With National Signing Day in the rearview mirror, the focus of the Oregon State program shifts to spring practice and the much-anticipated 2013 season. How will the Beavers look in Mike Riley's 11th season of his second stint as OSU head coach. The projected roster and depth chart for offense:
QUARTERBACK: The 2012 season did little to resolve the riddle of who is the Beaver's top quarterback. Neither Sean Mannion (64.7 percent completion rate; 15 TD, 13 INT) or Cody Vaz (58.9 percent, 11 TD, 3 INT) did enough when they turned the lights on to separate one from the other, so the duo will officially open spring practice as 1A and 1B on the depth chart. Their battle for supremacy promises to be the top storylines in April.
"People want a decision right now and they want to know, but I think the beauty of this competition is we don't have a decision and we're not going to have one," OSU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Danny Langorf said recently. "We're going to let it play out. It's very good for our team. It's very good for both of those kids to compete every day. They're getting themselves prepared to have 15 very competitive practices this spring. It keeps them on their toes."
While the Mannion-Vaz battle will dominate headlines, Oregon State has two young quarterbacks requiring as many practice reps as possible - Richie Harrington completed six of nine passes for 66 yards and one touchdown in 2012, while Brent VanderVeen redshirted. In August, they'll be joined by Kyle Kempt, a former Cincinnati commitment that jumped aboard late. For now, though, the story at quarterback revolves around Mannion and Vaz.
"That was a tough time (last season) as we tried to evaluate what the best thing to do was," Riley said. "They both had really good moments with the Beavers this year. Both are good quarterbacks. The only way to approach it now with both of those guys is let them play. They'll compete and continue to grow and learn. We should come out of it stronger as we go. We'll make the decision (as to the starter) as we go."
Starter: Sean Mannion OR Cody Vaz Backup: Sean Mannion OR Cody Vaz Others: Richie Harrington, Brent VanderVeen.
RUNNING BACK: Oregon State's top three rushers in 2012 were freshman Storm Woods (940 yards on 192 carries), sophomore Terron Ward (415 yards on 68 carries) and sophomore Malcolm Agnew (269 yards on 63 carries). Together, the trio compiled 82.3 percent of OSU's gross rushing yards (2,038). Their combined net yards (1,624) surpassed the team's total in that category (1,617). When you add Chris Brown (redshirted in 2012) and promising signees Damien Haskins (New Boston, Tex.) and Lawrence Mattison (Spring Valley, Tex.) into the mix, the Beavers should be comfortably set at the running back spot for at least the next five years.
Starter: Storm Woods Backup: Terron Ward Others: Malcolm Agnew, Michael Balfour (FB), Tyler Anderson (FB), Chris Brown.
WIDE RECEIVER: The departure of Markus Wheaton (team high 91 receptions) for a career in the NFL puts rising junior Brandin Cooks (67 catches) atop the wide receiver pedestal for the Beavers. How much did Cooks learn from working alongside one of the top wide receiver prospects available in the NFL Draft? We'll find out in early April when spring practice starts.
After Cooks, the most productive wide receiver was Kevin Cummings with 18 catches. His numbers could rise considerably in 2013. Richard Mullaney had 13 receptions last season as a redshirt freshman.
"Brandin Cooks had a great sophomore year and we're about that," OSU wide receivers coach Brent Brennan said. "Kevin Cummings really come on and made some plays and became a consistent player for us in the slot. We'll see how it goes in the spring, but right now Brandin and Kevin are out in front and the rest of the guys are in a fight."
The quality of OSU's depth at wide receiver will depend largely on whether seldom-used reserves such as Micah Hatfield (nine catches in 86 yards), Mitch Singler (4 catches) and Obum Gwacham (2 catches), along with the redshirted Malik Gilmore, are able to successfully take the next step. If not, a talented group of newcomers (Victor Bolden, Hunter Jarmon, Jordan Villamin, Walter Jones) are ready pounce upon the prospects of early playing time when they arrive this summer.
"We have a group of guys that have all played in games," Brennan said. "That's one of the most invaluable things. You can't replace all those game reps. All those guys got to play in real games in real situations and made some plays and did some good things. The beauty of competition is everybody raises their level of play."
Starters: Brandin Cooks, Kevin Cummings and Richard Mullaney (out for spring after off-season shoulder surgery). Backups: Obum Gwacham, Micah Hatfield, Mitch Singler, Others: Malik Gilmore
TIGHT END/H-BACK: Connor Hamlett emerged as an offensive weapon in 2012 with 32 receptions for 403 yards (12.3 yards per catch) and three touchdowns, making the 6-foot-7 junior from Edmonds, Wash. The third leading returning pass catcher. Hamlett should only get better this season. Caleb Smith was Colby Prince's backup at tight end, and had two receptions last season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: We may not know exactly who the starting quarterback will be, but four-fifths of the unit assigned the keep him out of harm's way from rushing defenders returns. The 2012 offensive line featured just one senior - right tackle Colin Kelly - in the starting lineup. Next season, the Beavers should have three senior starters (Michael Philipp, Josh Andrews and Grant Enger) accompanying rising sophomore center Isaac Seumalo, a Freshman All-America in 2012. Without question, the experienced offensive line should be a major strength for the Beavers offense.
"One of the things Isaac brings is he knows exactly what he wants," OSU offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said recently. "I'd love to see that rub off on other people. He's been fun to coach. Obviously, he was a guy we wanted really bad. We thought he could make a difference up front and he has so far. I expect greatness from Isaac Seumalo. I know he'll lead us. He's the future of our offensive line."
The second group consists mainly of freshmen and sophomores, particularly the trio of Josh Mitchell, Grant Bays and Gavin Andrews. Cavanaugh expects those three blockers to add depth and perhaps gain valuable game experience in 2013.
"There are some guys coming up that we have great expectations for as well," Cavanaugh said. "I'm excited about Josh Mitchell. He has to be able to back up at center and guard and compete for one of those spots. Grant Bays has great feet and great recoverability. He's a tough guy. Gavin Andrews is everything we're looking for in an offensive tackle. He has great size (6-foot-5, 324 pounds) and real good feet. But he needs to get serious about this. I think he has. He's had a real good offseason. He has to become a grinder. He's starting to get it."
Starters: Michael Philipp (LT), Josh Andrews (LG), Isaac Seumalo (C), Grant Enger (RG), Gavin Andrews (RT). Backups: Justin Addie, Roman Sapolu, Josh Mitchell, Grant Bay, Chase Eldredge, David Keller, Garrett Weinreich, Sean Harlow (arriving early for Spring Camp).