OREGON STATE BEAVERS Head coach: Mike Riley Last season: 9-4 overall, 6-3 in the Pac-10; won 21-14 over Maryland in Emerald Bowl. Spring practice: March 31-May 3.
Oregon State quietly has become one of the better teams in the Pac-10 not named USC. Oregon State won its final eight games of the season to finish third in the Pac-10 and won its fourth consecutive bowl game. The Beavers, though, have an important spring ahead of them. Three-year starter Yvenson Bernard, one of the most productive tailbacks in the country during that time, is gone. Oregon State must also replace eight defensive starters, including the entire front seven. And quarterback Sean Canfield - who lacked consistency last season - will miss the spring because of a shoulder injury sustained last season.
Sammie Stroughter hopes to put a dismal 2007 season behind him.
Remember Sammie Stroughter? He hopes to put a tumultuous 2007 behind him. He missed most of fall camp following the death of a loved one, then played only three games because of a lacerated kidney. With Stroughter joining sophomores James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings, this could be one of the best wide receiver groups in the country. Three starters return in the secondary.
HELP IS NEEDED
The entire starting front seven on defense - all the linemen and all the linebackers - must be replaced. Oregon State needs two new starters on the offensive line. The group will at least get a boost in the fall from guard Jeremy Perry, who missed all but three games last season with a broken leg. He will miss the spring following knee surgery.
KEEP AN EYE ON
DT Mitchel Hunt: The sophomore has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons but is a projected starter.
TB Ryan McCants: Hopes are high for this redshirt freshman to join the list of touted Oregon State tailbacks of recent vintage. McCants already is being compared with former Beavers star Stephen Jackson.
LBs Keith Pankey and Dwight Roberson: Senior Bryant Cornell and junior Keaton Kristick give Oregon State experience at middle and strongside linebacker, but these sophomores will compete for time on the weak side.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Oregon State had the same three starters at linebacker in each of the past two seasons. With that group gone, Cornell now is the veteran of the group. He is the only senior linebacker on the two-deep depth chart.
Oregon State has been one of most the underrated teams over the past two seasons, but the Beavers have much work to do to remain competitive in the Pac-10. The spring will be critical in the quest to replace experienced veterans. The good news is there are numerous upperclassmen looking to fill those spots.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.