Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl, the highest level postseason all-star game that showcases players who are eligible for the NFL draft in April.

He will join teammate Jordan Poyer, who was invited last week.

“I’m excited to go and be able to compete with the guys who are there,” Wheaton said. “It’s going to be a challenge I’m excited for.”

The Senior Bowl takes place Jan. 26 in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The teams are coached by NFL coaches and practices are attended by more the 800 front office personnel.

Wheaton, a 6-foot-1, 182-pounder from Chandler, Ariz., is the 10th-ranked receiver available in the coming draft, according to NFL Draft Countdown.

He has 61 catches for 878 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

Wheaton, who runs a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, is 14th in the nation with 97.6 receiving yards a game and tied for 18th in the nation with 6.78 receptions a game.

Nielsen ready

Sophomore Derek Nielsen will make his first career start Saturday against California at right guard, coach Mike Riley said. He’s playing for Grant Enger, who is out with an ankle injury.

“Grant is a good friend and I’m bummed he can’t play,” quarterback Sean Mannion said. “He’s a really smart, physical player. But Derek will do a great job in his place.”

Nielsen, a walk-on, is in his third season with the Beavers. He’s the No. 1 backup at all five offensive line positions.

“It’s exciting, but I’m more anxious than nervous,” Nielsen of the start.

Mannion ready

Riley likes how Mannion has practiced this week in preparation for his return to the starting lineup after being the backup for two games.

Mannion will play in place of Cody Vaz, who hasn’t practiced this week due to the ankle injury he suffered at Stanford last week.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Mannion said. “It’s good to be back and playing again. I just want to do what I can to help the team get a win.”

Riley hopes Vaz will be able to back up Mannion. If not, walk-on redshirt freshman Richie Harrington is the backup.

Old friends

California seniors Kameron and Kaulin Krebs played for OSU in 2008-09 before transferring to Cal.

Kameron started out as a linebacker but moved to fullback this season. Kaulin is a receiver. Both are reserves.

Riley honored

Riley is on the 18-member watch list for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year, along with Oregon’s Chip Kelly.

The finalists will be announced in December and the winner announced after the bowl games have been played. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association will vote on the award.

Riley played collegiately for Bryant at Alabama.

Cliff Kirkpatrick covers Oregon State sports for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at cliff.kirkpatrick@lee.net.

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