The top three rushers in Oregon State football history have played in this decade, as the Beavers have moved from Ken Simonton to Steven Jackson to Yvenson Bernard.
Now the torch has been passed to true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, who will make his Husky Stadium debut at 4 p.m. Saturday when OSU (3-3 overall, 2-1 Pacific-10 Conference) visits Washington (0-5, 0-3).
Rodgers wears jersey No. 1, which reflects his current position among Pac-10 rushers. The newcomer leads the league and ranks 10th nationally with an average of 119.7 rushing yards per game.
That puts him on pace for 1,436 rushing yards, which would break Simonton’s OSU freshman record. Rodgers has led the Beavers in rushing in all six games this season and has topped 100 yards in the past four.
“Quizz has done very well for us, and I think our offensive line has done a nice job, particularly in the run blocking,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “We needed a new back, because Yvenson Bernard graduated and it was a changing of the guard. ... Quizz has kind of taken over because he’s probably (our best) all-around back whether it’s receiving or blocking or running.”
At 5-foot-6, 193 pounds, Rodgers has made his lack of size work for him while stepping up in class from Lamar Consolidated High School where he was named Texas player of the year in 2007.
He continues the Beavers’ run of success with smaller backs: Simonton was 5-7, Bernard was 5-foot-9 and both were around 200 pounds.
“We’ve had the guys that are shorter -- and Steven Jackson was kind of out of that category, but there are some similarities,” Riley said. “Those guys had tremendous quickness and very good vision and were very tough, and I think Quizz has all of those qualities. And they also were smart.”
Rodgers also will force the Washington defense to play smart.
Safety Nate Williams noted that small tailbacks are difficult to see behind the much larger offensive linemen.
And if you lose track of Rodgers even briefly, you may not find him again until it is too late. He has the quickness to change directions, and the speed to run away from defenders.
Coach Tyrone Willingham said that those qualities put extra demands on defensive discipline, with defenders taking care of their own responsibilities and not over-pursuing against a back who can change course in a flash.
Meanwhile, UW defensive coordinator Ed Donatell also stressed that the Huskies can’t be overly obsessed with Rodgers because the Beavers are bringing other offensive weapons – including another one named Rodgers.Flanker James Rodgers – Jacquizz’s brother – had 247 all-purpose yards at Stanford, the seventh best total in school history. Junior quarterback Lyle Moevao ranks first in the Pac-10 and 16th in the nation in passing yards per game. Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales rank 46th and 51st nationally in receiving yards per game.
“The major challenge is they have good speed and quickness at all the skill positions,” Donatell said. “You look at the two brothers – one in the backfield, one in and out of the backfield – they have good speed and quickness, nice running game. And then probably it’s a nice group of receivers. They’re up there with most anybody.”
Willingham said this week’s follow-up on quarterback Jake Locker’s broken thumb confirmed the original prognosis that he will be unavailable until mid-November. However, there will be another evaluation in a couple of weeks. Depending on how the injury and the season progresses, Willingham said Locker is “in danger of not being available” again this year. ... True freshman Cody Bruns will be in the receiver rotation. ... No decision on a starting tailback has been announced between Willie Griffin, Brandon Johnson or Terrance Dailey. ... Either Victor Ayiewa or Tripper Johnson will start at safety opposite Williams. ... Freshmen safety Johri Fogerson and defensive tackle Senio Kelemete are among several players who have been fighting illness this week. ... Donatell indicated he expects late-arriving true freshman defensive lineman Craig Noble to redshirt. ... The UW Alumni Association will hold its annual homecoming rally at 8 tonight at Red Square on campus.