Oregon State's Moevao smiles back at critics

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao is always smiling, despite living in the Land of No Respect.

He smiles even though folks say he doesn't look like a quarterback. He smiles even though folks believe quarterback is a red-letter concern for the Beavers in 2008.

And he smiles even though EA Sports' new NCAA Football 09 rated him lower than his counterpart at Oregon, Nate Costa, who has never started a game and has thrown three career passes.

"I don't really play too many video games," he said. "I just think it's funny."

He smiles because a funny thing happened on the way to touted recruit Sean Canfield becoming the Beavers next prolific passer.

Moevao happened.

The junior didn't blow anyone away with his statistics -- he only completed 52 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and six interceptions. But one stat stood out -- 4-0 -- which is his record as the Beavers' starter in 2007.

Moreover, during spring practices when Canfield -- a prototypical 6-foot-4, 225-pound drop-back passer -- was sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery, Moevao took control of the huddle and looked far more poised running the offense.

Sure, he looks like a strong safety at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds (5-11 and three quarters, he insists). Sure, he earned YouTube fame not for his passing but by blowing up Washington defensive end Greyson Gunheim on a reverse last year.

But Moevao appears confident that he'll beat out Canfield, a junior who was rated one of the nation's top-20 quarterbacks in 2005 by a number of recruiting services.

Not that he doesn't think it will be a battle.

"I expect [Canfield] to be fully recovered and ready to compete," Moevao said. "That's what it's all about. If there's no competition, it's tough to get better. Going against Sean in the fall will be exciting. I'm sure he'll want it more now that I'm in the driver's seat starting off. It will definitely be fun."

While Moevao threw a prettier ball this spring, what remain his chief assets are his charisma and leadership ability. He's outgoing and quick to joke and doesn't seem to get too perturbed when things don't go according to plan.

"Leadership is something you have to work at," he said. "You always have to work at building trust with the guys, not just during the season but also during the offseason."

He's also quick to praise the returning talent on offense. He said the backfield will feature three complementary skill sets: a bruiser (240-pound redshirt freshman Ryan McCants), an all-around runner (JC transfer Jeremy Francis) and a scatback (celebrated incoming freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, who broke the Texas prep touchdown record with 136).

He's also high on his offensive line and receiving corps, which welcomes back Sammie Stroughter, who led the Pac-10 in 2006 with 1,293 receiving yards but sat out last year due to injury and personal issues.

And with the defense rebuilding, particularly up front, he expects to run a more aggressive offense instead of merely managing a conservative game plan.

He sees no reason that the Beavers, who'll face a big test at Penn State on Sept. 6, won't again finish in the top third of the conference and leave pundits eating their predictions.

Don't think that Moevao and the Beavers can make it happen? No matter. That means they've got you right where they want you.

"It really doesn't bother me too much," he said. "I like to keep under the radar. Then when you pop up, a lot of people are surprised."