Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oregon State Football: Who Will Carry the Torch Left by Jacquizz Rodgers?

It is never easy when a college football team prematurely loses its campus star to the NFL Draft. 

While most schools have stars waiting in the wings, the early departure of running back Jacquizz Rodgers felt like it shook the moorings of Oregon State's entire offensive identity.  

For the past two seasons, Rodgers has been a huge reason why Beavers’ fans liked their chances every Saturday.  The elusiveness and flash brought to the field by Rodgers commanded the attention of every player on defense. 

Rodgers will certainly be considered one of the greatest running backs in Oregon State’s history, but his deserving leap to the pros has forced the Beavers to desperately search for someone to step into this highly scrutinized, "star" role. 

While most fans will immediately look towards the quarterback to fill this "star" position, this might come up as an empty search.  Ryan Katz does not exactly exude the “star-like” aura that you look for in a game-changing player.

Katz installed minimal confidence with the fans during his first season as the Beaver’s starter.  Although he completed 60-percent of his passes, when he missed he tended to find a player wearing the other jersey.  Katz threw 11 interceptions in 2010, three in each of the Beaver’s last two games.    

Missing spring activities due to an injury makes it even harder to get full heartedly behind the junior quarterback.  It is possible for Katz to grow into the “star” role before the end of the season, but he will have to show immediate improvement right out of the gates.

The next place to search for a possible torch carrier would be the players replacing Rodgers.  Of the 386 rushing plays called by Oregon State last year, 257 plays went through Rodgers.  The next running back to make the list was Ryan McCants with four attempts.

Although the well behind Rodgers isn’t exactly flowing with experience, there is some talent laced within this area of the depth chart.

In regards to starting role Head Coach Mike Riley told, “It may be by committee, but we would like to define the position…if we can.”

As a senior, McCants is the logical heir to the spot on the depth chart, but many believe that junior Jordan Jenkins will have a reasonable shot at it.  Jenkins slimmed down this offseason, which could mean an increase in speed.    If this correlation holds true, Jenkins technically could ease the void left by Rodgers.

Another outside shot of stealing the starting position is redshirt freshman Malcolm Marble.  In Oregon State’s spring game, Marble got the crowd fired up with a 65-yard touchdown run, providing his stock with a slight boost going into the summer.

Marble was a three-star recruit two years ago and the redshirt year allowed him to learn under Rodgers.  Marble has been knocked for his size, but then again, so was his predecessor.  If he can hone his speed and vision this summer, Marble could quickly become the next star player for the Beavers. 

Although it is going to take some time for the next star to emerge, fans are (of course) hoping it will happen sooner rather than later.  If any of these players can quickly emerge with the torch left by Rodgers, the Beavers offense could take several teams by surprise next season.  However, if no-one is up to the task, it could be time to start looking towards the 2012 season.