LOS ANGELES — Fall camp is just around the corner and the Pacific-12 Conference media days were held on Wednesday and Thursday.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley, quarterback Sean Mannion and linebacker Michael Doctor were at Paramount Studios in Hollywood to field questions.
The Beavers were picked to finish fourth in the North Division behind Oregon, Stanford and Washington.
Getting to the top of the standings is difficult for any program and OSU has a particularly steep climb against those with deeper pockets.
“I think we just have to keep fighting like crazy to improve what we do,” Riley said.
He said that USC set the standard during the Pete Carroll years and Oregon has stepped into that role.
“Oregon has done that. They’ve done that football-wise, they’ve done that in facilities. So everybody’s got to push to do that,” Riley said. “We take care of the football part of it, and we have to do everything we can to beat them. One of your goals always has to be to win the championship and beat your rival, and we haven’t done that in a while.”
To get there, the Beavers need to have a few key questions answered.
Brandin Cooks is gone to the NFL.
Cooks, who is now with the New Orleans Saints, won the Biletnikoff Award after catching 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Richard Mullaney started for OSU last season and caught 52 passes. Victor Bolden is also expected to show his speed.
“There are a lot of guys coming off a redshirt as well,” Mannion said. “A young kid named Hunter Jarmon, a really smooth kid. A guy like Jordan Villamin, who is just getting his first chance to play (and) is a real big target.
“I don’t know if it will be one guy, but more of a group effort. We don’t have to replace Brandin with another Brandin. We have to replace his production somehow and I think that will be a group effort.”
The injury-riddled offensive line needs to be sorted out by the end of fall camp.
Starting center Isaac Seumalo has been hobbled by a foot injury since the Hawaii Bowl and Riley said he should be ready at least early in the season.
Seumalo might be moved to solidify the line.
“I would like to think we might play him at guard or tackle,” Riley said. “He has the intelligence and ability to do that. I think that we have actually two guys that can play center, but I’m thinking about possibly (Sean) Harlow and Seumalo at guard. I’d like that picture physically inside against all the interior guys that we see in there.
“As long as ... we find the right and left tackle. We have three guys there, I don’t know if any one of them will be ready to start this year. So that will play a big part in where Isaac goes and where Sean Harlow goes.”
The defense had some tough games last season, but the run defense should be shored up with a solid interior defensive line and an experienced group of linebackers.
Michael Doctor is back for his final season after sitting out most of the year with an ankle injury.
“It was kind of hurtful at moments, but I took the game and I looked at it from a coaching perspective and I tried to do whatever I can to coach young guys up,” Doctor said.
“We’ve got young guys that did a great job. Guys like Jabral Johnson, Rommel Mageo, Caleb Saulo. Those guys did a tremendous job stepping up and this year they’re going to help us with their experience.”
The Beavers will have Mannion back to lead the offense.
He’s getting plenty of preseason accolades and has put in quite a bit of work to prepare for his senior season.
“I think Sean could be in any conversation about quarterbacking in the country, frankly,” Riley said.
“He has been a gym rat from the moment he walked on to campus. They open the door for him at night in the summertime to watch film.”
It’s the studying and game planning that Mannion enjoys.
“I love it. I think that’s what makes the quarterback position so fun for me,” Mannion said. “It’s not just the physical aspect, obviously you need that, but the mental side of the game is such a huge part of it and that stuff where you can study all week and learn about your opponent, it can really give you an advantage.”
Mannion threw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns in Riley’s pro-style offense.
“I think it is a little bit of a luxury for me, I don’t know if I would call it an advantage, to be in a pro-style system,” Mannion said.
“Coming out of of high school, I think it was the system that was right for me and looking back on it I couldn’t have made a better decision than to come to Oregon State. I think I’ve been able to grow and develop in it.”