed at 5-11,185-pounds) does create durability concerns considering OSU’s inside zone running scheme. And Stevenson is still untested in Pac-10 play.

Sophomore Ryan McCants has all the physical tools to be another Beaver great. As mentioned earlier, however, he has been saddled with a knee injury. Critics of McCants also point to, at times, a straight up and timid running style. If McCants can return healthy -- and run hard and with purpose -- the OSU ground game will be as lethal as ever. That still remains the big "if," however.

Offensive Line: C-
Quite possibly the biggest question on offense entering the fall surrounds not only depth on the o-Line, but who will start opposite Mike Remmers at tackle?

Returning starters include C Alex Linnenkohl, RG Gregg Peat , and RT Mike Remmers, with Remmers looking to be the choice to protect the quarterback’s blind side. The trio started 33 games in 2008 and look to have the right side of the line solidified.

Questions on the left still remain. Junior Ryan Pohl who has seen extensive action since the 2007 campaign should fill in well, but will battle with sophomore Michael Lamb for the starting left guard spot.

As for the left tackle spot, with Timi Oshinowo out until October, Colin Kelly will battle with Wilder McAndrews and the highly touted incoming freshman Michael Philipp in fall camp. Philipp’s mother through his recruitment lobbied Mike Riley and the coaches for a redshirt year but with his immense talent and the depth concerns, Philipp may see the field in '09. And if he doesn't redshirt this season, he will start.

From this chair, the best-guess potential starting line up consists of one senior (Peat), two juniors (Linnenkohl, Pohl), one sophomore (Remmers), and either a red-shirt freshman (Kelly) or true freshman (Philipp).

While coach Mike Cavanaugh is one of the best in the business at coaching up an offensive line, you can’t teach experience. And aside from four returning letterman in Peat, Linnenkohl, Remmers and Pohl, the Beavers are scary thin and inexperienced on the o-Line.

Tight Ends: A-
Even though the group lost one of it’s impact players, Gabe Miller, to the defensive side of the ball, a group of four returns with tremendous experience and versatility.

Howard Croom is the veteran of the group.  Croom saw time as a true freshman back in '06 and started 22 games over his sophomore and junior seasons while seeing time in all 26 contests. Croom is used primarily in the run game, he caught only six passes for 37 yards last season.

Another senior, but a very different type of player as Croom, is John Reese. Reese goes 6-3, 240 and is a lean athletic tight end used often near the goal line. Reese had the most yards for tight ends last season with 109 hashes on just 10 receptions.

Brady Camp has been a significant part of the Beaver offense for a couple years now. In his career, Camp has caught 18passes for 144 yards with a couple TDs. Camp was the Beavs' best dual threat this past season with good size (6-4, 258) and good hands. He'll have competition for that title this year.

The youngest member of the group has made quite an impact, and was often seen in the backfield on goal line situations with Quizz in '08. Sophomore-to-be Joe Halahuni blew holes through the defensive line leading the way for the fire-plug Rodgers into the end zone. Halahuni grew up fast in the OSU offense and continued to improve this spring. Keep a close eye on him this year.

As individuals, this group may not be in the same conversation as Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski, or, for that matter, Oregon’s Ed Dixon. But as a unit they've gotten the job done -- time and time again. And they should only improve in 2009.

Wide Receivers:A-
One of the most exciting groups of playmakers OSU has seen on the field at onetime resides here. There are losses to graduation, yes -- the Beavs lose their top two pass catchers from '08 in Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales. But the'09 group has speed, size and experience. That should all combine to equal big things from the wideouts this season.

James Rodgers is becoming a nicely polished receiver to go along with an always threat to take-it-to-the-house on the fly sweep. Rodgers is fully recovered from a broken collar bone suffered in the Civil War and should be an OSU go-to-guy in the passing game. Rodgers accounted for 1,015 total yards and nine touchdowns last season. Oh and by the way, he's also a huge impact player in the return game.

Darrell Catchings has finally tamed the beast that is diabetes, and he blew up this spring. Catchings broke out his true freshman year in 2007, then all but disappeared in a back up role to Sammie Stroughter the following. Canfield found him early and often this spring, amassing incredible amounts of yards and scores in the first two scrimmages. The 2009 season should be something of a coming out party for the speedy Catchings.

Many have compared Casey Kjos to Brandon Powers, but with more athleticism and speed. What Kjos is, is a sure handed receiver who also is a tenacious blocker.  Whatever his role in '09, Kjos is poised to thrive in the OSU system, just as Powers and Shane Morales did as role players.

Damola Adeniji was virtually unknown to many fans until last year when he blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, then went up high with a defender hanging off his back to catch another touchdown against Washington State. At 6-3, 215-pounds, Adeniji can get the ball up high and could be a key player in the red zone passing game. Aaron Nichols and Taylor Kavanaugh are often forgotten but as a junior and senior, respectively, they’ve been in the system for years, know the playbook inside and out and are about as reliable as it gets.

Redshirt freshmen Jordan Bishop, Kevan Walker and Geno Munoz provide tremendous athleticism and could contribute to the passing attack in 2009. Bishop has all-world potential with great size and speed (6-3, 200, 4.5). Walker’s athleticism could land him a spot in the return game as early as this season and Munoz excelled on scout teams in '08. The trio should do nothing but bolster what already is a formidable group of receivers at Oregon State.

Travis Rice was born and raised in Corvallis and has been going to Beaver games since before he learned to speak. A close observer of the Oregon State football program who regularly watches fall camp and spring ball practices at OSU, Rice is a former first team all-conference selection from his prep and collegiate playing days in both football and baseball.

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