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Utah Opponent Preview: Oregon State's Offense

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James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There will be some familiar faces at Rice Eccles on Saturday when Gary Anderson and the Oregon State Beavers pay the Utes a visit. Today we'll take a look at the Beaver offense. Who are the players to know and how will they fare against the Utah defense.

Quarterbacks

Oregon State has suffered this season from poor quarterback play. The Beavers' best quarterback, junior Darrell Garetson, is not eligible to play this season after transferring into the program from Utah State. With Garetson sidelined this year, the Beavers have turned primarily to true freshman Seth Collins. The 6-3 195 lb. freshman from San Diego is extremely athletic and can be electric at times. He is still very raw however, lacks poise in the pocket and is an unpolished passer who relies heavily on his legs. Collins is completing 51.9% of his passes and has thrown for 890 yards, 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. On the ground Collins has racked up 536 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.

Last week Oregon State head coach Gary Anderson made the decision to try another freshman quarterback, Nick Mitchell, against Colorado. Mitchell is 6-3 198 and more of a traditional pocket passer. Mitchell struggled against the Buffs’ defense completing 9 of 24 passes for only a 37.5 completion percentage. He threw for 122 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception for a quarterback rating of 71.87. Given the way Mitchell performed, Collins will likely get the start and the majority of playing time on Saturday. It will be trial by fire for the Beaver quarterbacks. Gionni Paul was quoted this week saying "We believe we gonna eat them quarterbacks alive. They haven’t faced pressure like the University of Utah." Coming into Rice-Eccles against a Utah defense that is going to be fired up after the USC game, it’s hard to forsee the young Oregon state quarterbacks having much success.

Running Backs

Oregon state has struggled to find a feature back this season, as evidenced by quarterback Seth Collins leading the team with 536 rushing yards. Senior leader Storm Barrs-Woods, has recorded at least one carry in all seven games for the Beavers this season, but has dealt with an assortment of nagging injuries, limiting him to 352 yards and just 1 touchdown this season. When he is on the field, he is effective, averaging 5.33 yards per carry.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Nall has emerged as the potential feature back for the Beavers. The 6-2 255 lb. freshman started off his Oregon State career as a tight end, but moved back to his high school position of running back in training camp, and has earned high praise from coach Gary Anderson. Nall is a tough physical runner and has earned the nickname "wrecking Nall" on social media. He had his breakout performance on Saturday against Colorado, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown. The Utes should expect to see a lot of Nall lining up in the backfield Saturday afternoon.

Receivers

Sophomore Jordan Villamin and junior Victor Bolden are the two main receiving targets for Oregon State. Villamin is a big receiver standing 6-5 and weighing 231 lbs. The sophomore has a team leading 4 touchdowns receptions and has been a favorite target of Collins, with 26 receptions for 380 receiving yards.

Victor Bolden is the shiftier of the two receivers, at 5-9 174 lbs. Bolden is more of a speed guy and is utilized not only in the receiving game, but can run the ball as well, seeing carries on fly sweeps occasionally. Bolden is a threat in space, with the ability to take it to the house whenever he touches the ball. Despite his talent, Bolden has struggled to find the endzone this season, with only 1 touchdown on 26 receptions and 22 rushing attempts.

Analysis

The coaching staffs of these two programs are very familiar with each other. Gary Anderson, Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki have all served as assistant coaches at Utah under Kyle Whittingham. Both coaches run similar programs with similar philosophies and keep in regular contact with each other throughout the season. The players on the field are familiar with both coaching staffs and their tendencies, so scheme doesn’t figure to play as much of a factor in this game as it might in other games against less familiar opponents. The talent on the field will be the difference in this game and Utah holds a distinct advantage.

If things were already looking bleak for the Beavers, it got worse when starting offensive tackle Sean Harlow broke his foot against Colorado, ending his season. A three year starter, Harlow will be tough to replace for the Beavers and Oregon state will likely shuffle their offensive line around for Saturday’s game, meaning new positions for several of the starters. Utah’s defensive line should be able to impose their will this week against a makeshift Beaver offensive line.

After not forcing a single turnover against USC, the Utah secondary will have opportunities for interceptions against a true freshman quarterback. The Oregon State run game shouldn’t play much of a factor against the number one Pac-12 rush defense. Overall it’s hard to see Oregon state being able to move the ball against the Utah defense consistently. The Beavers don’t have the talent to maintain long sustained drives against a veteran defense. Any scoring plays for Oregon State will likely come on big plays or against blown coverages. If the Utes can avoid a USC hangover and come out to play on Saturday, the defense has a real chance at a shutout.