Oregon State kicks off 2017 with one of the first games of the season, at Colorado State on Aug. 26, but fans can catch a glimpse of the Beavers this week at Pac-12 Media Days.
Gary Andersen will take the stage next Wednesday as he looks to get the Beavers back to a bowl for the first time since 2013. He’ll be joined in Hollywood by RB Ryan Nall and LB Manase Hungalu.
Here are Oregon State’s biggest story lines and questions heading into Pac-12 Media Days:
Run Ryan Nall early and often
Ryan Nall may be one of the best running backs in the country that few ever talk about. He gained 951 yards last year on only 147 carries (6.5 yards per attempt). If Oregon State were not trailing in nearly every game and needing to throw, those numbers could have been even better. With an improved defense, Nall may have more of a chance to shine this season like he did in his 221-yard, 3-TD game vs. Cal and his 155-yard, 4-TD performance in the Civil War vs. Oregon to close out the year.
Who plays quarterback?
Marcus McMaryion is the incumbent, but his play last year was inconsistent. He took over for injured Darell Garretson (ankle), who is now back, but brings similar limited upside. Junior Jake Luton was a JUCO All-American in 2016 at Ventura College in California and probably has the highest floor. Whomever gets the nod, the group of receivers is one with few true playmakers, as not one returning wideout caught more than a single TD last season.
We all need to cheer for Thomas Tyner
After coming out of his medical retirement, Thomas Tyner, a former Oregon running back, is back with the Beavers to give football one last hurrah. And why not? Tyner was the top overall running back prospect in the Class of 2013 and once had 644 yards and 10 TDs … in a single game. In playing two seasons for the Ducks, he sustained injuries to both shoulders and was granted a medical retirement. Now back after two years away from the game, the Beaverton, Ore., native wants to see where his talent can take him. If the talent is still there, and he’s healthy again, he’ll bring an explosive element to the Beavers offense.
Can CB Xavier Crawford take the next step?
Xavier Crawford was named a Freshman All-American last year by USA Today after a season that saw him record 11 passes defended, 1 interception and a forced fumble. His maturation and continued development will be key for the Beavers. If he can become a true shutdown corner, the 6-foot-1 Crawford can take a lot of pressure off an underrated pass defense that ranked 40th in the nation in opponents’ completion percentage in 2016.
The run defense needs to improve
The Beavers allowed 218 yards per game last season, which ranked OSU 102nd (out of 128) nationally. There is a lot of depth on the defensive line, and most of the contributing players from last season return. But if the front seven can’t keep the opponents from picking up chunk yardage on early downs, it may be another long season in Corvallis.