Three things we learned in the spring:
John Garrett is a good fit with the Beavers. Some offensive coordinators come in and change the scheme, the verbiage, the whole system. Garrett came in, realized he had a very, very good senior quarterback and an offense that works around him, so he learned the Beavers’ scheme, the Beavers’ verbiage, the Beavers’ whole system. He works really well with coach Mike Riley and seems to be a great addition to the Oregon State staff.
The D-line is further along than expected. Coming into this spring the Beavers needed to replace three starters along a D-line that gave up a dismal 5.1 yards per rush last season. However, between a few position moves and players finally stepping up, the defensive line seems to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the spring.
The linebackers will be the core of the defense. The linebackers lost no player of note from last season and got back Michael Doctor, who missed the 2013 season due to an ankle injury. They’re going to be one of the better linebacker units in the Pac-12 this season and they continually impressed with their talent and depth throughout spring practice.
Three questions for the fall:
Who will become Sean Mannion’s top target? The senior signal-caller lost his security blanket and the nation’s top receiver when Brandin Cooks declared for the NFL draft. The Beavers receivers need to make up that yardage and chances are that it’ll be spread around to several different guys. Richard Mullaney is the only veteran so he seems the best bet. And Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore are also names that have popped up ... but they combined for 13 catches and 138 yards last season.
Can the offensive line better protect Mannion? There were a few injuries along the O-line this spring which allowed some younger players to take meaningful reps. In the long run, that’ll help. But what the Beavers need right now is an O-line that’s going to protect Oregon State’s most valuable commodity -- Mannion. Last season, the Beavers allowed 25 sacks. There were only 23 QBs nationwide who were sacked more than Mannion. That needs to change.
Can this defense stop the run? In 2013, the Beavers managed to stop 115 of 485 opponents rushes at or before the line of scrimmage, but the problem came when opponents got past the line of scrimmage. About 41 percent of opponent rushes went for at least five yards, and 16 percent went at least 10 yards. All of those stats need to improve.
One way-too-early prediction
From a total passing yards perspective, this won’t be an “impressive” year for Mannion ... but (yes, there’s a but) Mannion is still going to have another 3,000-yard passing season. No, it won’t be quite the 4,600-yard season he had last year, but look for him to increase his touch even though he decreases his yardage. Last year he accounted for about one interception for every two touchdowns. Quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater accounted for about eight touchdowns for every one interception. In his final go around, Mannion will be a much more polished, accurate signal-caller who accounts for four touchdowns for every one pick.