Three offseason questions: Oregon State Beavers

It’s a slow time of year in college football. Spring practices are over and the NFL draft has come and gone, leaving four long months before college football returns to our television screens. We’ll take a look at some questions facing each Pac-12 team over the next couple weeks. Next up: Oregon State.

How will the quarterback competition play out?

Like most coaches, Gary Andersen chose his words carefully when he discussed his team’s ongoing quarterback competition. "We have three guys, and it's a lot better than not having any," Andersen said. It was a way to praise the development of two guys who have been in the program -- Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson – as they compete with the junior-college transfer, Jake Luton, who was not recruited as a project. The clear expectation here is that Luton will eventually win the job – if not, why take a juco quarterback? – but he never figured to officially do so in the spring. Andersen allowed for the possibility of playing two quarterbacks in order to take advantage of varying skill sets, but the scenario he roughly outlined, “in certain situations to use the athleticism of [McMaryion] or [Garretson],” can easily be interpreted to indicate those two might be better suited for supplementary roles.

What are fair expectations for the Beavers headed into next season?

Mike Riley knew exactly what he was getting away from when he jumped to Nebraska. It was going to take some time to get Oregon State back to a place where it could seriously expect to compete on a week-to-week basis in the Pac-12. And even though the Beavers went to 4-8 last year, they were a vastly improved team from the version fielded in Andersen’s first season the year before. After losing by an average of 18 points per game in 2015, that number shrunk to 4.3 in 2016. That improvement came from nearly identical improvement on both sides of the ball in terms of points per game. They were competitive in all but two Pac-12 games and finished ahead of rival Oregon in the North standings. OSU still has a lot of ground to make up before it can be considered a real threat in the division, but a bowl appearance would be a nice way to signify progress. At this point, that’s still the real goal.

Can RB Ryan Nall take the next step?

Only two players in the Pac-12 averaged more yards rushing per game than Nall (95.1), but neither Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, nor Washington’s Myles Gaskin averaged as many yards per carry as the Beavers' rising junior (6.47). Others are probably more widely known than Nall – Oregon’s Royce Freeman, USC’s Ronald Jones II and Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay, for example – but if we were to handicap who will lead the conference in rushing next season, Nall might be the favorite. The key for him, as so often is the case with running backs, is health. He was limited throughout last season due to injuries, which, in a way, makes what he did even more impressive.