CORVALLIS — Right about now, the Oregon State football team would probably appreciate a bye weekend.
The No. 13 Beavers (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) are banged up, but with no break in sight there is a chance OSU will be a short-handed Saturday when Arizona State comes to town.
Receiver Markus Wheaton (concussion) and running back Storm Woods (knee) returned to practice Thursday, but cornerback Jordan Poyer, one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12, was still out.
Wheaton missed most of the Oregon State-Washington game and the first few days this week after a nasty hit from UW safety Sean Parker knocked him unconscious early in the second quarter last week. Woods has dealt with a nagging knee injury for a few weeks, and will play this Saturday with a brace.
Poyer is nursing a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury he sustained in the fourth quarter against Washington. He has not practiced all week, but OSU coach Mike Riley will wait until Saturday to make a decision on Poyer.
Riley said on Wednesday that he does not have a steadfast rule about how much a player must practice before a game. He pointed out that former star running back Yvenson Bernard would often miss the first few days of practice "then he'd go out and gain 150 yards on Saturday."
That said, it's concerning that Poyer is still in pain when he tries to run.
"The pain I'm feeling cause I can't practice, that's a 10," said Poyer, who has never missed a game in his college career. "The extension of my knee is limited. My left knee, I can bring my heel all the way up to the back of my hamstring, but I can't do that with my right (knee). It doesn't go as far. There's restriction in my knee and when you run, that heel needs to go up there."
The Pac-12 leader in interceptions with five, Poyer remains optimistic.
"Obviously this is a big game and I'll do anything in this world to play in it, especially at home, but I've got to be smart about it," he said. "But maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and it won't even hurt anymore."
If Poyer can't go, Riley said Sean Martin will fill in at cornerback but acknowledged that, "It takes about five guys to replace Jordan Poyer."
Wheaton is second on the depth chart to return punts, but after missing most of the week because of concussion protocol, Riley said he would talk with Wheaton before slotting him in there. Running back Terron Ward and cornerback Rashaad Reynolds also are options.
Poyer has played in all 44 games since 2009, when he found a place on special teams as a true freshman. He said he would "definitely" put up a fight to play Saturday.
"It is a little bit strange to have to consider (not playing him)," Riley said.
On the opposite sideline, Arizona State might get a lift from the return of defensive tackle Will Sutton, a junior who was injured two weeks ago against Oregon but has been listed as probable.
A 6-foot-1, 267-pound junior, Sutton leads the conference in sacks (8.5), tackles for loss (14) and has forced two fumbles this year.
"They have a lot of speed on defense, a lot of different stuff going on, and of course he's a big part of all that talent that they have," said Riley, adding that despite a good performance against Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, projected as a first-round pick, the Beavers aren't about to get overconfident.
"We don't assume much; we know we've got to block good people against ASU," Riley said. "This team leads the league in defense and they're (up) there for a reason. They've been extremely high in the stats for tackles for loss, sacks. ... It's a pretty imposing group. They have all different kinds of blitzes, and their defense is predicated on pressure."