OSU might get to show off what it has in reserve.
CORVALLIS - If not today, when again will Oregon State have an opportunity to build experience among its reserves?
The Beavers (2-3 overall, 1-1 in the Pac-10) are prohibitive favorites over Washington State (1-5, 0-3) in the 3:30 p.m. game at Reser Stadium, and if form holds, OSU should be able to bring the reserves in for significant playing time.
That might be most likely at the skill positions on offense, though OSU coach Mike Riley wasn't about to suggest he has a plan for using his backups, as if he was certain of the outcome.
Still, he's been suggesting the past couple of weeks that he wants carries for No. 2 tailback Ryan McCants, and there haven't been any in relief of Quizz Rodgers. Riley wants to develop his younger receivers, such as Darrell Catchings.
And now, junior Sean Canfield is "a viable" backup at quarterback as he has moved along in the rehabilitation process from shoulder surgery. Don't the Beavers need Canfield to further test that passing arm against an opponent, and get him a feel for being in a game again?
"The No. 1 goal is to win the game," Riley said, adding that "I've never been a big rotation quarterback guy. If we have a good flow going, I don't want to disrupt it and if we don't, then I'd like the quarterback to fight through it. That's how I've always dealt with quarterbacks.
"At the same time, as (Canfield) gets back and practicing, it's a valid thing to say that we've got a guy who has won games with our team and in our league, and we could put him in and he would do a good job."
But Canfield has played as a reliever for starter Lyle Moevao only once since being injured last November, and that in the bowl game. He missed spring practice and didn't even participate in any of the scrimmages this fall.
Shouldn't he be given some action in case he's needed again?
"Would it be nice to get him some time?" Riley responded. "Absolutely."
Riley recognizes the possibility - or is it likelihood? - that a team will be required to use a reserve quarterback. His count is that seven Pac-10 teams went to at least their No. 2 quarterback last season, and again this season only three of the conference teams have gone into every game with the same quarterback being prepared as the starter for each game.
"That's why we have to be ready for it, that's why it's comforting that (Canfield) is getting back into it," Riley said, adding that, "I don't think he's game ready and good to go in there and start."
Canfield is, however, listed second on the depth chart, and Riley said he would have played at Utah, if there had been a need to replace Moevao. There have been virtually no limits on what Canfield has done in practice the past two weeks. The only concern is soreness that occurs after too many throws, which shouldn't be a limiting factor on his possible participation today and has been taken care of with regular icing.
At tailback, Rodgers is not only leading the Pac-10 in rushing yardage, but he has carried the football 35 more times than any other Pac-10 player.
He averages 25 carries, and that includes the opening game, when he rushed 14 times.
In the past two games, against top-15 opponents, Rodgers has rushed a total of 62 times and has also caught six passes. If not overuse, that's a load that if continued is likely to take its toll on the 5-foot-7, 193-pound freshman.
The Beavers began the season with Rodgers as the backup to McCants, but since reversing their positions on the depth chart, the 235-pound McCants has only 18 rushes, and none in the past two weeks. His last significant action was against Hawaii, when he had 14 rushes for 60 yards, and production approaching that would provide welcome relief for Rodgers.
Riley himself also broached increasing the role of sophomore receiver Darrell Catchings, who was a starter in the opener and had four receptions. The emergence of senior Shane Morales, OSU's leading receiver with 29 catches, led to the demotion of Catchings, who has two receptions in the past four games.
With Sammie Stroughter, another senior, feeling the effects of a hip pointer at Utah, Catchings was on the field for more snaps and had a 31-yard reception, his longest of the season.
"I was looking forward to that," Riley said. "Darrell is very, very capable and I think he can be a very good receiver. The experience is good for him."
Riley said he wants to see Catchings "take this to another level and continue to improve and (not) just wait in the wings for Sammie to be gone."
The Beavers could also be inserting right guard Jeremy Perry into a game for the first time in 2008.
An all-conference performer in 2006 who played only three games last season because of a broken ankle and subsequent knee injury, Perry has been brought along slowly because of continued pain and slight swelling in the surgically repaired knee.