Tomorrow we get to play the Oregon State Beavers, a team that hasn't won a game yet this year. ASU fans know better than to sleep on the Beavs, however -- they've beaten the Sun Devils three years in a row. We sat down with Building The Dam to talk about OSU. We did a Q&A over at their site, too - check it out.
How much has your team improved since their unfathomable loss to Sacramento State? It's okay to be brutally honest.
Effectively, not very much. Injuries to RB Malcolm Agnew and multiple offensive linemen have defused what initially was a surprisingly good running game post-Jacquizz Rodgers.
The passing game had to endure the change of quarterbacks, and the fact that WR James Rodgers and TE Joe Halahuni didn't return until last week. We should see if Sean Mannion gets more comfortable with Rodgers and Halahuni this week.
Defensively, its going to take more than a couple of weeks for a secondary that, due in part to the injury to CB Brandon Hardin, had 1 career start amongst 3 of the 4 DBs starting the year, to become consistent enough to be reliable.
More after the jump...
You lost a tough game to UCLA at home. Can your team get back on the right track before this season is a total disaster?
It depends on whose' definition of "total disaster" you use. Many felt a bowl game was the minimum acceptable for this season, and with the 2 most winnable games on the schedule already lost, so to might be any bowl berth.
But the Beavers are really only 2 plays away from being 2-1, so its not like they haven't done anything right. If the multitude of young players can keep the long view, and keep working on the details one at a time, its possible that they could still have some good days this year.
It's more a mental thing than anything else, but they have to demonstrate to themselves as well as others that they have already hit bottom, and start to rebound, rather than continue to slide downward.
James Rodgers is back. What does he bring to the fold at this point?
James was a difference maker on the field right away, and he was still being used carefully. He brings the ability to make a big play at any time, and that in turn brings Mannion a much needed security blanket. Which is a huge deal for a redshirt freshman quarterback.
Rodgers gives the team someone they know they can trust, both physically and mentally, vs. someone they would like to trust, but they can't be sure can deliver.
What is Oregon State's greatest strength?
The receiving corp. Rodgers, Marcus Wheaton, Halahuni, and Jordan Bishop can all make plays many can't, and many can't do that much about. Mannion has to figure out how to use all of his passing weapons.
You all went with a freshman (Sean Mannion) over seasoned vet Ryan Katz. What's up with that? Is this a long-term play by Mike Riley? Truthfully, Katz did look awful against Sac State...
Barring injury, or some other disastrous event, it is a long-term move. Head coach Mike Riley really likes Mannion's basic skill set, and would love to see him develop into an NFL-prototype franchise player. Otherwise, he wouldn't have abandoned Katz half way through his career.
Gut check time. What's your Beaver prediction for the remainder of 2011? Will they be back in 2012? Please let us know, as Oregon State always gives us a hell of a time on the football field.
We'll know a lot more after this week, but right now, I don't see more than 3 wins tops, with 3 more competitive games, and unfortunately, probably 3 lopsided losses.
Real progress is going to require an injection of quality linemen, and that is going to take some time. If the Beavers aren't measurably better in 2012, someone should, and probably will, be fired. But it could well be 2013 before Oregon St. can consistently compete with the best of opponents again, instead of it being extremely match-up dependent, which is the case right now.
Best of luck to the Beavers, and thanks to Andy at Building The Dam for his answers.