Small but wily tailback Jacquizz Rodgers burst onto the field for Oregon State last season, collecting records and honors.
Quizz, as he's known, rushed for 1,253 yards, a Pac-10 record for a freshman — despite missing the final two games. He was the first freshman to be named the league's player of the year.
Now in his second year, Quizz is coming off surgery for a shoulder injury that cut his debut season short. And he's no longer a surprise to the rest of the conference.
But Beavers coach Mike Riley doesn't think his 5-foot-7, 193-pound dynamo will miss a step.
"Being healthy and ready to go — and we have a really good sense that that is a fact, and we'll find that out during fall camp — then he'll carry the ball 25 to 30 times a game," Riley said.
Quizz confounded opponents all last season. He ran for 186 yards in the Beavers' upset victory over top-ranked USC, considered one of the best rushing defenses in the nation. He finished as the second-best rusher in the conference, behind Cal's Jahvid Best, and was ranked 12th nationwide.
He follows a recent tradition of small backs at Oregon State, namely Ken Simonton and Yvenson Bernard, who were also fast and tricky to defend.
"They were all durable and they all were guys that got better as the game went on," said Riley, last season's Pac-10 Coach of the Year. "We like to have that guy carry the ball 25 or 30 times a game, that's part of what we want to do.
"Now, if we can find that guy who can go in and play and we can spell him and take some of that load off of him, we'll certainly do that to the benefit of our team."
The Beavers' win over the Trojans was their first over a No. 1 team since 1967. But a shot at the Rose Bowl eluded the team, which finished 9-4 overall and capped the season with a 3-0 victory over Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl.
Oregon State was ranked No. 18 to end the season. The Beavers have finished in the Top 25 for the last three seasons.
This season, with only 11 starters returning, Oregon State was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10, behind USC, California and rival Oregon.
In addition to Quizz, older brother James Rodgers, a receiver, and quarterback Lyle Moevao also had shoulder surgery. Ryan McCants, Quizz's top backup, went into fall practice with a knee injury.
Moevao is not expected to be a full speed at first during fall camp. But Riley said backup Sean Canfield is ready to go.
Moevao, a junior, threw 19 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in 11 starts last season. Canfield had six scoring passes and two interceptions in a pair of starts.
"I know we'll be very careful with his (Moevao's) 'pitch count,' as you would say, early on. I don't think he's ready today to go through a whole practice just taking the normal amount of turns. But I hope that doesn't last too long so that they can become truly a one-two punch, however it plays out," Riley said.
An issue for the Beavers is the defense, with only three returning players, including outside linebacker Keaton Kristick, recently voted one of the team's captains.
"We lost our whole secondary," Riley said. "I think we have some good kids who have developed during spring ball, and fall camp will be very, very big for them. We always have a good crew of linebackers, led by Keaton. We lost two defensive ends who were both drafted — but we have guys who have played in ball games who are looking forward to taking over those starting roles."
The Beavers open at home on Sept. 5 against Portland State. The annual Civil War rivalry game against Oregon will be played in Eugene on Dec. 3.