Oregon State was one of the biggest surprises in the Pac-12 last season with a record-setting turnaround in Corvallis leading to high expectations in 2013. Though the North Division should be one of the toughest in college football, the Beavers have plenty of pieces back and are primed for a run. Though it won’t be an exciting “game,” per Mike Riley, the OSU spring game should give us a glimpse of what the team will be like come fall camp. Here are a few things to watch out for when Pac-12 Networks televises the game on Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m. PT:
In all likelihood, the quarterback derby between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz will continue through fall camp and may even spill over into the first game against Eastern Washington. It’s unlikely Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf (who just joined Twitter, by the way) will indicate which way they are leaning, but it’s worth keeping an eye on if one receives more reps than the other. It’s unlikely the first-string guys play all that much on Friday night, so it’s possible neither sees much action, but it will be curious to see who is the first guy on the bench.
Who fills Jordan Poyer’s spot?
The Beavers took a huge leap in pass defense last season and finished in the top 20 in the country, thanks in large part to ball-hawking corner Jordan Poyer. With his departure to the NFL Draft there are a number of candidates lining up to take his spot. So many, in fact, that Oregon State will likely play a lot of nickel/dime in trying to match up the right cover guy with a receiver. Transfer Steven Nelson and senior Sean Martin have the best chances to fill the starting spot, but don’t be surprised to see others on the field going forward.
Who emerges to rise up the two-deep
If you’re looking at what Oregon State returns from last year, you’ll notice they’re bringing back quite a bit from a team that should have had 10-plus wins. While one would think that the depth chart is pretty set in stone, according to coaches it isn’t and there are plenty of position battles all over the place. Take the offensive line, for example. Four of the five starters return from a unit that played well last season, but still gave up 10 sacks in the bowl game. Combine that with a number of talented players performing at a high level this spring and the two-deep is far from concrete. With starters unlikely to see a ton of playing time on Friday, don’t be surprised if someone emerges at some position thanks to the opportunity to impress coaches one more time this spring.