OSU looks to fill void left by departed stars

Steve Gress / Corvallis Gazette-Times Published Jul 27, 2013 at 05:00AM

In a little over a week, Aug. 5 to be exact, the Oregon State football team will be back on the field together preparing to build off last year’s turnaround season that saw the Beavers go 9-4 overall and play in the Alamo Bowl.

On Friday, coach Mike Riley, junior receiver Brandin Cooks and senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds were on hand at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., for the Pac-12 media day.

“As everybody is, we’re looking forward to getting started,” Riley said in his opening statement in the group setting in the morning. “I think our team’s had a real good offseason. Hopefully we take a lot of what we learned a year ago about playing hard and playing within the confines of each ballgame and taking advantage of getting ready for each game and giving it our best shot to win that game and just continue in that mode.”

The Beavers got off to the best start in program history last season, going 6-0 before falling at Washington. Some think the Beavers could replicate that start this season.

But in order to do that, there are some key holes the Beavers will need to fill. That will be one of the keys to fall camp and early in the season.

“We’ve lost some real good players from a year ago, so we’re looking for the guys who have been playing to step it up and do more and we’re looking for new people yet to come in and see if we can replace those great players — Jordan Poyer, Markus Wheaton, Andrew Seumalo, I could go on,” Riley said.

Riley said a key focus will be filling some gaps on defense.

“Specifically, I think that we’ve got to, as we go through, is find those replacements for sure and kind of nail that down in fall camp and really look at the interior of our defense,” he said. “We lost our middle linebacker, we lost two defensive tackles. Our defense played really well up front last year, so in order to continue with that, we’re going to have to have some people to do it.”

Riley said each team needs to find its identity and while there are holes to fill, as every team has at this time, it is nice to having a strong core returning.

That group is led by Cooks and Reynolds, who are coming off solid seasons and will be called upon as captains to help fill some of the void.

The one question Riley or the players weren’t asked in the large-group session was about who will start at quarterback — senior Cody Vaz or junior Sean Mannion — this season. Riley did address the situation with Ted Miller of ESPN.com on Wednesday.

“We’ve really tried to look at this thing as spring practice as just being further development and then of course, we’re going to have to make a decision pretty early in fall camp,” Riley said. “I feel pretty good about both of them and where they’re at and how they’re competing.”