It's hard to believe that gameweek is finally here-- but the Beavers kick off their 2010 season in a week's time at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Here are five questions to get our TCU week started.
1. Will Ryan Katz play like he has all fall?
If sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz has done one thing in fall camp, it's been impressing us with his consistency and ability to handle himself within the framework of the Oregon State offense. He hasn't had much in the way of accuracy problems, and his arm strength has been impressive, as it always has.
Now that he has our confidence, all he'll have to do is lead his team on the road into Cowboys Stadium against a top-10 opponent. If he is successful, it could be a fitting start to a fruitful three years career as OSU's starting quarterback.
2. WIll players recover from minor injuries?
Injuries are often unavoidable in the game of football, and Oregon State has had their share this pre-season.
Starting defensive lineman Taylor Henry's ankle injury on Friday was the latest thorn in the side for the OSU defense. The depth there was already suffering after Matt LaGrone left OSU in the spring, so losing Henry means junior college transfer Dominic Glover gets the call.
James Rodgers, Markus Wheaton, and Darrell Catchings have all had minor tweaks on the offensive side of the ball. On the line, Michael Phillipp likely lost lost his starting spot-- at least for now-- to Wilder McAndrews after he suffered an ankle injury. He's back in practice, butt has a lot of ground to make up.
Henry's injury is a big hit for a defense that has managed to stay mostly injury-free throughout camp... although losing defensive tackles Mitchel Hunt and Tonu Tuimalealiifano to long-term knee injuries didn't help.
3. Will the linebackers be able to stop the run? How will the secondary hold up?
It's obvious at this point that the defense is a bigger concern than the offense. The offense will find ways to move the ball, but will the defense be able to stop the run?
In the scrimmage last week, Jordan Jenkins and Ryan McCants combined for over 100 yards, but in this past Thursday's, Jenkins ran for 100 yards on his own on just six carries. The sophomore from West Salem broke runs of 41, 25, and 22 yards.
There's been no decision yet as to who will start at middle linebacker-- recovering from losing David Pa'aluhi has been harder than first thought. Tony Wilson, Rueben Robinson and Kevin Unga are all still in the mix.
As for the pass-- it's extremely difficult for the secondary to compete with the Katz-James Rodgers connection, but the Pac-10 has many similar deep threats that the secondary will need to cover.
4. Will the bright lights play a role?
If there's one thing that's hard to simulate on the practice field at the Tommy Prothro football complex, it's the atmosphere the Beavers will be playing in at Cowboys Stadium.
In past years, the team has made trips to Death Valley, to Hawaii, and to Beaver Stadium-- to name a few. But when it comes to the glitz and glamor of the venue, Cowboys Stadium tops the list. Add in the ESPN cameras who will be fixed on junior Heisman hopeful Jacquizz Rodgers as his team faces a national title contender in TCU, and there's plenty of opportunity for the Beavers to seize. Will they be able to compete with the Horned Frogs from the opening kick?
5. Will Kahut be healthy?
Oregon State has relied on consistency in their kicking game over the past years, dating back to the era of players like Jose Cortez, Ryan Cesca, Kirk Yliniemi, and Alexis Serna. With Justin Kahut still trying to overcome minor injuries he suffered in a car accident before fall camp, will he still be able to kick with the consistency he did last season?
If Kahut can't go on September 4-- it would probably be freshman walk-on Max Johnson's job (Astoria HS) to handle the place kicking.
Kahut was not kicking consistently earlier this week, but participated in Thursday's scrimmage.
"We are not passed that concern until he starts kicking regularly," Riley said on Tuesday. "At this point he hasn't done that."
The Pac-10 is crowded with kicking talent this season, with six players on the 30-man Lou Groza Award watch list. With so many Pac-10 teams featuring outstanding kickers, the Beavers really can't afford to lose ground in this area.
--Jake | (firstname.lastname@example.org)