Just following the Beavers’ win over Boise State, many people on message boards or simple conversation were wondering what Mike Riley would do to ‘fix’ some of the issues that were displayed this season. In August I really felt that this team had a shot at the Rose Bowl. I thought that the offensive line would be stellar and that all the weapons they had on offense and the plethora of great defensive players would make the difference between the 9 win season the year before and an 11 win season this year.
Of course in the back of my mind, I did think that injuries could really effect the team. Injuries to the offensive line, at linebacker and receiver/tight end were not ideal. So what started in the summer as a historic campaign, ended with some upside, but a lot of questions and hard to watch moments.
If you asked me at the end of the season what I would change to improve next year, it would have been letting Bruce Read go and re-assigning Danny Langsdorf. The thing is, since that point I have really thought about Bruce and Danny and tried to think about their impact on the team objectively. Danny works well with the quarterbacks and did a great job calling the Civil War and bowl game. I am not sure he was the best recruiter, but I cannot argue with his results from the QB position.
Bruce also has done some good things in his tenure as coach, and there are some reasons that he has seen the decline of return teams that are out of his control. The changes to the rules, the changes in personnel and the loss of some great returners and blockers has made returning the ball a little more difficult, but other coaches have found ways around that, and to be honest, his recruiting is not stellar.
Now, a few short weeks later, we will see how smart, or dumb, i was as we are faced with life post Danny Langsdorf. Hopefully Mike Riley makes a great hire, but just like the backup is the best player on the team until they come in and prove why they were not starting, the coach you don’t know is not always better than the coach you do know.
Today, I found out the OSU’s offensive line coach, Coach Cav, is interviewing for a similar position at Oklahoma State. Mike Cavanaugh is not only a great coach, but he is also a great recruiter and great ambassador of the program. Should he leave, that would be a big blow, and in my mind a tough coach to replace. His players love him and he gets results. The Andy Lebitre’s, Kyle Devan’s and Mike Remmers’ of the world all have found their way into the NFL from very different starts under Coach Cav. Not to mention the plethora of NFL linemen that he has recruited and have yet to fulfill their time at Oregon State.
So as we look and see what happens with Cav and how Mike Riley replaced Danny Langsdorf, I am left with more questions than answers. Football is a game of inches, whether it be the few inches short of a first down in a Civil War, or the one or two players that are the difference between 9 wins and just 7. Or, in this case, the coach or two that are the tipping point between becoming a contender or falling to pretender.
The future is scary and the same group of coaches that many were saying were not good because no one was stealing them are all the sudden getting stolen. What remains will be as big a part of Mike Riley’s evolution as the coach of the Beavers as when Paul Chryst left and Mike chose to bring Danny in. Looking at the hires Mike made at the beginning of his second stint at OSU and the hires he has made since, I feel he has a better vision on the type of coach he needs to bring in. Or two coaches as the case may be.
So now we wait and see who walks along the sidelines this spring, and if there are any other dominoes yet to fall. Continuity if staff was sold to recruits and in some cases lamented by fans. That will no longer be the same after this year, and for Oregon State’s sake, I hope the hire is more in line with the hiring of Coach Cav or Coach Brennan than it is with the hiring of Coach Ungerer.