A week before the season opener against Sacramento St., it looks like 2011 could be the year of the baby Beaver. With freshman Malcolm Agnew looking like the probable starter at RB, and Brandin Cooks in position to get the start at WR in place of James Rodgers, history is about to be made.
Sports Information Director Steve Fenk said that after researching the records, the Oregon St. athletic department staff believes it would be the first time a true freshman has ever started the season opener at either position (recall that Jacquizz Rodgers didn't start in his first couple of games, and brother James wasn't a starter immediately either).
That's just the beginning, though, as kicker Trevor Romaine is also a freshman. Tyrequek Zimmerman is second on the depth chart at one of the safety spots, and Terron Ward looks like he will be in the rotation at running back as well.
Head Coach Mike Riley also said Friday that Dylan Wynn has been impressive enough to play somewhere, be that in the defensive line rotation or on special teams. Riley said specifically that Wynn will not red-shirt.
Riley went on to say that the Beavers could play as many as 7 true freshmen, but its actually likely even more will get on the field at some point. D.J. Welch is listed #2 at weak side linebacker behind Michael Doctor, and if you are counting, that would be the 7th. freshman.
Reading between the lines, that apparently means RB Storm Woods is going to red-shirt, even though he was one of the "or" options at the position on the depth chart released earlier this week. With the clearance for full contact that allowed Jordan Jenkins to begin doing everything in practice, it does make sense to save a season for Woods.
But even if he does disappear onto the practice squad, there are a couple of other true freshman that might also be pressed into action.
Josh Williams is third on the depth chart at middle linebacker, and Jabral Johnson at strong side linebacker. Should anything happen to Feti Unga or Tony Wilson, Williams suddenly could need to play. Similarly, any problem for Cameron Collins, who has had a few sore days sprinkled throughout fall camp in the aftermath of off-season abdominal surgery, or Reuben Robinson, who has been Mr. Everywhere in the LB rotation, might necessitate taking the red-shirt off Johnson's back.
With everyone in the LB group except Collins coming back after this season, Riley will doubtless try to avoid using either of them in order to save them for the future, but a "rainy" day could come first.
That's just the beginning of the list of players who will see the field for the first time this season though, as the red-shirt freshman group that figure into Oregon St.'s plans is lengthy as well.
Both Connor Hamlett and Tyler Perry will see action at TE and H-Back, especially until Joe Halahuni returns to action, and Obum Gwacham, who backs up Marcus Wheaton at the other WR position, will be used as well, as the Beavers try to capitalize at times on the tremendous physical mismatch the imposing "Boom" presents to opposing secondaries.
Scott Crichton has claimed one of the starting jobs at DE, and Ryan Murphy will play in the rotation at safety. Malcolm Marable, having switched from RB to CB, where the Beavers are thin, has also been on some special teams squads.
Sean Manion is the third string QB, which means he will be on all the trips as well. And both backup kickers, PK Max Johnson and P Keith Kostol, who is also the backup holder, have not been in a game yet either.
So it's probably best the Beavers are opening at home, and against a FCS opponent in Sacramento St., instead of taking a trip to TCU or Stanford.
"For a ton of our players, it’s going to be their first time playing, so whoever we’re playing, it’s going to be pretty eye opening for them,’’ Riley said.
With trips to Camp Randal, Rice-Eccles, and Autzen stadium on the horizon, getting their vision clear would be a good thing for all the "Baby Beavers" that will be in the middle of the fray this year.