Pro - 2nd year QB
Con - Tough schedule
Wildcard - James Rodgers?
The 2011 season is just around the corner. With Fall Camp starting and the season opener vs. Sacramento State quickly approaching, BeaverBlitz is here to give you a preview of each position.
We'll start off with perhaps the most visible player on any team, the quarterbacks. Junior Ryan Katz enters his 2nd season as the starter for Head Coach, Mike Riley and Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf. Katz was on light duty this past spring, which allowed Cody Vaz and former 4-star recruit Sean Mannion, to get valuable time under center working with the 1st and 2nd teams. Vaz and Mannion will battle it out for the back-up quarterback position.
Unlike former Beaver quarterbacks Matt Moore and Sean Canfield, both of whom have moved on to the NFL, Katz put up good numbers his first season as the Beavers starting quarterback. In 2010, Katz completed 60% of his passes for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns versus just 11 interceptions. He was also the last quarterback in the nation, who started their team's opener, to throw an interception.
Unlike Moore and Canfield, Katz took over the starting job in just his sophomore year, so he will have two more seasons to build upon his impressive first season.
We all know that Ryan has a strong arm, Athlon Sports took it a step more saying this about Katz: "With Arkansas' Ryan Mallett now in the NFL, Katz might have the strongest arm in college football." Coach Riley and Coach Langsdorf have both gone on the record to say that Ryan has the strongest arm they have ever coached.
With arm strength not being a problem, Coach Riley said last spring that Ryan needed to improve in making his reads and not trying to force the ball into coverage. Ryan spent a good amount of time in the film room throughout the offseason, in hopes of learning from his mistakes and some missed opportunities from last season.
As camp gets underway, it will also be interesting to see how Katz and new starting center Grant Johnson, work with one another. Also, look for Ryan to make better use of his athleticism this season, tucking the ball away and picking up yardage on the ground.
With Katz entrenched as the starter, the real battle will be for the back-up spot. Sophomore Cody Vaz and redshirt freshman Sean Mannion will continue to compete for that role. Vaz will more than likely start off as the leading candidate as he will be entering his 3rd fall camp and has a good grasp on the Beavers system.
But don't count Mannion out as he has all the tools to be an elite QB in the Pac-12 before his career is over at OregonState. Standing at 6'5", Mannion looks the part of QB of the future for the Beavers. He has the strong arm, good pocket presence and athleticism to excel, however like most young quarterbacks in the Beavers pro-style offense, he doesn't read the field well enough yet to move up the depth chart, in my opinion. As he continues to learn the system and get comfortable in it, look for Mannion to supplant Vaz as the back-up.
Joining the Beavers this summer is former 2* quarterback, Peter Ashton, from Grapevine (Tex.) Faith Christian . Ashton impressed the coaching staff enough at the OSU Team Camp last summer to earn an offer and committed soon thereafter. In watching Ashton's film, you see an athlete playing the quarterback position. Peter has an above average arm with fairly good accuracy, can make plays with his feet in escaping the pocket to pick up yards scrambling, and is not afraid of contact.
In discussing Ashton's play with several other Blitzers, several of us made the comparison of Ashton to Stanford's Andrew Luck. They have comparable builds at 6'2" - 6'3" and 210 lbs. while also having a comparable skill set.
QUESTION HEADING INTO CAMP
One of the big questions that we will be looking to answer is how Katz has recovered from his off-season wrist surgery. Quarterback's rely so much on 'touch' so all eyes will be on Ryan early to see how his wrist has healed and how he adjusts to new center Grant Johnson. The other main question is whether or not he will take the big strides that other quarterbacks have made during their second year as the starter.
The Beavers are in a great spot when looking at the quarterback position. With Katz being just a junior and the rest of the quarterbacking group being underclassmen, the Beavers are set up well for the present and the future.
When looking at the rest of the Pac-12 conference, Katz has the skillset, and weapons, to become an elite quarterback this year. He should challenge Arizona's Nick Foles, Oregon's Darron Thomas and USC's Matt Barkley for all-conference postseason 2nd team and honorable mention honors, behind Stanford's Andrew Luck.