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Assessing Oregon St.'s Recruiting Class

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Coach Mike Riley seems excited about the possibilities with this year's recruiting class.
Coach Mike Riley seems excited about the possibilities with this year's recruiting class.

Assessing Oregon St.'s recruiting class, and everyone else's for that matter, isn't something that can be completely accomplished for several years, until we find out who works out, who excels, and who fails, of course, but we can draw some conclusions, and make some projections.

The thing that jumps off the recruit rating roster is the potential for prompt help for the offensive line. That's predictable and a good thing, given that 3 starting seniors graduated, making it the priority position this year.

The anchor signing of the group is Kammy Delp, the only signing day commit of the class. At 330 lbs., Delp is a big addition, though in more ways than just square footage and tare weight. It was important for Oregon St., perennially near the bottom of the Pac-12 in terms of overall recruiting class strength, to win a battle with other, more glamorous Pac-12 destinations, especially after not only losing out on Shane Bowman, but losing him to Washington after he had actually verbally committed to the Beavers.

It's important to actually win a recruiting battle on occasion when you aren't the premier program in play.

By the assessment of both Rivals and Scout, Oregon St. has the 9th best recruiting class in the conference, in the high 40 nationwide, ahead of only Utah, Colorado, and Washington St., which had what has to be a bit of a disappointing third year under coach Mike Leach.

Both services have the Beavers a few spots nationally behind California as well, somewhat surprising given the dumpster fires the last 2 seasons have been for the Bears, under two radically different staffs. But then Oregon St.'s 5 game losing streak, fueled by coaching gaffs on multiple occasions, didn't help matters either.

But there's a lot more o-line beef than just Delp in this class though. With several open spots up for grabs, now or in a year or two, that's a good thing.

At 6'6" and 270 lbs, JC transfer Bobby Keenan will be expected to make an immediate impact, and there's no reason to believe he won't.

Drew Clarkson may need at least part of a year to fit into the rotation, but not unlike Sean Harlow, I doubt he redshirts this fall, especially if there is any appreciable number of injury or illness problems with the offensive line.

Before all is said and done, Yanni Demogerontas, at 6'5" and 270 lbs. already, is likely to be a key player as well. I can envision him in the Josh Andrews mold. Coach Mike Riley seems to have high hopes for Demogerontas as well, even if he hasn't mastered the pronunciation of his last name yet.

And even at only 2 stars, Robert Olson, a 6'5", and a still growing 270 lbs., has the look of the prototype Oregon St. offensive lineman.

Looking across at the other line, its hard not to envision Sumner Houston as Dylan Wynn the second. And with Scott Crichton leaving as well as graduates John Braun and Devon Kell, the two De La Salle products could even find themselves book-ending the line this season.

As we've discussed before, the various defensive groups do not succeed or fail on their own; and there's a direct tie between the line and the linebackers. And an intriguing possibility afforded by this group of recruits.

At 300 lbs, Kalani Vakameilalo provides the immediate big body inside that was lacking after the departure of first Steven Paea, and then Castro Masaniai. Given the trouble Siale Hautau has had staying healthy, the new big Hawaiian will have a shot to play early.

It also opens up the intriguing possibility of not only more 3 man fronts, something Oregon St. began to use this past season, but also the move to a 3-4 look, something the Beavers did not do last year.

Most of the 3 man fronts were in 3-3-5 nickel, and even 3-2-6 dime packages, and those aren't going away in a Pac-12 where 9 or 10 conference teams will be returning accomplished quarterbacks.

And with Michael Doctor out for most of the season, and especially at times when either D.J. Alexander and/or Joel Skotte were injured, there weren't necessarily the players still in place to play a 4 linebacker package.

That could change with the addition of Ricky Liuchan. With the return of Doctor and a hopefully healthy Alexander, Riley and linebacker coach Trent Bray have already talked about moving Jabral Johnson inside. But at 227 lbs., he's still smallish for the middle, even with a space eater on the d-line, especially if he's there by himself.

But what about also sliding Alexander inside, and putting Liuchan's speed on the edge? If Liuchan can adapt to Pac-12 level ball fast enough, the prospect of another move toward more speed for a defense that's struggled with containment in the era of spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks, its a possibility worth considering.

Beyond that, there are a couple of other players worth monitoring, both for immediate and future impacts.

Safety Adam Soseman, at 6'2", could help address the issue of a rather athletic, but rather short, secondary, one that's had problems matching up with tall receivers. And being one of the top hurdlers in the state of California, Soseman obviously brings balance and leg strength to the field.

Finally, Tanner Sanders has a chance to carve out a key role at wide receiver. Sanders has played at a high level at multiple positions, and in multiple sports, in high school, prompting Riley to draw comparisons to Jordan Poyer, whose' game smarts and versatility made him an All-American and a pro when his measurables had made him only a 2 star prospect. Sanders, like Poyer, is a "football player", capable of finding a way to make plays under a variety of circumstances.

Sanders is also 6'5". He could be the tall receiver for the Beavers that Obum Gwacham never successfully became, something they have lacked since injuries cut short the career of Jordan Bishop. And while Sanders won't win many foot races with Victor Bolden, with his ability to play above shorter defensive backs, I could see him as the next Shane Morales, an under-appreciated Beaver who none-the-less created serious problems for opposing defenses, and also carved out an effective niche of a career by the time he was done in Corvallis.

Only time will tell if any of this will come to pass, but it will be interesting to watch to see if it does.