The Three Eras of Mike Riley

I made a post about this on BeaverBlitz, but I wanted to expand upon it a bit, so I am going to write this in three posts.  The first one is about the three era’s of Mike Riley in his second tenure of being a coach at Oregon State.  The second will be about the three eras of the Pac-10/12 in that time.   The third post is going to be one of caution or optimism depending on where you think we will go.

Well, there have been some huge changes in the last few years.  The second Riley era can be split into three sections:

1. The post Erickson Era (2003 – 2006)*
2. The Post Gilstrap era (2007- 2011)*
3. The Modern era (2012+)*

* Years are based on recruiting class signing day and not the season. So the 2011 football season would coincide with the 2012 recruiting class as that is when the work was done to land that class. Also, 2012 would be the first season that that particular class could contribute on the field.

The Post Erickson Era (2003 – 2006)
This is the era that Riley Coached predominantly Erickson players.  It is also an era where they were getting re-acclimated to the college game. In this time they had to salvage the last class of Erickson while also getting their recruiting strategy in.  They followed up the 2003 class with a fantastic 2004 class that, had it stayed in tact, may have gotten Riley to the Rose Bowl.  This class included Jeremy Perry, Sammie Stroughter, Keith Ellison, Keenan Lewis, Andy Levitre, Adam Speer and many others.  The 2006 class was also solid with LaRoque, Kristick, Halahuni, Linnenkohl, Miller, Smith and Dockery to name a few.

The results on the field were not super impressive during this time as the talent of 2003 was squandered a bit in the coaching transition and Riley was still working with Jim Gilstrap to get his style of players for his style of offense in and ready to go.

The Post Gilstrap Era (2007- 2011)
After Gilstrap died, and when Cav and Langsdorf were hired, recruiting took a dip.  This also coincided with the end of Coach Newhouse’s era of recruiting, though he remained on the staff for a few more years. With Cav and Langsdorfs first classes being less than stellar, as well as some other issues on the staff during this year (attrition, firings, etc.), this is when recruiting started to turn for the worse.  2007 was the beginning of classes that underperformed, had players who were reaches academically and physically and saw a lot of turnover.  This went on through the next four years.   We will never know the full role that Gilstrap played in player evaluation, but after his death, the Beavers began to reach on some players and tried to land players that really had no chance of qualifying. In fact, they appeared to feel as if many of the players they were recruiting would work hard with their help, do a year or two in a JC and come back.  They were largely wrong.

For example, outside of 2009, Cav had four recruits out of 18 that saw any stating action and only two were starters for a full year.  2007 and 2011 saw him pull in 0 players that ever started or even finished their careers at OSU.  From 2006 – 2008, only two players started of all of Cav’s recruits.  Coincidentally, those classes were juniors and seniors, the peak of their time to influence the team, during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns.  And Cav was not alone as OSU’s classes during this time, according to Rivals, averaged around 53rd nationally. I throw out 2010 because while it was a high ranking class (44) for the time, almost half of the players from that class never finished their careers or played for the Beavers, with five not even qualifying and the tragic loss of Fred Thompson taking one of the rising stars away.

I am also not picking on Cav, I just had that data from another post I did.   None of the coaches outside of Heyward were really nailing it in the recruiting battles.  For example, imagine if the 2009 team had the same caliber of linebacker that we have now across the board.  Picture Doctor and Alexander with Kristick.  That year would have been drastically different.

The Modern Era (2012+)
The 2012 class counts as a huge, almost seismic shift in OSU recruiting.  First, in 2011, Coach Newhouse was fired.  Then coaches Brennan and Brasfield were hired. This ushered in a new era of recruiting focused coaches.  Since that time Coach Cav (to show the change) went from being a sub par recruiter to recruiter of the year in 2012 and having recruited five players with starting experience in three years.  That is more than all of the previous years outside of 2009 combined, and with the recruits of 2012 – 2014, his Rivals ranking average rose .4 points.

Then, with the departure of Keth Heyward, OSU landed Coach Perry, another indicator of a shift in philosophy.  OSU was now “All In” in terms of being a Pro Style, Pro Player factory.  Perry turned out to be a good recruiter, and with the reassignment of Locey to bring on Bray full time coupled with the hiring of Garrett to replace Danny Langsdorf, OSU has changed its identity once again.  A group that tried to hold onto tried and true methods of recruiting and coaching in a rapidly changing era of communication and media coverage got left behind.  Even while they were winning at an unprecedented clip for OSU fans, they were killing their future by not focusing more on recruiting.

Now we are in an era of innovation in recruiting by the Beavers, using planes, In and Out Burger, Satellite Camps, Highlight Film Social Media contest and the like to try and pry kids away from their per-conceived notions about Oregon State. While we may be worried about stars and such, OSU is landing some kids that they have actually coached, actually communicated with and seen first hand.  While I am not sold on all the players they have now in the current recruiting class, they are still in it with some big names and have some solid talent to work with.  Of course, they are going to have to prove it on the field. If they do, like the 2013 class, I think they will poach some talent and land some guys who were on a wait and see mode with them.

Regardless, you cannot look at the whole landscape of the Riley Era and say it is X.  It has distinct sections to it that are marked with good and bad.  The post Glistrap era is the most frustrating because it marked a time of great achievement on the field and total fail on the recruiting trail. This new era is one that is trying to move forward without having to rebuild again.  Last year they avoided a losing season, barely, but need to come out and show that they are back on the path that 2012 set for us.  If so, I think recruiting will end very well.  The farther in the rear view that 2011 and 2010 are, the better off OSU’s future will be.  Those lessons should always be there, and the lessons on the filed of 2013, but the trend recruiting must always be up.

Also, as OSU becomes an NFL centric staff and program, we will see how that effects their future.  With the potential high draft picks of Mannion, Nelson and Seumalo, there is a good chance that the Beavers are going to start turning heads of players that are serious about getting to the NFL.

Players like Stephen Nelson.

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