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Pac-12 preview: Oregon State Beavers looking to build on last year's turnaround

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1 2013 8:35 a.m. MDT

Washington's Bishop Sankey is tackled by Oregon State's Rashaad Reynolds (16) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Washington's Bishop Sankey is tackled by Oregon State's Rashaad Reynolds (16) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CULVER CITY, Calif. — Oregon State made quite an improvement last season. The Beavers went from 3-9 in 2011 to 9-4 in 2012. The six-game rise tied them with Middle Tennessee and Ohio State for the biggest climb in the nation. It also proved to be the largest one-year increase in victories in team history.

Now comes the encore, something the Beavers embark upon without key contributors like wide receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Jordan Poyer. Wheaton is the school’s all-time receptions leader (227) and Poyer led the Pac-12 with seven interceptions last season.

Other key losses includes starting defensive tackles Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai and middle linebacker Feti ‘Unga.

“We have lost some real good players from a year ago, so we’re looking for the guys that have been playing to step up and do more and we’re looking for new people to come in and see if we can replace those great players,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said, listing off some of those who have moved on. “But we are excited about the year and looking forward to getting started.”

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) recovers his own fumble as Oregon State Beavers linebacker Michael Doctor (40) defends  in Provo  Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) recovers his own fumble as Oregon State Beavers linebacker Michael Doctor (40) defends in Provo Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Riley is entering his 13th season at the helm of the Beavers. Over two stints with the program (1997-98 and 2003-present), he’s seen his share of ups and downs — although all seven winning campaigns have come during the past 10 years.

“Every team has to form their new identity and there is going to be people that lead, new people come in, who is going to step up, all that kind of stuff,” Riley explained.

The key, he added, is finding people to do it. The search may not be widespread.

“We have a lot of guys that have played in the games that are back and that’s always a good thing,” Riley said.

OFFENSE: Junior Sean Mannion (2,446 yards, 15 touchdowns) and senior Cody Vaz (1,480 yards, 11 touchdowns) will compete for the starting quarterback job. The winner will be protected by four returning starters on the offensive line. Top weapons include junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks and sophomore tailback Storm Woods.

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. (Don Ryan, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. (Don Ryan, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DEFENSE: The Beavers return their top five tacklers from 2012. Senior linebacker Michael Doctor, who led the way with 83 stops, headlines a defensive unit that includes talented junior defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn, as well as consistent senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Trevor Romaine scored 99 points last season as a sophomore. He connected on 16 of his 18 field goal attempts — best in the Pac-12.

EXTRA POINTS: Nike has designed new football uniforms to go along with Oregon State’s revamped logo. ... Cornerback Tyler Hasty, a redshirt freshman expected to contend for playing time this season, has been dismissed from the team following an offseason arrest for felony attempt to elude by vehicle and reckless driving. ... The Beavers play four of five games on the road between Sept. 14 and Oct. 19.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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