One of the strengths of the 2012 OSU Football team should be its depth at receiver. There are plenty of capable athletes that range from the fan favorite new big target Obum “Boom” Gwacham to the faster than a speeding Black Mamba (DAT), Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. The group was a little young last year but more than that it was probably the freshman kinks of Sean Mannion at QB that kept OSU from really being effective last season in the passing attack. For every good set of downs Sean might have the tension was all too often there that he could throw a pick at any moment. He ended up with 19 interceptions and you just can’t win enough games being that casual about turnovers.
Sean does have his strengths. He can throw almost any ball a QB needs too. However, he can’t be forcing it into the middle and needs the running game to add unpredictability to a balanced attack. Recently someone posted a link that Riley has one of the most balanced attacks in college football. Over his career it is true that balance has generally been good. That report was almost exactly like one I had seen the year before where Hawaii actually was tops but was thrown out for too small of sample size or something. It was not based off the last couple years where the running game has been less effective but rather off the backs of such dependable workhorses as Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers. Time will tell how close Storm Woods or Downtown Brown can get to that kind of production, but last year we simply weren’t very good.
So who will be the key targets this year? Most fans believe Markus Wheaton will be our #1 go to guy. Both he and Cooks are almost locks to be starting every game. Whether executing sweeps or reverses both have the needed speed burst. I do think however we need to look at lining one of these speed demons in RB position every once in awhile to give the defense something else to worry about. Pac-12 defenses have been preparing for our sweeps for so many years now that it just seems we need a new wrinkle to have the element of surprise. Jordan Bishop is a high jumper who has made some athletic catches the past couple seasons but he is less than 100% after some prior ankle injuries. Therefore, look for “Boom” Gwacham to get a lot of time at slot. Fans may just get their wish for Obum to be thrown some jump ball fades in the endzones.
Last year Wheaton led OSU with 73 catches for 986 yards. He averaged 13.5 yards per catch. Sadly, and this killed OSU, he only scored one touchdown the entire season. Riley’s and Langsdorf’s offense bogged down last year in the red zone. Cooks had 31 catches for 391 yards (12.6 yds/catch) and had three touchdowns. Cooks will need to get stronger and more physical this year to get more yardage after the catch and help find himself more space in getting open. Part of me wonders if the Cooks and especially Wheaton yardage per catch average is too high and if this leads to more interceptions. We may want to ideally be closer to 11 yards per catch this year.
Another question is if 6-4, true freshman Malik Gilmore will play in his first season or be redshirted. He would present another big target but do you spend a year of elegibility on a season that looks to most likely have 5 or 6 wins? Because of our depth I might lean to redshirting him. It looked like Riley’s plan was to play freshman Richard Mullaney this year instead who had a strong spring. However, just before the spring scrimmage he had a small tear in a thumb ligament that required surgery. It remains to be seen if he will be 100% by the fall and a real factor for OSU this year. Hopefully he can and will be. Junior slotback Kevin Cummings also showed some signs of developing this spring and hopefully will be a consistent contributor as well. Similarly, Geno Munoz has shown flashes in the past but looks to have more catches for OSU in 2012. Our other flanker besides Cooks is Micah Hatfield. He has shown a tad more than Cummings to this point but not yet shown much impact in winning games.
Below is the projected depth chart.
13 Brandin Cooks 5-9 177 sophomore (Stockton, Calif.)
81 Micah Hatfield 6-1 174 junior (Lake Oswego)
2 Markus Wheaton 6-0 180 senior (Chandler, Ariz.)
18 Geno Munoz 6-0 190 senior (Tacoma, Wash.)
8 Richard Mullaney 6-1, 182 redshirt freshman (Thousand Oaks, Calif.)
23 Jordan Bishop 6-3 205 senior (Salem)
86 Obum Gwacham 6-5 223 sophomore (Chini Hills, Calif.)
84 Kevin Cummings 6-1 178 junior (Culver City, Calif.)
21 Mitch Singler 6-2 202 junior (Medford)
82 Colby Prince 6-5 260 senior (Albany)
89 Conner Hamlett 6-7 257 sophomore (Edmonds, Wash.)
88 Tyler Perry 6-4 241 sophomore (Ventura, Calif.)
83 Kellen Clute 6-4 220 redshirt freshman (Spokane, Wash.)
— Caleb Smith 6-6 250 freshman (Renton, Wash.)