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OPPONENT PREVIEW: OREGON STATE

Bring in the Beavs; it's time for their first non-conference shave. Oregon State lately has taken its lumps out of conference, and it again appears overmatched in its opener season against TCU. Retired Rich Brooks, a Beaver at heart, rallied the team early in the fall with, "At least beat the hell out of Louisville!" to applause and laughs.

There're not wholesale changes to report since the Wimple's post-spring report. Of most concern for Oregon State fans still is the matchup of OSU's inexperienced (but talented) quarterback Ryan Katz and TCU's perennially nasty defense. A late-August shuffle on the o-line indicates Katz's coaches are trying mightily to give the kid some time to decipher the Frogs' speedy D. Senior tackle Wilder McAndrews bested returning freshman All-American (now sophomore) Michael Philipp for the starting left tackle spot. McAndrews’s play was very strong in the fall, seeming "completely different" to one Rivals writer. Coach Riley openly admits he needs Philipp's strong play on Katz's blind side this season, but McAndrews at starter is a little surprising.

At the skill positions, the spotlight is on the Rodgers brothers, but the news may be the emergence of slot receiver Aaron Nichols as Katz’s escape hatch receiver. Similarly, true freshman WR Obum Gwacham is quickly making a case to play. Backup and completely inexperienced QB Cody Vaz has the coaches’ confidence. "I love the guy’s poise,’’ said Riley. "He seems to be unflappable. … you can get on him pretty hard. It’s always been an old axiom that you don’t coach the QBs hard, you always kind of whisper to them but it isn’t exactly like that out here and (Vaz) just responds, and goes. … I think he’s done an outstanding job."

On the other side of the ball the Beavers appear potent. Senior outside linebacker Keith Pankey appears ready to start a full strength after surgery for a ruptured Achilles' tendon in February. Pankey went from out for the year, to "We'll just watch him and see how he does" in early August, to starting tomorrow. Pankey starts at strongside, senior Dwight Roberson starts at outside linebacker, and the battle is between two sophomores, Tony Wilson and Rueben Robinson, for middle linebacker, which was "an obvious concern" to the coach going into fall.

Also a concern was settling the backup defensive ends, said the coach. "We were pleased with Gabe Miller and Taylor Henry, but finding more players there is a big deal." JUCO transfer Dominic Glover was recruited to make an immediate difference at end this season. Going into the opener, the backups are still not settled, due to the end of Mitchell Hunt’s football career, due to injuries.

The secondary looks to be a strength for the team. Cornerbacks Jordan Poyer and James Dockery impressed in the fall, easing depth concerns.