Tuesday, August 7, 2012

O-line needs to be productive - again

In recent Beaver football history, there has been one consistent on a year-in year-out basis - the offensive line.
Doug Nienhius. Adam Koets. Kyle Devan and Roy Schuening. Andy Levitre and Alex Linnenkohl.
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh's ability to turn raw recruits and blue chip prospects into all-conference selections and NFL starters is one of the hallmarks for the OSU program.
Levitre, once a two-star recruit (Rivals) out of California, became a two-time all Pac-10 tackle and is now the starting left guard for the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
Devan, a former three-star recruit (Rivals) turned into an all Pac-10 selection and took over the starting center spot in '09 when Colts legend Jeff Saturday went down with injury.
Cavanaugh has a huge impact on OSU football every season, but this season will not be a picnic for the veteran offensive line coach.
Despite the substantial turnover on the defensive side of the ball (five big pieces graduated last season), most of the drama heading into fall camp lies with the offensive line.
Not only will the development of the line play an integral role in the run game, but added protection, particularly early on in the season, will help determine whether or not incumbent quarterback Sean Mannion continues to reach his ceiling.
The pieces are in place for the 2012 season, but those familiar with Oregon State football know that, recently, the core unit has lacked the consistency Cavanaugh demands out of his youngsters. Former blue chip recruit and junior left tackle Michael Phillipp has yet to reach his true potential, but shows glimpses of brilliance and as far as the right side of the line goes. Junior Grant Enger and senior Colin Kelly have not been healthy a full season to appreciate the fruits of their production and the same goes for junior left guard Josh Andrews, who missed four games last season with a knee injury.
The only relative unknown at the moment, and current starting write-in center, is another in the Seumalo blood-line. If he's anything like his big brother Andrew, Cavanaugh will have added another tough, hard-working kid that Beaver Nation will quickly grow to embrace.
In a recent interview, head coach Mike Riley mentioned the offensive line being integral in forming the running game. With Riley's notorious running attacks in the past, that was a given in any arbitrary season. With the program lacking a Quizz, or a Steven Jackson, or even a Ken Simonten, the duties therein lie with Cavanaugh to continue the blue collar tradition of dominant offensive line performances in the trenches.
- Frank Hoaglin