As the early days of Oregon State Fall Camp continue, we look ahead at some of the intriguing storylines to keep an eye on with the season just less than a month away. How will Sean Harlow’s injury situation play out? What becomes of Seth Collins in a new role? And who are some of the unknown commodities ready to help the Beavers heading into the 2016 season? Let’s take a look as Gary Andersen and company enter their final weeks of preparation for the 2016 season.
1. The Sean Harlow Injury Saga
Just days ago, we listed senior left tackle and NFL prospect Sean Harlow as the fourth Most Valuable Player for the Beavers heading into Fall Camp this season. A few days later, it’s completely unknown if Harlow will even take the field this season for Oregon State, after head coach Gary Andersen referred to the 6’ 4”, 300 pounder’s health as a “wild card” for this season.
Harlow was injured in the second half in a loss to Colorado a season ago but through the off-season, very few comments were made in regard to any problems arising from the left tackle’s lingering ankle injury. Everything seemed good to go. Then suddenly, with the bombshell of this new information at Oregon State media day, the prospectus for not only the steady veteran but the rest of the offensive line has suddenly been thrust into turmoil.
If Harlow doesn’t take the field (and possibly uses a medical redshirt season), the reworking of the offensive line could be the biggest storyline of the whole season for a Beavers team trying to work their way out of the conference basement. It’s doubtful that Harlow’s immediate back-up on the depth chart in redshirt freshman Blake Brandel will be ready by September, which could mean right guard Gavin Andrews, who came to Corvallis as a right tackle, might be shifted across the line into Harlow’s vacant spot at left tackle. Andrews’ replacement would then be easier to find, with a myriad of depth players that would transition more freely to the less crucial position.
2. What Will Seth Collins Be For The Beavers?
Former quarterback Seth Collins strange off-season has been documented enough with his transfer to Northern Illinois and then sudden return to Corvallis, knowing his position in the backfield was being conceded to a new talent in Utah State transfer Darell Garretson. Collins is now expected to line up somewhere at a skill position, to better use his speed and athleticism to help make an impact on this Oregon State roster.
Collins main position is likely behind junior wide receiver Hunter Jarmon, as it begins to look like Gary Andersen might use the sophomore in Collins, in a variety of different roles. It wouldn’t be farfetched to see the former quarterback line up in the backfield (he is listed third on the R-Back depth chart) in a traditional or wildcat type formation and his appearance on special teams is more than probable, considering it’s been reported that he’s been fielding punts and kickoffs at team practices.
The scenario surrounding Collins is that while he is a superb athlete, not only is he making a transition from being a starting quarterback to wide receiver, he is also log-jammed on a depth chart with some talented receivers. It’s hard to see Collins becoming a consistent impact player but instead, he’ll probably be used as (to take some lingo from Gary Andersen) a “wild card” type of player in the Beavers’ offense. Collins’ development not only throughout camp but as the season plays out, could be crucial in beginning to gauge his role in the team for both the 2016 and 2017 season as well.
3. Who Is Darell Garretson?
Seth Collins may be the Beavers’ “wild card” this season but one position where Gary Andersen will be hoping there is no turmoil is the quarterback spot, where Utah State transfer Darell Garretson is expected to lead an upswing for this Oregon State team. After not having taken the field since 2014, while Garretson looks impressive enough to have secured the starting spot, optimism and uncertainty surround the new field general for the Beavers.
Garretson started seven games in 2013 for Utah State, after starter Chuckie Keeton suffered a horrific knee injury that cost him the rest of the campaign, finishing 6-1 as a starter. He led the Aggies to a win in Poinsettia Bowl, while finishing his abbreviated call to action by throwing for 1,446 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games. In 2014, Garretson saw action in five contests after Keeton’s injury problems persisted, posting totals of 1,140 and 8 touchdowns. However, the Chandler, Arizona native had his own injury troubles, as he would end the season himself on the IR with a wrist injury.
If Garretson works into the Oregon State mix as an upgraded version of the 2014 version of himself, Gary Andersen may have gotten a talented piece in the transfer who still has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining. It now will depend on the pieces around Garretson and how they perform. Obviously, the aforementioned offensive line is still a fluid situation, which likely won’t help Garretson’s development if his strongest blocker in Sean Harlow is a no-go for the season. The running back core behind him seems to be stable, led by bruising back Ryan Nall, while Garretson will also have some serious weapons to sling the pigskin to in playmaker Jordan Villamin and “old reliable”, Victor Bolden Jr.
Coming off a 2-10 season, Garretson may be able to provide that consistency that Oregon State needs to become a tough, week-in, week-out, football team in the Pac-12.
4. What Unknown Player Will Have The Biggest Impact?
It’s never easy to pinpoint the “next big thing” on any team’s roster but with a mix of players as young and inexperienced as Oregon State is at the moment, the chances of finding that diamond in the rough is pretty good, especially with an influx of talent to Corvallis on the heels of Gary Andersen’s second year at the helm.
The first name that comes to mind when talking about relatively unproven players poised to have a big impact on this season probably starts with sophomore R-Back Paul Lucas. Lucas is a lightning fast running back who served as a big-play option out of the Beavers backfield a season ago but saw minimal duty, getting handed the ball only 23 times in 9 games. Listed all over the depth chart at different positions, it’s pretty clear that Andersen knowns what he has in Lucas and is likely going to try and get the sophomore the ball as much as he can in open space. After all, that’s the reason we ranked him as our #12 Most Valuable Player for the season in our Fall Camp Countdown.
Another potential breakout player is wide receiver Timmy Hernandez, who after transferring to Oregon State following a legendary career at Pima Community College, is ready to take the leap into a starting role. Hernandez enters the Fall depth chart as the starting “Y wide receiver” (with Paul Lucas as his back-up) and his biggest detriment to a stellar campaign, may simply be the logjam at the split out positions, where the aforementioned Villamin and Bolden Jr will see most of the workload. However, don’t forget Hernandez’ name. He’s quickly worked his way from learning the playbook over the winter to a potential starter in just over eight months.
Another name to keep an eye on is Kenny Turnier. He is an intriguing piece who could see some playing time this year as a true freshman. A former basketball star who only played one year of organized football, Turnier took naturally to the game of football throughout his senior season, demonstrating enough talents to turn himself into a Division I scholarship player. Recently coaches have moved Kenny Turnier from defensive end to tight end. And with the lack of depth at the tight end spot Turnier now has the chance to make an impact immediately.
5. What Will Be Oregon State’s Best Positional Unit?
Between bookend senior tackles (and team captains) in Sean Harlow and Dustin Stanton, some upperclassmen earth-movers in Gavin Andrews and Fred Lauina and a blossoming talent in sophomore center Yanni Demogerontas, the buzz around the potential of this year’s offensive line comes with good reason. The big boys up front have all the looks to be the Beavers best positional unit. But now with Harlow’s health in question, and some potential reshuffling on the line upcoming, are the road-graters in the trenches still the top unit for Gary Andersen and company?
The linebacking core makes it’s own solid case as between Caleb Saulo, Titus Fallauga, Bright Ogwoegbu and Manase Hungalu, the Beavers have three upperclassmen ready to support a young and inexperienced defensive line. The combination of strength and skill at the second level will be needed with a reworked Oregon State defense that needs to take some huge steps from a season ago. The defensive back crew is also a force to be reckoned with, headlined by cornerback Treston Decoud and safety Devin Chappell, who both finished in the top ten of our Most Valuable Players heading into Fall Camp Countdown.
On the offensive side of things, there is some healthy optimism surrounding the Beavers’ receiving core, who with a new quarterback in Darell Garretson, are expected to have a much more impactful year. Jordan Villamin, the team’s 6’ 5” big-play target, will be flanked by senior Victor Bolden Jr., Hunter Jarmon and Timmy Hernandez, who all combine for one of the more talented positions on the Beavers’ depth chart.
Don’t count out the kicking duo either, where between kicker Garrett Owens and punter Nick Porebski, Oregon State has two reliable pieces that will both help with field position and putting points on the board.