Beavers Head East For Battle With Badgers
By Warner Strausbaugh
The two-quarterback system is one that is rarely seen nowadays in college football, and it's a system that many consider an unnecessary distraction for a football team.
For the second week in a row, Oregon State is going to use both Ryan Katz and Sean Mannion under center in Saturday's game against the University of Wisconsin.
While it has been Mannion, a redshirt freshman, receiving the majority of first-team reps in this week's practices, OSU head coach Mike Riley insists both will be used.
"This isn't a phony thing," said Riley. "We truly have an idea about these packages that will be good for them, but how it plays out, I'm not exactly sure."
At Tuesday's press conference, the head coach announced that Katz will be the starter this Saturday. Thursday, he reiterated that Katz indeed will be the starter.
The plan is to use Mannion and Katz in various formations and packages designed to be more suitable to each of their strengths as quarterbacks.
Riley compared Mannion's fast climb to playing time to teammate Malcolm Agnew capturing the starting tailback role in fall camp. The true freshman Agnew simply outplayed the other running backs on the team, even with his lack of experience at the college level.
The same may be happening now with Mannion.
"If you don't stay true to the fact that there's competition within a team, then you're going to lose everybody," Riley said.
Mannion is still pretty humbled about the whole situation and not letting the competition with his peers distract him from the game at hand.
"I'm feeling more comfortable with the offense," said Mannion. "At the same time, I know that me and Ryan are both going to play, and it's going to be about the team."
It's easier to be excited if you're in Mannion's shoes, being the guy coming from the bench onto the field. For Katz, it's a different story.
"I went in as the starter and didn't go back in, so yeah, that's a little bit surprising," said Katz on Tuesday about the game last Saturday against Sacramento State.
Katz started all 12 games last year, and appeared to have a stronghold on the starting job coming into 2011.
"It is difficult," said Riley. "It's not easy. I think Ryan Katz is one of the best people I've been around in my entire life, so it's not an easy thing we have to do."
As of right now, what's best for the Beavers in Riley's eyes is the two-quarterback system. However, if one of the two elevates their play and the other doesn't, it's likely there will eventually be just big one quarterback under center from that point on.
On the defensive side of the ball, it's the combination of the run and play-action pass from No. 8 Wisconsin that is giving the Oregon State defense the most difficulty to game plan against.
After their dismantling of UNLV, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson praised the offensive line, saying he didn't think he even got touched by the defense all game.
"We're just going to bring it," said OSU defensive end Scott Crichton. "We have a lot of stuff on our minds right now. We're going to bring a lot of packages … [Wisconsin QB Wilson] won't know what's coming."
Stopping the run is the first priority for the defense. From there, they can worry about pressuring Wilson.
The defensive line will welcome back senior defensive tackle Kevin Frahm with open arms after he missed last Saturday's game recovering from a surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
For a young player like Crichton, having the vocal leader in Frahm next to him on the line will be very beneficial.
"[Frahm] is just a great role player, a great role model to be around," Crichton said. "He brings an energy to our D-Line and defense—actually to our whole team."
It's just Oregon State's luck that when one key player returns from injury, another one gets hurt.
Malcolm Agnew, who leads the nation in rushing after his outstanding 223-yard debut, will not make the trip to Madison for the game on Saturday.
Agnew felt a pop in his hamstring at Tuesday's practice. Riley announced Thursday that Agnew will stay behind in Corvallis to get treatment. Look for a mixture of Terron Ward, Jordan Jenkins, and Jovan Stevenson in the game.