On the morning of September 11, Keller Williams became the latest player to be let go by the Oregon State University coaching staff. The former walk-on running back, who signed a four-year letter of intent to continue his playing career at OSU was informed that he would not be retained on the football team following his graduation. Though some have suggested that this is a move made simply to free up space on the roster for a top notch recruit, it is in fact a major blow to the young men who were counting on the services of the two-year letter man to help guide them through their careers. Many believed that Josh Team would turn pro after his graduation, but it now appears that he will join the more than hundred other graduate students who are set to compete for the starting running back position opposite Deoby Smith next season. It's truly been a bad day for the graduates in Corvallis.
Many fans had hoped that Keller Williams would stick around and develop into one of the greats like Peppers or Banks. However, he decided to enter the NBA instead of turning professional right away. While it's understandable that he wanted to play for the hometown Oregon State university, what was his decision? Surely, there were many factors at work here. Besides the obvious difference in salary and exposure, one must question if he really has what it takes to be a premier NFL backup back.
One factor that shouldn't be overlooked is that Oregon State has often relied on one dominant running back, often one that is either a graduate or a junior. Since Terrell Brown left the program last year to sign a pro contract with the Detroit Lions, the position has lacked stability. Entering this year's draft, we should expect a few more quality runners to be taken in the early going. This leaves two holes on the depth chart that require immediate attention. Who will fill the void left by Brown? We'll soon find out.
If Oregon State does decide to retain Keller Williams, there will be plenty of competition for his remaining roster spots. Williams knows that if he wants to compete for the starting job, he will have to beat out some of the other talented athletes. Williams' competition includes seniors Darell Wilson, Mattocket and incoming freshman Thomas Rawlings. The interesting thing about Rawlings is that he started two years ago at running back and impressed coaches so much that he was inserted into the starting lineup right away. Now that he has established himself as one of the better running backs in the country, he has an excellent shot at winning the starting job and moving into the top five.
Willie Bowe is another key factor in the backup quarterback spot. Many think that Bowe has the inside track to replacing Williams anytime soon. He has experience playing under the lights at Oregon and also has a strong arm. Of course, he'll need to develop more passing skills if he wants to be successful, but he's shown signs of being able to do that. Whether he can develop the vision to become a decent passer or he'll just continue to make bad decisions will remain to be seen.
One big surprise about the Oregon State teams that are leaving campus is the fact that star wide receiver Devon Allen is leaving. For a guy who had been very good and one of the most productive players on the team, it seems weird to lose him. It might be a sign that coach Mike Riley is looking to unload his entire receiving corps in order to free up some cap space. Even though Allen is a talented player, there's a chance that Oregon State could still find a way to replace him. The truth is, it's probably best if the star wide receiver leaves and that's probably going to make things a little easier for backup quarterback Chase James.
The same can be said for starting running back Lextonner. There's a chance that the transfer might work out, but it's also clear that Lextonner is probably done playing at Oregon State. This is a situation where it's not a good idea for the school to show any interest in him transferring. If he ends up signing with another program, it might be too late to help the way things are going at OSU. It might cost them even more if they try and force him to leave. That's why I think it's smart for Lextonner to focus on his studies and trying to turn around his football career.
This is one of the worst situations for OSU since Coach Jones fired Mike Bellotti and Al Woods. The loss of Leotaemaker might be one of the greatest losses in history for the school. They have one chance to turn things around. I'm not sure how they will get it, but it appears as if they won't be very successful this year. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks.