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Previewing Utah’s Opponents: Oregon State Beavers

This is a game all of the Utes are looking forward to, because it was the game that ended the season for running back Matt Asiata and limited quarterback Brian Johnson for what he could do all season.  Oregon State is always quietly a very good Pac-10 team, and an interesting fact was found out is that Oregon State has the best Pac-10 conference record only behind USC. 

Oregon State makes the return trip to Salt Lake and the Beavers will be welcoming back star wide receiver and punt returner Sammie Stroughterwho gaine an extra year of eligibility and is looks to return to his all-Pac 10 performer. 

Offense: The quarterback position was very unstable last year and outright terrible at times, so the good news and the bad news is the same with Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield back again to compete for the starting spot.  Moevao was named the starter last spring, partly because Canfield was still recovering from a shoulder injury that had him miss the last three games and one that required surgery.  Having players back who had time can only be good, but they now need to produce with results.  Moevao is the guy and impressed the coaches during spring practices, and they hope that the success will carry over into the upcoming season.

The running backs on the team were the big surprise for the coaches because they did lose tailback Yvenson Bernardrushed for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns while also catching 36 balls for 179 yards and a score.  Some Oregon State people feel the running back position might even be better then last year, but that will be tough to top with just one player.  All the rave is over redshirt freshman Ryan McCants who reminds the staff of former Beaver Steven Jackson.  The other back who will see time is junior college transfer Jeremy Francis who should see time at tailback and the H-back.

Just by having Sammie Stroughterback should help these quarterbacks feel more comfortable with this all-league talent.  The last full season Stroughter played which was in 2006, he led the Pac-10 with 92.4 receiving yards per game behind 74 catches.  Sophomore James Rodgers is considered to be the most explosive receiver on the team and as a freshman he rushed for 586 yards at 11.7 yards per carry, and he also caught 19 balls for 208 yards and scored four total touchdowns.  The receiving corp was one of the thinnest but with Rodgers emerging as a versatile number two and Sammie Stroughter back the wide outs are now a strong group.

Defense: The defense returns only three starters and will need to rebuild their defense for this upcoming season.  The defense last year was possibly the beset in the Pac-10 by giving up only 70 yards per game on the ground and were one of eight teams who accomplished that feat.  The bad news is that the front seven does not return so the front line could now be their weakest part of the deffense.

While the starters are gone there are two returnign players who had a bunch of playing time are ends Victor Butler and Slade Norris who were among the nation’s elite third-down pass rushers. Each ranked in the top-10 in the Pac-10, Butler’s 10.5 sacks placing third and Norris’ nine sacks sixth. Butler finished the year with 32 tackles, 12.5 stops for loss and an interception.  These two will be the new anchors for the front seven of the defense.

The strongest part of the defense is intact with their top five players back is the secondary.  The best cornerbacks in the league reside in Corvallis with seniors Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis who both should be in NFL camps next season.  The safety position will be manned by three players starting with Al Afalava, Bryan Payton, and Greg Laybourn and they will share the playing time.  The secondary is where this defense could be very impressive and force teams to hold the ball longer then they want.

Early Prediction:  The Utes remember what happened last year and will want to defeat the Beavers.  With the Beavers secondary as good as it is could cause Utah trouble.  The home field gives the Utes the edge and thus look for them to win in the four to ten point range.

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