There is a generation of football fans that have absolutely no idea Oregon State was once among the nation's worst programs. All they know is Steven Jackson, Andy Levitre and Chad Johnson, upset wins over USC and bowl games, blissfully unaware that the Beavers went 28 years without posting a winning record until finally breaking through in 1999.
Credit goes to head coach Mike Riley -- genuinely one of the nicest guys in an increasingly cutthroat endeavor -- who always finds overlooked high-school players and turns them into legitimate NFL talents. Even with wide receiver Markus Wheaton and corner Jordan Poyer drafted in the third and seventh rounds, respectively, in the 2013 NFL Draft, the good times should continue in Corvallis.
Top senior prospects
CB Rashaad Reynolds: With the Beavers playing mostly man-to-man defense, Reynolds fits in perfectly and is especially adept at disrupting receivers at the line. He was wildly productive -- three interceptions, 13 pass breakups and 16 passes defended -- as a redshirt junior. Reynolds is listed at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, and some wonder how will his aggressive style will fare against the likes of Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson?
OT Michael Philipp: One of the rare highly touted high-school players to sign with Oregon State, Philipp started every game at left tackle as a true freshman in 2009, only to see his momentum derailed by injuries the next two years (he missed all of 2011 after hurting his knee in fall camp). Philipp started all 13 games last season protecting the blind side, but wasn't nearly as effective as he was in that initial campaign. Philipp has all the necessary physical attributes (6-foot-4, 325 pounds), so a return to form would give NFL teams plenty to think about.
LB Michael Doctor: A dependable if slightly undersized outside linebacker, Doctor is disruptive against the run (11 tackles for loss in 2012, but zero sacks) and uses his speed well to make up ground in coverage. Doctor hasn't forced a fumble in college and has only five career takeaways (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries), so an uptick in game-changing plays will be necessary for scouts to take serious notice.
DE Scott Crichton: Crichton did a lot of damage in a handful of games in 2012, with seven of his nine sacks on the season coming against opponents that were less than stellar at protecting the quarterback (UCLA, Washington State and BYU). He must show consistency throughout the whole season, especially against offensive tackles that can match his quickness at the snap.
WR Brandin Cooks: Cooks and Wheaton didn't get the notoriety afforded USC's tandem of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but were just as effective. Cooks was the big-play threat in 2012, averaging a healthy 17.2 yards per reception, with 506 of his 1,151 receiving yards coming after the catch. Without Wheaton on the other side to help dictate coverage, Cooks will get to show if he can handle being a true No. 1 receiver.
C Isaac Seumalo: Much like Philipp, Seumalo was a four-star recruit that delivered immediate returns for the Beavers, starting all 13 games as a true freshman and earning national honors. Seumalo must be stronger and more sound in run blocking, as the Oregon State rushing attack struggled badly against teams with top defensive tackles (averaged 1.9 yards per carry against Utah; 3.1 yards per carry against Stanford).
Best of Oregon StateTake a look at the top 10 players of all time from Oregon State to have played in the NFL.
Three must-see games of 2013
Oct. 19 at California: With a schedule tailor made for a 6-0 start, the first major test for the Beavers comes down in the Bay Area. Scott Crichton will have to walk a fine line, trying to get pressure on the Bears' quick spread passing game while also accounting for screens.
Nov. 1 vs. USC: The Trojans haven't won in Corvallis since 2004, when Reggie Bush delivered a jaw-dropping punt return for a touchdown in the fog. Marqise Lee will have to be equally spectacular against corner Rashaad Reynolds, who plays the kind of aggressive press coverage that has given Lee fits.
Nov. 16 at Arizona State: Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton got the best of Isaac Seumalo early on, but the Beavers came away with the 36-26 win. Their second and final meeting should be a good gauge of how far Seumalo has developed after a fine first season.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.