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OVERVIEW: Although the answer was crystal clear coming out of spring camp, the coaches chose not to name a starter and planned to announce their decision in the early summer months.
Unfortunately, the issue was rendered fully moot when junior Peter Lalich received a boating DUI during Mother's day weekend this May resulting in the Virginia transfer being kicked off of the team by Mike Riley.
But many believed that even if Lalich didn't have his third run in with the law regarding alcohol consumption, he would have left the program anyway. It was crystal clear that Ryan Katz had a better arm and grasp of the offense, and Lalich was being outperformed by Vaz in the spring to boot.
Indeed, redshirt freshman Cody Vaz was pushing Lalich hard for playing time -- at the end of April the two were sharing snaps with the second team offense. And Lalich didn't transfer across the country to sit on the bench.
ALL THAT IS water under the bridge now, however. The offense is clearly Katz'.
The strong armed Katz is comfortable leading by example, but has worked hard at shedding his natural inclination to walk quietly. The result has seen him step up into a leadership role this offseason.
"The spring went well," Katz said. "I got better as it progressed. Throughout the winter we ran routes and I was in the film room and was ready."
As writers from ESPN to The Oregonian to BF.C have commented on Katz has one of the strongest arms in the Pac-10 - a trait that has its strengths and weaknesses.
Sure, the 6-foot-1, 209-pound
player can make any throw on the field including the all important and difficult
out pattern on the sidelines that is integral to the Beaver offense. And, of
course, he can air it out with ease.
But it is the tosses that require touch that the staff wants the youngster to work on.
EARLY IN THE spring, offensive coordinator and QBs coach Danny Langsdorf took Katz aside and told him he didn't have throw 90-mph fastballs every time.
But sometimes those strong throws help -- many passes during the spring session went quickly past, and sometimes through the hands of, the defenders into the clutches of a receiver. At the same time, there were more dropped balls because of the mustard Katz puts behind his throws.
One aspect of his game, one that the redshirt sophomore does well already, is getting rid of the ball. He doesn't hold onto the pigskin too long -- and if he does he has no problem tucking it and running or throwing it away.
His running ability is something that the Beaver staff hasn't had in many years at quarterback.
AS SUCH, IT'S no surprise the Beav coaches are excited about his mobility and have already implemented some bootlegs and rollouts specifically designed to use Katz's athleticism and/or buy him extra time.
DID YOU KNOW: The Beavers don't graduate a quarterback until after the 2012 season.
"The quarterbacking is growing," Riley told The Gazette Times. "Some of the things we wanted to improve, like screens and bootlegs, we've had progress in."
THOSE SCREENS, BOOTS and short passes figure to be a big part of the playbook the first few games as Katz gets comfortable under center. But with a cornucopia of weapons at receiver, don't discount the ability of the team to stretch the field -- even with Heisman Trophy candidate Jacquizz Rodgers ready to chew up yardage on the ground.
Katz has a burner in Markus Wheaton, a tremendous leaper in Jordan Bishop and one of the best all-around receivers in college football in James Rodgers. Those three alone will make Katz's transition into a starter much easier and allow him to make some mistakes that the receivers can erase.
While the staff are ecstatic about Katz's physical skills they are equally pleased with his intangibles. Although two of his first three games will be against top five competition, Riley doesn't see the sophomore folding under the pressure.
"He is poised to take this position and run with it," Riley told The Oregonian. "When he went into games, what impressed me the most is that he went in with a lot of poise and made plays. That's the one thing you like about Ryan and an absolute key to playing the position.
"He's tough. I think he's pretty unflappable.''
If Katz goes down redshirt freshman Cody Vaz steps under center. Vaz, like Katz, has a strong arm, but is a pocket passer.
THE READ, HEADED into fall camp at quarterback? The physical tools are there, Vaz just needs more time with the playbook and getting work under center. And with Lalich leaving the program, that means Katz, a California native, will get true starter's snaps in the fall, and more than originally anticipated.
Those extra plays under center will pay dividends not only in 2010, but for several years to come.
A QB WITH an excellent grasp of the playbook is Oregonian Jack Lomax. He sees the field very well for a redshirt freshman and probably gets rid of the ball the quickest of the group. And most importantly, to the correct receiver.
Lomax is mobile as well so many of the plays that the staff has for Katz will work for Lomax too.
Lomax' weakness at this point -- his strength and size. He needs to add at least 10-20 pounds before competing for a starting position. If he does build the strength he needs - look out - he could conceivably push for playing time by next season. One of BF.C's favorites, though, remains Vaz. He has poise beyond his years and it will not be a surprise if he looks sharp this year if and when spelling Katz.
HIGHLY TOUTED FRESHMAN Sean Mannion enters the picture this fall camp, and will most definitely redshirt. Standing 6-foot-5, he is the tallest quarterback at Oregon State since Derek Anderson (6-foot-6).
The coaches feel they got a steal in Mannion, the son of Silverton High's football coach.
STATS: Ryan Katz (14 of 27 (52%) for 232 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions)
|SPRING STAR||Ryan Katz. The Californian's work in the winter with his receivers and in the film room paid off as he took control of the offense from day one.|
|THE FUTURE STAR||Cody Vaz. Even if Lalich would have stayed in the system Vaz may have beat him out for the back up job. He was sharing snaps with Lalich on the second team midway through spring camp.|
|WHO TO WATCH||Cody Vaz. The good news about Lalich's departure is Vaz gets more valuable repetitions. He will be the first off of the bench if Katz goes down so he will need to be ready at a moment's notice.|
|COMING IN THE FALL||Sean Mannion. The son of a football coach Mannion has a big arm and plenty of room to grow into his 6-foot-5 frame.|
|UNIT STRENGTH||UNIT WEAKNESS|
|Time in the system.
Three of the four quarterbacks have at least one year in the system including multiple spring and fall camps.
Between the four quarterbacks on scholarship only Katz has seen any action in games - and just four games at that.
THE BIG BOARD
Ryan Katz (6-1, 209) - this
is his third fall camp...separated himself from the the competition in day
1 during spring of 2010...already established himself as one of the team's
leaders...coaches love that he is an athlete...needs to work on his touch
throws...has three spring camps under his belt -- he graduated
early from high school in 2008...excellent arm strength, ESPN says
he has one of the strongest arms in the country...has put in lots of time
studying the playbook...played in four games in 2009 completing 14 of 27
passes (51.9%) for 232 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions...first
career touchdown pass was a 31-yarder to Damola Adeniji in
the Las Vegas Bowl.
RFr. Cody Vaz (6-0, 200) - turned in a solid 2010 spring practice eventually splitting time with Peter Lalich on the second team...will backup Katz in 2010...a pocket passer with a nice, tight spiral...a quick release...many observers say he has a "live arm"...split time with Lomax running the scout teams in 2009...added 19 pounds as a freshman
RFr. Jack Lomax (6-2, 175) - gets rid of the ball quickly...smart and has the feet to scramble...great football IQ...has improved arm strength significantly, but still needs to add muscle...added 15 pounds as a freshman...split time with Vaz running the scout teams in 2009
Fr. Sean Mannion (6-5, 205) - will redshirt