It’s down to one week until Oregon State starts the season at Minnesota. After a summer of speculation that’s run the gamut of expectations (with precious little substance to base any of them on), the venture into B1G Ten territory will tell us much more about how this fall will go than any number of rosy reports about how select players look against backups that we (hopefully) won’t see on any of the 11 Saturdays in a row to come shortly, or Thursday night for that matter.
We know Darell Garretson will be the Beavers’ quarterback, but we don’t know for sure who will play either tackle position next Thursday, or for how long, with Sean Harlow only beginning to work with the o-line again this week, Dustin Stanton having lost a lot of time to illness, and Will Hopkins already having had a concussion. Stanton and Hopkins are back at work as well, but behind in preparation time. That means we don’t know if Garretson will survive the Gopher onslaught intact.
We know that Brandon Arnold is back to work at safety, after missing time, which means Treston DeCoud and Dwayne Williams at corner, along with Arnold and Devin Chappell at safety, will be the starting secondary, and Jay Irvine will probably be the nickel back. But Williams and Irvine both missed time in summer camp, and so we don’t know how well they will have their timing and communication down, especially when some Gopher gets through the newly re-aligned 3-4 front to the Oregon State defense.
We also know that the nickel will typically be in front of a 3-3 alignment with only one outside linebacker, according to LB coach Chad Kauha’aha’a. That’s a key difference than having only 1 inside LB, with 2 on the edge. It’s one that makes sense against both run-first Minnesota, and will against a conference that’s generally going to be more run heavy, and much less spread and scramble, than in recent years.
Interestingly, the Beavers will face an array of opponents better suited for a Mark Banker defense than in any year since the last time one of Banker’s defenses actually did pretty well this season.
We know that (at least initially), Oregon State will also put either an outside LB or one of the safeties (usually when in a nickel or dime package) up closer to the line of scrimmage than they tended to do last year. What we don’t know is if the team speed is sufficient to make that aggressive look work. We think that a year’s experience will make a difference, an expectation supported by OLB Bright Ugwoegbu’s observation that the team is playing “situational defense” much more this preseason, vs. relying on being athletes more a year ago.
We know that Seth Collins is the most explosive individual on the team. We don’t know at what times he will be on the field, looking to explode, or what the tradeoffs will be for other receivers. Head Coach Gary Andersen and Co-Offensive Coordinator Kevin McGiven probably don’t want Minnesota to know in advance either.
We know that Ryan Nall will dish out about as much punishment as he absorbs, but we don’t know just how much of that is going to be a good thing. We probably know the answer will vary with the opponent. What we don’t know yet is how and when the mixture of Tim Cook, who is similar to Nall, Paul Lucas, who is anything but similar to Nall, and freshman Artavius Pierce, who we knew nothing about until he had a break-out summer camp, will best be able to help.
We don’t know how much the absence of RB Shannon Brooks will hurt the run-first Minnesota offense, but we do know that as a result, we will see a lot of sophomore RB Rodney Smith. And we know the Gophers are comfortable with that, after Smith’s solid first season.
We don’t even know how effective the Beavers’ normally field flipping punter Nick Porebski will be, or how a punter winds up on crutches, with a sprained ankle. We do know Oregon State needs him though, to buy the team the time, and the field position, to learn the answers to the things they still don’t know.
And we know we will all know a lot more late next Thursday evening.
Go (beat the Gophers) Beavers!