Unheralded recruits have helped drive Oregon State's recent success. The Beavers landed junior running back Jacquizz (Quizz) Rodgers, a Heisman Trophy candidate who rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2009, and his older brother, James, a senior receiver and preseason All-America candidate, out of Richmond, Texas, before most other schools even knew their names. Another once-hidden gem, senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea (a likely first-round pick in next April's NFL draft), averaged fewer than six snaps a game during his one season at Snow College, and yet Oregon State saw enough to offer him a scholarship.
But if the Beavers are to have the special season that some are forecasting, it will be because one of their most heralded players—sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz—meets expectations. "If he performs the way we believe he can, all the pieces are in place for us to have a great year," coach Mike Riley says. "[Katz] is unflappable and has that physical toughness you look for. He has all the tools. Will he put it all together for us?"
Though there are questions about players who are coming off injuries along the offensive line and at linebacker, the biggest concern for Oregon State is whether the highly recruited Katz can adequately replace Sean Canfield, who completed a school-record 67.9% of his passes last season. The 6' 1", 209-pound Katz is more athletic than Canfield, and his arm rivals that of Ryan Mallett, the Arkansas quarterback often cited as the strongest thrower in college football. "[Katz] can throw it through a wall. We just don't always know which wall," Riley jokes.
Coming out of Santa Monica (Calif.) High, Katz was courted by many West Coast programs, including Oregon and Washington. "I wasn't one of those [Southern California] quarterbacks with a quarterbacks coach and all that," he says, "but I have been playing quarterback since I was seven years old and I've been here two years learning, getting ready for this moment."
In each of those two years Oregon State lost its regular-season finale to rival Oregon, costing the Beavers a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. This season could end differently, but only if Katz plays to his potential.
COACH Mike Riley (8th year)
2009 RECORD 8--5 (6--3 in Pac-10)
FINAL AP RANK NR
RETURNING STARTERS 14
Offense 7, Defense 7
4 TCU (in Arlington, Texas)
25 at Boise State
2 Arizona State
9 at Arizona
16 at Washington
6 at UCLA
13 Washington St.
27 at Stanford
One of the nation's most disruptive interior linemen, Paea can bench press 225 pounds 44 times.
The diminutive (5' 7", 191 pounds) speedster is the key to the offense and a Heisman contender.
He was almost as productive as his younger brother in '09, with 1,034 yards receiving, nine TDs and a school-record 91 receptions.
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (KATZ)
The highly regarded Katz (12) is more mobile than Canfield and has a stronger arm, but he needs to improve on his accuracy.