Simple Changes Can Pay Off BIG

In wake of OSU’s heartbreaking loss to Utah, there has been a lot of banter about what Mike Riley and the Beavers need to do to keep up with the constantly-getting-tougher Pac-12. The numbers don’t lie — conference play hasn’t been kind to the Beavers lately.

Sweeping changes aren’t coming anytime soon. The program isn’t going to get a sugar daddy donor, start landing 5-star recruits left and right, or fire Mike Riley. But after watching other games this past weekend, there are smaller changes that could have a big impact.

One of them being to develop a QB who can buy extra time, not just for himself, but the offensive line and wide receivers. I know what you’re thinking, “Haven’t Beavers fans been clamoring for a mobile QB for awhile?” The answer is yes.

But fans haven’t always been realistic about the issue. The harsh truth is that Andrew Lucks and Marcus Mariotas don’t grow on trees. Also, QBs such as them can pretty much pick where they want to play.

While having that caliber of QB would be awesome, it would just be nice to see Beaver QBs coached and encouraged more to extend plays with their feet, whether it’s with a few steps or rolling outside. It makes things that much harder for opposing defenses and can to lead big plays, which haven’t materialized very often for the Beavers this season.

Think about a QB such as Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams (sorry to bring up a name you’d erased from memory). He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he makes plays because he knows when and how to use his feet to extend a play. Another great example: Russell Wilson (who sadly, also has beat OSU).

Looking at OSU’s roster, there’s a QB who could fit this mold: freshman Marcus McMaryion. He reportedly runs a legit 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, yet is considered more of passing QB. Best of both worlds, right?  But the bigger question is would McMaryion, or whoever is the starter next season, be coached to extend plays more often?

That would be a simple change that pays off big for the Beavers. More importantly, it’s not some knee jerk reaction that requires a lot of money or someone to be let go. It’s just a matter taking a more forward approach with the offensive philosophy. (RW)

7 thoughts on “Simple Changes Can Pay Off BIG

  1. blowcheese

    Untimely qb sacks are the hallmark of many of the of the crunch time failure OS has endured lately so changing those sacks into conversions just might be the most effective thing to change the direction of the program. How many times have we seen a nice Oregon State drive get completely blown up by one collapsed pocket disaster? How many of those could have been first downs with a mobile quarterback?
    It’s not obviously the athlete at QB that makes the difference. For sure Sean Mannion, Sean Canfield, Lyle Moevao, Derek Anderson were not dual threat qbs. But i think this offense is set up to strand the qb in a burning house and any more it catches fire way too easily. The result is nearly always a sack. Sean, this year out of neccesity has save saved some plays with a late toss with guys hanging off him but just as often he goes down in a heap just to protect himself and the ball.
    I don’t know that any offense or QB is sack proof (Utah sacked Hundley 10 times, duh) But I look at Riley’s offense and i see multiple reasons why it seems designed to give up sacks:

    The snap count and cadence seems very predictable which allows the rushers to time their take off perfectly.
    Quarterback rarely audibles that i can see. Few pre-snap adjustments.
    The empty backfield and max protect formation always means linebackers can blitz or cover. They never need to play honest run support.
    Mannion usually sets up in the same place. If you can get to that spot. You have him.

    These things would get any quarterback sacked. It’s good training for the NFL i suppose in that it forces the QB to keep his eyes downfield no matter what and go through progressions. (still not sure Sean does this very well). But without NFL lineman or NFL fast recievers the route tree turns into a bush. Busted.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne

      I agree on the snap count, but we have audible a lot this year. To me, to be honest, the issue with audibles and blocking at times is the speed that the play gets in. If you get it in with 5 seconds on the clock, they have to just line up and go. No time for an audible, no time for calls on the defensive formation, etc. The worst I saw this all season was against USC. My guess is that the next game is when Garrett got more involved with play calling and I would not be shocked if he called all of the Utah game. The key to an offense that huddles, and the advantage of the huddle, is that you surprise the defense with your formation and potentially personnel, and as they line up you can adjust to what they do. That is why up tempo teams run to line and then wait for the call, so the call is made with the defensive front there to show what they should do.

      To me, I think that the best thing the Beavers can do is get the play in, but to also do random up tempo. Call two plays at a time. Things like “If we get a first down on this play, get to the line and run X” Stanford did that with Harbaugh and it worked really well. First down is when you take a chance like that. Like rush up and run something vertical like a fade and try and catch them confused.

      Anyway, great thoughts on ways to change things up, and I think if they can get the play in on time more often, and maybe go hurry up for a few plays without having to check with the sideline, that would keep defenses on their heels and help the offense out quite a bit.

      1. Craig Meyer

        You bring up an important issue, Peter, when you talk about tempo. Too often, the Beavs only seem to have one tempo: sluggish. Even faced with a hurry up situation the team struggles to up the tempo because it’s just not in their comfort zone.. Multiple play calls would certainly help but in many ways the problem is cultural. It seems a strange thing to criticize but in many ways the team/coaches are too thoughtful. They really like to be deliberate about what they do. This leads to delay out on the field and is often, I think, why we see so many mistakes. The players just aren’t used to processing in a hurry.

        I’m one of the few Beaver fans who’s also a big fan of Chip Kelly. The biggest change he brought to football wasn’t his schemes, although they are successful they are really built off the work of others. His big thing is tempo. Tempo at practice, tempo in his meetings, tempo in play calling, tempo at the line of scrimmage. His players get into his rhythm and stay there the whole game and it forces the opponents into his rhythm as well which makes them uncomfortable and mistake-prone.

        This is really to build off the greats comments from everyone yesterday. At this stage of his life and career, to ask Mike Riley to suddenly change the whole way he approaches the game is a very tall order. Same thing with the coaching of a more elusive quarterback. After all these years does he even know how to do that? The only one I can remember ended up getting packed off to San Diego State.

      2. GoBeavs77

        You both make GREAT comments. The insight seems legitimate. Why can WE see this and those that make a living coaching this, NOT see this. That’s the frustrating part.

        As for mobile QBs, Vanderveen and McMaryion are dual threat QBs–who can actually make the throws needed. Nick Mitchell is as well. How many times in the first 6 games have we seen Manninon pull up and throw the ball away or force it to a covered receiver when he had 10-15 yards sitting right in front of him?

        I’ve read that Del Rio is more of a “stay-in-the-pocket” type of QB. I bet he gets the nod with MR since he is more of the statue that Riley prefers to coach.

        I agree that we do not need a true spread offense nor do we need to run the read-option every time. But it would be nice to have legitimate play action, a QB draw, etc. available just to keep defenses honest–and to pick up the easy first down when it is available.

        I just don’t see that changing with Riley leading the charge. We may have the talent, but will we use it?

        1. Peter Riley Osborne

          I would also add Mitchell to that list. He runs around a 4.6 40 and had over 300 yards rushing as a senior, so he is capable for sure. I have heard he is doing well, but to be honest, we don’t need blazing fast. Solomon for Arizona is not a speedster, but he is fast enough to get away and still make a good throw. The two QB’s that I think would be perfect at OSU are Adams from Easter Washington and Tony Pike from Cincinnatti back in 2009. Both of those guys are athletic enough to get away from a rush, but were great passers too. They would kill you with 8 yard runs that kept defenses honest, but are also accurate as heck quarterbacks. I would also throw Russell Wilson in that group.

          I think in terms of our conversation versus the coaches, there is always more to the story than we can see or know. For instance, in the Utah game, that snap over Mannion’s head came on redzone drive that could have been a touchdown. The offense was clicking and they were moving the ball. They were also in four down territory if they got close to the first down on that play.

          Like I mentioned before somewhere, when you think you are close, and you are confident in your system, you look for tweaks and not overhauls. Unfortunately, sometimes to make that last step, it is just too big of one for a tweak and requires a massive change.

  2. Building the Dam (@BuildingTheDam)

    In too many cases, it seems that when a play is changed, that entails multiple changes, which further eat into the available time, and for that reason aren’t an available option at times. Oregon St. seems to lack “simple” to call changed plays, where the package of changes can be called without calling each component.

    To me, its another variation of problems like not having a plan in place for the center loosing their shoe, or not deciding what to run on 4th down. The game plan in general isn’t that bad very often (UW an obvious exception), but there seems to be a lack of pre-planning of specific scenarios, which could and should be thought through ahead of time, talked over with the players, practiced, and then reviewed, so that there’s no need to analyze as much when these predictable scenarios do arise.

    The results are delay of game penalties, blown plays, wasted time outs, and in some cases, even when there’s no execution problem, still enough time for the opponent to observe and react because of the slowness of the process.

    I’m far from a “by the book guy” who believes in going exclusively by the policy manual; you always need coaches and players, like managers and line workers, reading the circumstances and deciding if a given pre-planned action actually makes sense, but you can still have detailed plans at the ready for when you decide the circumstances call for it.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne

      I agree, and I think a lot of that happens between the coaches and the QB’s. If Mannion is free to make changes based on a certain call or a certain defense, then you are getting a better call for what he sees. It doesn’t have to be a “They are stacking the box lets go deep” but it could be something as simple as “We have this formation and this play, i am going to adjust the routes with this pre-determined call because the safety is cheating up.” Little things like that. I am sure they do a lot of that, but it is much harder to do when you are waiting for that formation and that play. Or if you have a plan that when you get a play of 20 yards or more, you give the QB an option to have the team line up and call the same pplay or some standard alternate just to get a play off and keep the defense on their toes.

      Anyway, I feel, like I think you do, that they can streamline their process a bit. Have options within the formation you have out there, even if it is a change in where the running back goes or you add the TE on a route instead of staying in because they are not sending a lot of players. Keep it small changes.


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