Oregon State Beavers spring wrap

2012 record: 9-4

2012 conference record: 6-3

Returning starters

Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

WR Brandin Cooks, RB Storm Woods, DE Scott Crichton, LB D.J. Alexander

Key losses

WR Markus Wheaton, CB Jordan Poyer, DT Castro Masaniai

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Storm Woods* (941 yards)

Passing: Sean Mannion* (2,446 yards)

Receiving: Markus Wheaton (1,244 yards)

Tackles: Michael Doctor* (83)

Sacks: Scott Crichton (9)

Interceptions: Jordan Poyer (7)

Spring answers

1. Stepping in for Poyer: Sean Martin already seemed like a solid replacement for the departed Poyer, but the impressive play of JC transfer Steven Nelson bolstered the competition at the position opposite Rashaad Reynolds, and that's a good thing. In any event, the Beavers can trot out three CBs who inspire confidence.

2. O-line is now a strength: During the 2010-11 downtick, the Beavers were mediocre-to-bad on the offense line. There was great improvement last year, and four returning starters and improved depth have transformed the line into a strength. That should get Storm Woods 1,000 yards in the fall and help whoever wins the QB job feel comfortable in the pocket.

3. Return of the TE/H-Back: The Beavers could be a little Stanford-y at tight end this fall because of good depth behind Connor Hamlett, who some are comparing to former Beavers star Joe Newton. The Beavers go four deep behind Hamlett with a strong array of pass-catchers with physical blocking skills.

Fall questions

1. Mannion? Vaz? Who knows? The QB competition between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz went unresolved. It was expected that coach Mike Riley wouldn't tap anyone in advance of fall camp, but the fact that opinions so strongly vary on who had a better spring further demonstrates how wide open this one remains.

2. Up the middle defense: Oregon State is replacing both starting defensive tackles and MLB Feti Taumoepeau as well as his backup, Rueben Robinson. Joel Skotte and Josh Williams are battling at MLB, but the picture at DT is cloudy. For one, it's almost certain the two starters will be first-year JC transfers, which always inspires some rubbing of the lucky rabbit's foot. Second, Siale Hautau injured his hand this spring, while Kyle Peko won't arrive until this summer. Without question, tackle is the biggest issue on defense.

3. Receiving depth: Despite issues at QB, Markus Wheaton and Bradin Cooks were the Pac-12's second best WR combo last year behind USC's Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Cooks now becomes Wheaton, but who becomes Cooks? There were no obvious answers this spring. There were flashes but also inconsistency, not to mention some injury issues. Incoming players will have an opportunity here.