Oregon State Beavers (2000: 11-1)
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Coach and programOne of the NCAA’s longest running jokes only a few years back, Oregon State followed coach Dennis Erickson’s lead and raced to the top of the charts in 2000.
The Beavers’ amazing 11-1 season was capped by a 41-9 blowout of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl that had to shock fans in every corner of the United States, except for those in Pac-10 cities.
“It was so great,’’ Oregon State senior quarterback Jonathan Smith (5-11, 200) said. “So many things were going through my head in that game against Notre Dame. There were so many guys on that team that I just enjoyed being around. But I guess my favorite memory from the season was just hanging out on the sidelines at the end of the Fiesta Bowl, taking pictures and enjoying the moment.
“We were garbage and we came full circle.’’
Erickson will have to use every bit of that coaching genius to forge a repeat for Oregon State. He lost a ton of talent from the 2000 team and although he’s got key personnel returning at running back and quarterback, he’s got a lot of holes to plug with only 10 returning starters, fewest of any Pac-10 team.
“We lost both our defensive ends and we lost an outside linebacker,’’ Ericksion said. “We also lost a cornerback and a safety.
“Offensively, we lost all three starting receivers. We lost our top two tight ends and some people on the offensive front. Really, the only area where we are in good shape is at running back and quarterback on offense.’’
Yeah, but in those areas he is in great shape. After all, he does have one of the nation’s top running backs returning in senior Ken Simonton (5-8, 195).
Although Simonton will go into this season billed as a Heisman candidate (Terry Baker was Oregon State’s last winner in 1962), his chances probably aren’t good considering the Beavers could well be in a rebuilding mode.
Oregon State probably won’t learn a lot about its personality until its Pac-10 opener on Sept. 29 when UCLA visits Corvallis. The Bruins certainly have the look of the Pac-10 favorite, so the Beavers will have to come out of the box hot.
OffenseSimonton is trying to become the first player in Pac-10 history to run for 1,000 yards in four seasons. His 1,474 rushing yards last season were just short of the 1,486 yards he had as a sophomore. His 4,073 yards rushing leaves him fifth all-time in the Pac-10. While he probably won’t catch No. 1 Charles White (USC) who piled up 6,245 yards, No. 2 Marcus Allen (USC) at 4,810 is well within his sights.
If that’s not enough, Erickson has at his disposal a tremendous backup tailback in senior Patrick McCall (5-10, 190), who proved last year he can be just as dangerous as his prolific teammate. McCall ran for 633 yards and seven touchdowns in 2000. His 5.3 yards per carry average were just short of Simonton’s 5.5.
Although the Beavers lost three starters from the 2000 offensive line, they should be able to put together a unit that can clear some holes for Simonton to achieve his records.
Senior Chris Gibson (6-3, 280) returns at center, where he earned All America and All-Pac-10 honors in 2000. Senior Vincent Sandoval (6-4, 300) moves from left tackle to right tackle. Sandoval had started 12 games at left tackle.
Smith holds team records for passing yardage (3,053 in 1999) and touchdown passes (20 in 2000). He is second in career passing yardage with 7,253 and second in total offense at 6,923. In his career, he has 41 touchdown passes to 19 interceptions.
The Beavers lost their top four pass catchers from last season’s team so Erickson will have to find some stars in a hurry. The wide receiver corps might get immediate help from Jayson Boyd (6-4, 190), a SuperPrep All-American out of John North High School in Riverside, Calif. He caught 54 passes for 834 yards his senior season.
Defense and special teamsPutting pressure on the opposing quarterback could be a big headache for Erickson if the Beavers don’t find some adequate defensive ends in a hurry.
At right end, senior Kyle Rosselle (6-5, 255) has played in 35 games but has only one start. Also trying to win time at right end are juniors Jayson Jean-Baptiste (6-4, 245) and Peter Gregg (6-0, 240). Baptiste is a junior college transfer who won’t participate until summer camp.
Erickson said the strength of his defense is at linebacker. Sophomore middle linebacker Richard Seigler (6-3, 215) returns after starting all 12 games and earning freshman All-America honors last season. He was the Beavers’ second-leading tackler with 72 stops.
Junior cornerback Dennis Weathersby (6-1, 200) is the premier player on Oregon State’s defense, a guy who could end up on some All-America teams if OSU has a big year. Junior college transfer D.J. Coote (6-1, 195) is a 4.5 guy who was rated the 16th best player in the nation by JC Gridwire.
Last season’s All-Pac-10 kicker, junior Ryan Cesca (5-8, 175) returns, so the job is locked up. Cesca has made 83-of-84 PATs the last two seasons and made 16-of-19 field goals last season. H
Bottom lineThe Beavers have a great coaching staff and some tremendous offensive talent. However, it will be interesting to see how quickly Erickson can plug some of the many holes that were left by graduation. Replacing an entire wide receiver corps or most of a defensive line isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish.
Even with those problems, the Beavers play a soft non-conference schedule, and they have enough rushing talent to finish at least .500 in the conference. That alone is enough to point them toward a bowl. How major a bowl is the question.