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With the loss of Brandin Cooks, Oregon State is going to have to do more than just compensate at the wide receiver position. The Beaver’s returning tight ends, Senior Connor Hamlett and Junior Caleb Smith, will be the foundation of a passing attack that could, dare I say, be better than last year’s historical run, crowned by Cooks taking home the 2013 Biletnikoff Award (and most recently, $100k at the combine for his legendary quicks).
The power vacuum left by Cook’s 128-1,730-13 2013 campaign won’t be filled or even mostly filled by any one player on the Beaver’s roster. Instead, an intriguing mixture of experienced and young pass-catchers give reigning Pac-12 passing champion Sean Mannion a bevy of options all over the field.
But without any proven game changers on the outsides, the Beavers will no doubt look to establish control of the middle of the field with their Washington-grown TE pair, before using the speed of Richard Mullaney and Victor Bolden to take shots down the sidelines.
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Both Hamlett and Smith demand attention from defensive coordinators while on the field. Ranking 4th and 6th respectively on the roster in receptions (40, 25), the tandem combined for 9 touchdowns and 707 receiving yards. Add it all up, and the two accounted for roughly 17% of the passing game.
Now that doesn’t seem incredibly significant, but take away Brandin Cooks, who accounted for about 45% of the Beavers passing attack, and the tight end’s become the most reliable option quarterback Sean Mannion has down field.
In fact, with the exception of Richard Mullaney, both running backs Terron Ward and Storm Woods accounted for more of the passing game than the Beaver’s third, forth, and fifth options at wide out. Oregon State’s passing attack will now have to lean on a foundation of consistent, blue-collar play by both Hamlett and Smith.
As daunting as the task of filling Cook’s $100k speed (soon to be million dollar speed), Oregon State’s coaching staff brings the most NFL coaching experience (60 years) to the table in the conference (thanks to the addition of Garrett’s 19). The wealth of experience and Riley’s proven ability to play to his offense’s strengths could make 2014 another one for the record books.