Oregon State had bowl game or bust expectations coming into the 2017 season. Some of the high expectations were based on how the team ended the 2016, others were based on how the team looked in spring ball and fall camp, and some of it was just media hype.
Nonetheless, there was the assumption that year three in the Gary Andersen regime would be the year OSU gets to six wins. BeaversEdge.com looks at five preseason expectations that Oregon State didn't live up to.
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1. The defense would be strong
Outside of Manase Hungalu, who even started off the season not playing that well, the Beavers' defense has underperformed, to say the least. The thought before the season was that the Beavs would have a much improved defensive line, a strong linebacking core with young players like Hamilcar Rashed and Andrzej Hughes-Murray emerging, and a deep secondary.
Well, that certainly hasn't been the case. Jonathan Willis and David Morris have been very pleasant surprises as strong players in Kevin Clune's defense, but this defense was woefully underperformed, giving up an average of 41 points per game. In ten games this season, Oregon State has kept an opponent from scoring over 30 points just once (15 points, Stanford).
2. Oregon State would have a vastly improved passing game
A big part of this is the fact that Jake Luton got injured in the fourth game of the season, but even when he was healthy, the passing attack wasn't great. Luton threw three interceptions against Colorado State, but I thought he played well other than those plays, throwing for 304 yards (OSU hadn't had a 300 yard passer in a long time) and two touchdowns. His next three contests were average performances, and then when he got injured, Darell Garretson took over and has been inconsistent. Before the Arizona game in which Garretson threw four touchdowns, his only other passing touchdown this season was against Washington State in mop up duty.
The blame shouldn't all be placed on the quarterbacks though. The offensive line play, while improved over the course of the season, hasn't been great, and the talent at wide receiver hasn't been as good as we thought it would be. Seth Collins is out for the season and Jordan Villamin catches an average of 2.5 passes per game. Isaiah Hodgins and Noah Togiai have been good but don't get many targets.
3. The cornerback group could be all Pac-12
The Oregon State secondary has been extremely banged up this season with injuries, so it's hard to fault them too much. Xavier Crawford was expected to be a lockdown cornerback, but he honestly didn't play that well in the five games he played in. He recorded 17 tackles and two pass break ups - no interceptions, forced fumbles, etc.
Dwayne Williams started three games but he's out for the season. Jay Irvine has been banged up all year. Christian Wallace never saw the field. Kyle White, Isaiah Dunn, and Shawn Wilson have performed admirably but aren't quite getting it done in the Pac-12. Again, this group has been decimated by injuries to their top three cornerbacks, which is why this group has struggled.
4. Craig Evans would lead a strong defensive front
But, Evans hasn't played this season and won't play in the final two games. Evans was a much anticipated junior college defensive tackle recruit that would have done wonders for this defense, but he hasn't been able to see the field due to not being academically eligible. Without Evans, the D-line has been marginal.
5. Oregon State's running backs could be the deepest group in school history
Between Ryan Nall, who had a strong sophomore season, former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, rising sophomore sensation Artavis Pierce, and TCU transfer Trevorris Johnson, the running back group was arguably the most talented and deepest group in OSU history coming into the season. The latter part still may be true as OSU is incredibly deep at RB, but the way the season has gone, it's hard to give a lot of love to the OSU running backs, let alone any position group on the team.