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Posted: Wednesday May 6, 2009 1:53PM; Updated: Wednesday May 6, 2009 3:23PM
Cory McCartney Cory McCartney >

The Beaver state, Mizzou's offensive evolution, more mailbag

Story Highlights

Oregon and Oregon State were intriguing but hard-to-read teams this spring

Injuries and vanilla play-calling aside, Missouri's offense has underwhelmed

Ryan Mallet gives Arkansas all it needs, the helmet cam era begins and more

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Darrell Catchings' deep-play ability should open up the field for the Rodgers brothers.
Darrell Catchings' deep-play ability should open up the field for the Rodgers brothers at Oregon State.
Rob Holt/Icon SMI
Cory McCartney's Mailbag
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I know Mandel is off on a sabbatical, but doesn't anyone over there answer questions?
-- Derek Stevenson, Mobile, Ala.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Ever seen Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, Derek? With Burt Reynolds lurking in the shadows, Jerry Reed dons the Bandit's hat, slaps on a fake mustache and climbs behind the wheel of a Trans Am. Well, with Stewart Mandel on sabbatical and spring football in the books, someone has to (try to) don the mailbag cap. Like the third Smokey film, the template of this mailbag will seem awfully familiar, but it's going to be a slightly different ride. Also, there won't be any mustaches.

My pieces on 10 stars poised to break out in 2009 and spring winners and losers sparked so many questions, my inbox appears more crowded than the Ole Miss bandwagon. So let's get to it.

Apparently you haven't been paying attention to the Northwest. Jamere Holland, WR, Oregon. He has been having a terrific spring. By October the whole nation will know who he is.
-- Bruce, Portland, Ore.

Cory, no mention of the Ducks on the winners? What the frack?
-- Andy, Eugene, Ore.

I never see any [Oregon State] players get preseason hype, yet we had the second most players drafted this year and had a few All-Americas. Watch out for Stephen Paea, he is a lock for a first-round choice and I doubt he stays after this year; also Darrell Catchings will have a breakout year since he moved into Sammie Stroughter's spot and is having a huge spring.
-- T.J. Hyde, Lorane, Ore.

I'll acknowledge a lack of Beaver State coverage, but there's a reason: If I'm handing out grades for spring game performances, I'm giving Oregon and Oregon State incompletes.

That's not to say the Ducks and Beavers won't contend in the Pac-10 this fall -- in fact, the teams checked in at No. 8 and No. 18, respectively, in Andy Staples' post-spring Top 25. But it's hard to get excited about these teams when their situations make it hard to know what's real and what's fake (in stark contrast to the Rock of Love cast).

Oregon State's defense, which returns just three starters, looked great in the spring game, picking off five passes and recovering two fumbles. Junior tackle Stephen Paea and senior linebacker Keaton Kristick could vie for all-conference honors. But even with those two plugging up the middle, the defense's spring domination loses much of its cachet because coach Mike Riley held his most potent offensive weapons, brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers, out of contact drills.

With the Rodgers brothers out, Darrell Catchings starred for the Beavers this spring, catching 16 balls for 454 yards and four touchdowns in the scrimmages and erasing any doubts about which receiver will line up opposite James Rodgers this season. He could break out, but it's still too soon to put him in Sammie Stroughter's class. At the very least, Catchings should serve the Beavers well as a downfield threat who will open up the middle of the field for Jacquizz, the reigning Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year, and take pressure off James on his trademark fly sweeps.

We just didn't get to see any of that this spring.

The Ducks, meanwhile, are a serious work-in-progress. The offensive line must replace NFL-bound center Max Unger, guard Mark Lewis and left tackle Fenuki Tupou. Whoever fills those sizeable shoes will block for LeGarrette Blount, the Ducks' top returning rusher, whose weight ballooned to nearly 250 pounds this offseason after a suspension and ankle injury. It's no wonder the first-team defense dominated the first-team offense in the spring finale and held the bloated Blount to 14 yards on nine carries.

Admittedly, receiver Jamere Holland could have cracked the breakout players list. The USC transfer displayed his game-changing speed on a 47-yard flea flicker catch in the Holiday Bowl and drew rave reviews from new head coach Chip Kelly this spring. Holland will prove a threat in Kelly's spread-option offense, but let's take his spring success with a grain of salt. With Patrick Chung and Jarius Byrd gone, the secondary has as many holes to fill as the offensive line. When Holland locked up with Walter Thurmond, Oregon's best remaining corner, he managed only three catches for eight yards.

These are two intriguing, but hard-to-read teams. It'll take some time, as Brett Michaels would say, to figure out who wants to stay and rock our world.

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