Replacing an offensive catalyst
With senior wideout Markus Wheaton headed to the NFL draft this spring, Oregon State will have a huge void to fill on its depth chart.
Since his junior season, Wheaton has been the Beaver’s go-to receiver on offense. He led the team with 986 yards and 73 catches in 2011, while averaging 13.5 yards per catch.
He took that to a whole new level in 2012, once again leading the team in receiving yards (1,207) and catches (88), as well as touchdowns (13; 11 receiving, two rushing).
During the Nicholls State game, Wheaton set a school record with his 224th career reception.
A team captain, Wheaton has been a mainstay for the Beavers offense. It’s apparent from all his catches that he was the go-to guy for Oregon State quarterbacks. You could tell it from the games as well—when OSU needed a big play, Wheaton was almost always involved.
But this is college football, and at a certain point players have to leave. That gives Mike Riley the unpleasant task of finding a replacement for his star receiver.
This has been a problem in the past, the most recent case revolving around Jacquizz Rodgers. The dynamic running back opted out of his final year of eligibility to enter the 2011 NFL draft. As a result, the Beavers were left with a rag-tag platoon of green tailbacks.
The 2011 season was one of the program’s worst rushing attacks, ranking last in the Pac-12 with 86.9 yards per game.
Luckily this situation is a little bit different. Jacquizz opted to leave the program a year early, where as Wheaton is a senior entering the draft. Riley has been able to use that extra year to plan accordingly for 2013.
The obvious replacement for Wheaton in the offense would be sophomore Brandin Cooks.
It’s hard to replace such a great player like Wheaton. (Photo: Aaron Marineau / Oregon Daily Emerald)
Cooks had a phenomenal year as a true freshman in 2011, and somehow amped up his production in 2012. The speedster had 1,120 yards receiving and five touchdowns on the season, averaging an absurd 17.5 yards per catch.
Cooks and Wheaton are of the same makeup, using dynamic speed to beat opposing defenses. Both players are incredibly dangerous in the open field, but are also great at the fundamentals—running strong routes and making great catches.
Cooks has been integrated into the offense much like Wheaton has. Outside of catching passes, both have been used heavily in the reversal game—both players combined for 183 yards rushing in 2012.
But depth is imperative in such a physical sport. If Cooks suffers an injury, who is the Beaver’s fallback?
Despite a plethora of depth at the wideout position, the next best name would have to be redshirt freshman Richard Mullaney.
Arguably one of the Beaver’s best recruits in 2010, Mullaney got his first taste of play this season as the fourth string option. He responded by averaging 12.0 yards per catch with 13 receptions in five games.
Mullaney is a slightly more traditional mold of receiver, relying less on pure speed and more on talent. He was impressive when on the field in 2012, and showcased a lot of his tools.
Heading into 2013, the transition should be fairly clean. Cooks will take on the No. 1 role in Wheaton’s absence, with Mullaney becoming the Robin to his Batman.
As long as the Beavers follow that formula, the offense should be just fine.
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