Previewing The Pac-12: The Oregon State Beavers

It was a disappointing 2011 for head coach Mike Reily and the Oregon State Beavers. The Beavers won only one of the final five games and finished a disappointing 3-9, the team's second straight losing season.

Oregon State won at least eight games in each season from 2006-2009, finishing no worst than third in the Pac-10 during that span. However the past two seasons, Oregon State has won a combined eight games and have missed bowls in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1997-1998.

The Beavers will be without the services of play maker James Rodgers for the first time since 2007. Rodgers finished his career in Corvallis with 1,408 rushing yards and 2,578 receiving yards, and Oregon State will look to senior Markus Wheaten to fill the big shoes of Rodgers.

Oregon State Season Preview

Offensive Starters Returning: 8

Defensive Starters Returning: 8

Key Players:

Markus Wheaten, WR: The senior wide receiver has started 20 games for the Beavers over three seasons. Wheaten finished 2011 with 986 receiving yards and 190 rushing yards and he will be used as a multi-purpose player this season, much like James Rodgers was used last season. Wheaten earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 in 2011, and he was named to Phil Steele's preseason All-Pac-12 Second Team for 2012. Oregon State will rely on Wheaten to fill the void left by James Rodgers.

Jordan Poyer, CB: Poyer is one of the top cornerbacks in the conference, as he has played in every game for the Beavers over the past three seasons. The senior from Astoria, Oregon, has six interceptions over the past two seasons, including four in 2011. Poyer was named Second Team All-Pac-12 in 2011, as he finished the season with 16 pass break ups. Poyer also returns kicks and punts for the Beavers and in 2011, he set the Reser Stadium record with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown against UCLA. ESPN's Mel Kiper ranked Poyer as the second best cornerback for the 2013 draft.

Breakout Player:

Dylan Wynn, DE: Wynn started seven games as a true freshman in 2011, earning Freshman All-American honorable mention by College Football News. Wynn finished the season with 44 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack and will move to the starting role in 2012. In 2011, Wynn set an Oregon State single season school record with five fumble recoveries.

Offense:

Oregon State returns Freshman All-American quarterback Sean Mannion, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns last season as a redshirt freshman. Oregon State will have to replace WR James Rodgers, who started 39 games in his career.

Oregon State will have mostly new faces at the skill positions in 2012. Chandler native Markus Wheaten leads the young group that will feature Obum Gwacham, Kevin Cummings, Brandin Cooks and Mitch Singler completing for playing time at wide receiver.

One of the most important position battles for Oregon State is at the running back position. Sophomore Terron Ward is listed atop the preseason depth cart, however Jovan Stevenson and Malcolm Agnew will compete for playing time in 2012.

The offensive line returns three starters from a group that allowed 27 sacks in 2011. Junior Michael Phillips return with 22 starts in his career and will be moved to left tackle. Josh Andrews and Grant Enger return at the guard positon and Oregon State will have to replace center Grant Johnson, who finished his career with 35 starts.

Defense:

Sophomore defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn lead the Beavers defensive line. Crichton earned Freshman All-American honors from several publications after posting 74 tackles and six sacks in 2011.

Kevin Unga and Michael Doctor return to anchor the linebacking corps in 2012. Unga finished 2011 with 67 tackles and one sack in nine games played. Doctor finished second on the team with 78 tackles in 2011, and sophomore D.J. Welch is expected to start at the sam linebacker position.

Oregon State returns both starting cornerbacks in Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds. The Beavers also return safety Anthony Watkins, who led the Beavers in tackles last season with 85. The Beavers gave up just 214.4 yards per game passing, as opposed to 196.8 yards they gave up rushing.

Schedule:

The Beavers open with Nicholls State on Sept. 1st at Reser Stadium. Reality sets in quickly as Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin comes to town on Sept. 8th and Oregon State's first two conference games are on the road against Arizona and UCLA.

Oregon State has winnable homes games against Washington State (Oct. 6th), Arizona State (Nov. 3rd) and California (Nov. 17th). The Beavers get a break as they do not face USC this season.

Final season record: 4-8

Up next in our Pac-12 preview series is the USC Trojans.

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