Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/9/13
Plenty to learn from surprise season What a ride 2012 was for Beaver Nation. Down on its luck from a disastrous 2011, no one expected Oregon State to have the season it did. But here we are, with the Beavs finishing 9-4 and the program showing great promise. So what did we learn from this epic adventure of a college football season? This Season was Filled with “What Ifs” Despite how well the season went as a whole, it’s still a season that’s hard to reflect on. To start out 6-0—with big wins over Wisconsin, UCLA and BYU—and have it all derailed by the injury of quarterback Sean Mannion, it’s very hard to not wonder “What if Mannion would have never been injured.” Hard to imagine this guys job was on the line to start the season. (Photo: @Coach_Riley) And then for him to come back early and provide the Beavs first loss against Washington, it begs the question “What if Riley had been more patient with bringing Mannion back?” To close out the season both Mannion and Cody Vaz made their fare share of mistakes that inevitably brought Oregon State four losses. But if things had gone differently at the quarterback position, who knows how the Beaver’s season could have ended. Mark Banker is a Defensive Guru Defensive coordinator Mark Banker took a new approach to this season, and in return the Beavers had one of their best defenses in years. At the end of the season, Oregon State ranked 30th in the FBS in total defense allowing 354 yards per game. Opponents averaged just about 20 points a game. Banker did a lot of new things this season, introducing  plenty of dynamic packages. He made Jordan Poyer a roaming vacuum cleaner, and in return he captured a career high seven interceptions. Banked continues to do more with less, and get the best possible out of his players. Mike Riley isn’t Going Anywhere The amount of rumors pertaining to Mike Riley’s future with the program was ridiculous in the preseason. And after this year, Riley has certainly cemented his role with Oregon State. The long time coach had perhaps his best season with the Beavers. And even though they didn’t close particularly strong, there was still plenty to be happy with at the end of the year. Riley made two crucial coaching decisions this season that paid off. First was using different defensive packages, and second was returning to play calling on offense. Both gambits paid off, making the Beavers a dangerous team all season long. Brandin Cooks is Something Special While Markus Wheaton was the Beavers best offensive player this season, no one should ignore how good true sophomore Brandin Cooks was. Cooks looked like something special as a freshman last season, averaging 12.6 yards per catch. But he took it to a brand new level this season, posting 67 catches for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns. Cooks is a dynamic weapon, using his ridiculous speed to make daring catches and big plays. Is there anything Brandin Cooks can’t do? (Rick Scuteri / US Presswire) If Cooks were to choose to stay at Oregon State through his senior year, there’s a chance he could break Mike Hass’ record for all-time receiving yards at the university. Cooks already has 1,542 yards, and at the same point in his career Hass had 1,013—unlike Cooks, Hass didn’t play as a freshman. The record stands at 3,924, which means Cooks would have to average 1,191 yards a season to tie it. But if this season is an indication of anything, it’s that that is an achievable feat for this young wideout. The Sky is the Limit Despite the shaky close to the season—in which Oregon State lost three of their last five games—there’s still a bright future ahead of this team. OSU have one of the youngest squads in the Pac-12. The only major pieces they’ll lose to this season’s draft are Wheaton and Poyer. But they maintain their offensive core, with Mannion, Cooks and Storm Woods returning next season. On defense they’ll retain standouts Rashaad Reynolds, Michael Doctor and Scott Crichton. With last season’s recruiting class one of the deepest Oregon State’s had in years, the new influx of talent should make this team only better heading into 2013 and beyond. CHECK OUT THE BEAVERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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