Our Pac-10 interviews continue w..."/> Our Pac-10 interviews continue w..."/>

Checkin’ on the Pac: Oregon State


Our Pac-10 interviews continue with Jake Bertalotto of Building the Dam.com, an Oregon State fan blog dedicated to constant coverage of the Beavers. BTD is one of the five SB Nation Pac-10 blogs and Jake has been kind enough to participate in the Pac-10 interview series with us. Thanks to him for making this interview possible.

1. Oregon State started both Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao last season. Who is the better fit at quarterback for the Beavers?

If I knew the answer to that question, I’d be the head coach right now. Sean is the stereotypical quarterback, but Lyle is the bad-a$$, physical quarterback. (He played defensive end in high school). Sean won the job early last season, but then Sean got hurt, and Lyle went 4-0 down the stretch as a starter. Sean was 5-4 as a starter last season. Lyle is more of a fearless leader, Sean is more of, well, a Pac-10 quarterback. Lyle has the job going into camp (Sean spent the summer rehabing from his injury) but we’ll see what happens.

2. Yvenson Bernard was one of the most underrated players in the entire nation. Who will be his replacement this year?

Right now, it will be a trio of guys. Ryan McCants is #1 on the depth chart right now. He was a highly-recruited guy out of high school who redshirted last year and will probably receive most of the carries this year. Jeremy Francis is #2. He’s a transfer who could also fight for carries. And then there’s Jacquizz Rodgers, James’ little brother. He comes to us this year out of Texas, where he re-wrote the high school record books for touchdowns and rushing yards. He’s short (5-6ish) like his brother, but the dude can run.

3. In the Emerald Bowl against Maryland, wide receiver James Rodgers was used quite often on the fly sweep. Will the coaching staff use him like Florida uses Percy Harvin?

I’m not as dialed into the SEC as some, but from perusing some YouTube videos and reading about him, they look sort of similar. I’m pretty sure James doesn’t have this kind of publicity, though. While I don’t think we’re going to see James lined up in the backfield, I expect that we’re going to see a lot of the fly sweep again this year. He’s a dual threat guy, but he’ll line up at WR 99% of the time.

4. What the heck happened to Sammie Stroughter? Before last season, he was a preseason All-American but for some reason he left the team. What the heck happened? Will he play in 2008?

Ah… yes he will. Before last season his life went into a downward spiral after he lost some people who were close to him, including a member of the Oregon State coaching staff. This all happened about this exact time last year, right before the start of fall camp. Basically Sammie left town– nobody knew what was going on except for coaches– and didn’t come back for a long time. He returned about the second week of the season but wasn’t himself. (Luckily, I guess) he was injured returning a punt against Arizona State, causing the NCAA to grant him a medical redshirt and thus another senior season.

5. Last season, Oregon State had one of the nation’s best defensive lines, but they do lose several of those starters. Who will be their replacements?

In fact, we lose all of our starters from the front seven. The good news is that we like to rotate our linemen based on the situation, so the guys who will serve as replacements have seen a lot of playing time. The linebackers are all fresh as well, but they didn’t get much playing time last year behind a veteran trio of LB’s that helped make Oregon State’s defense #1 in the nation.

6. College Football pundit Phil Steele wrote in his magazine that Oregon State has the sixth best defensive backs unit in the entire country. Do you agree with his assessment?

I’m not sure where Oregon State stacks up with the rest of the country, but yeah, the Beaver secondary will be talented. These guys who are now seniors were basically all broken in several years ago (we went through some tough times then) but we’re reaping the benefits now. Safety Al Afalava will anchor the defensive backfield with CB Brandon Hughes. Afalava will have to miss the first game due to a suspension, but his hard hits will definitely be felt from Game 2 on. Whenever you’re listed alongside teams like Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, and USC, that’s good. Our problem is that the Ducks are going to have a damn good secondary as well.

7. This season, OSU is going to face a much tougher non-conference schedule with Penn State, Hawaii, and Utah. Do you prefer the tougher schedule or a weak one with FCS and lower echelon WAC teams?

If it’s me, I like to have the one marquee game a year. We’ve got that this year in Penn State. I think that you need to schedule games against weaker teams to get everyone settled into their positions, but that doesn’t mean every game should be a cakewalk. Our non-conference schedule should be interesting this year.

8. The job that Mike Riley has done to elevate the OSU football program has been outstanding. Where does he rank among the top Pac Ten and NCAA coaches?

Well, Pete Carroll gets the nod as of late. You’ve gotta respect what Dennis Erickson has done at Arizona State, but after that, I think it’s open for debate between Riley and Bellotti. As for the NCAA scene, Riley is going to need to win some big time bowl games before we can start talking about that.

9. Lastly, please look into your crystal ball. How will the Beavers do this year?

I’m not one to throw out numbers and bold predictions for things like this, but the Beavers will be competitive. We’re used to getting bashed every year in the pre-season (we’re often ranked at sixth… seventh… in polls). On paper, we might look like the sixth best team in the conference (unproven QB, RB, OL, DL, LB) but I’ll guarantee those units will not be unproven come the middle of the season. Oregon State has a knack for taking less-talented players and turning them into better teams, so we’ll see how it goes. I think the Beavers have potential for a finish anywhere from 3rd to 7th in the Pac-10. Told you I’m not one to throw out bold predictions.